The assembly at Corinth was founded by Paul (1 Cor. 3:10; 1 Cor. 4:15) during his second missionary journey. At the outset of his labours there he met with great opposition from the Jews, but was especially encouraged by the Lord, who spake unto him at night in a vision, promising protection for his person, and assuring him of success in that city. So Paul continued to labour there for a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. Opposition increasing on the part of the Jews, who led Paul to the judgment-seat of Gallio, the pro-consul, the Lord's promise to His servant was fulfilled: "I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee." Gallio declining to interfere, the attempt to stop the work failed, and Paul remained there some time longer. (Acts 18:1-18.) In these few verses is summed up all that we know of the work at Corinth, except that which Paul supplies by his remarks in the two epistles to the Corinthians.
To work in Corinth was evidently in Paul's eyes no ordinary task. It was highly civilized, noted for its wealth and commerce, and, as may be the case where civilization and wealth abound without the restraining power of the grace of God, it had earned a most unenviable reputation for licentiousness and all that ministers to the natural man. Into that city the apostle, led by the Holy Ghost, and knowing the character of the people, had determined from the outset, surely guided of God, as to the spirit in which he should there labour. Anything which would have pleased the natural man, and thus attracted people to hear him, he carefully avoided. We quote his own account of himself: "And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." (1 Cor. 2:1-5.) The results were great, and a special feature of God's work in the assembly there formed, was the rich endowment of spiritual gifts enjoyed by the converts. "In everything," writes Paul, "ye are enriched by Him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; even as the testimony of the Christ was confirmed in you: so that ye come behind in no gift, waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Cor. 1:6-8.)
After he had left that city, endeared to him by so many ties formed between himself and his converts, for households embraced the truth (Acts 18:8; 1 Cor. 1:16), it was no wonder that communications were kept up between them and him; and when questions arose in their midst which they did not seem able to solve, it was not unnatural that they should write to Paul respecting them. (1 Cor. 7:1.) Private friendships had been formed, which bore fruit, as evidenced by the visit to him of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus (1 Cor. 16:17), who personally ministered to his need. But they were not the only people who visited him, or brought him news about the assembly at Corinth. There were those of the house of Chloe (1 Cor. 1:11), whom he mentions, from whom he had heard of the sad state of the assembly. That moved him to write this letter to them whilst he was at Ephesus. (1 Cor. 16:8.) It is a letter dealing with the state of things among them, and divides itself into two great parts. From 1 Cor. 1 to 1 Cor. 6 we have certain disorders of which he had heard, exposed, and corrected. From 1 Cor. 7 to 1 Cor. 16 Paul is chiefly occupied in answering questions which they had put to him in writing.
Commencing with a reminder of his apostleship, he connects Sosthenes with himself in the salutation here addressed "to the Church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints, with all that in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, theirs and ours." No other epistle of Paul has an address so wide in its application as this, which embraces every professing Christian throughout the world, and through all the time that the Church of God shall be upon earth. No one therefore, even in these days, who bears the name of Christ, outwardly calling on the name of the Lord, which expresses profession, whether real or not, can excuse himself from submission to the teaching of this epistle. It is most catholic in its application. To it let us turn.
Beginning with the acknowledging of every good thing in them that he could, and counting on God's faithfulness to accomplish His purposes of grace towards them (1 Cor. 1:4-9.); Paul first treats of those evils rife amongst the assembly of which he had been informed. "I beseech you, brethren," he writes, "by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no schisms among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you." (vv. 10, 11.) Schism had begun its work, and heresies would appear to test them. (1 Cor. 11:18, 19.) Schools of teaching they had fostered, which engendered divisions, pupils ranging themselves under different teachers, calling themselves after their names. But who were the teachers they ran after who allowed this, and, worse, fostered it? We may ask, but ask in vain. Their names, then familiar as household words, have perished; whilst those of God's faithful servants of the same date, as Paul, Apollos, and Cephas, remain to this day. What a lesson to any who would gather round themselves and encourage such a practice in our day! Such forget, or, at all events, by their action contravene, the teaching of this epistle.
How, then, did the apostle deal with this? He reminds them that he had not laboured with any such intent, and asks the pertinent questions, "Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized unto the name of Paul?" How carefully he had worked at Corinth, baptizing very few, lest any should say that he had baptized unto his own name. His work was to preach the gospel, not to baptize; to call on souls to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and not to make disciples to be surnamed after him. John the Baptist had disciples called after him. Paul avoided all that for himself; for what was right in John's day would have been wrong in Paul's day. (1 Cor. 1:13-17.) He preached too, but not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For he had understood the principle on which God was working; viz., to bring down all high thoughts of man, as evidenced: first, in the subject preached, the cross, and the person exalted, Christ crucified (1 Cor. 1:18-25); next, in the people called, and the instruments used for the preaching of the truth (1 Cor. 1:26-29); and thirdly, in the way of blessing provided for souls, for the Corinthians and all others. "Of God," he writes, "are ye in Christ Jesus, who is made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, as it is written, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord." (1 Cor. 1:30, 31.)
Now in the spirit of all this Paul had laboured at Corinth (1 Cor. 2:1-5), as a vessel feeling his weakness, but as a faithful servant refusing to resort to any methods of working attractive to the natural man. Such might have made the truth appear more palatable, but they would not have been of God. Now he worked that their faith should not stand in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God. How dim had been their perceptions, that all this had escaped their observation! Evidently they had perceived neither the principle on which God was working, nor the spirit in which Paul had laboured in their midst. Was all his labour, then, in vain? No. He had begotten them in the gospel, however little many of them understood the preaching of the cross and the deep teaching of Christ crucified, whom alone Paul had desired to know among them. Some, however, had perceived it, and to them it was wisdom, for they were perfect; i.e., souls come to manhood in Christianity. But the natural man, psychikos; i.e. one unconverted, understands not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man, pneumatikos, discerneth all things, yet he himself is discerned of no one.
Did this last term fitly describe the saints of the Corinthian assembly? Alas! no. Taken up with their teachers and schools of doctrine, the apostle still had to speak to them as he had always done, as to fleshly sarkinoi, even as to babes in Christ; for in them the Spirit, though they had received that gift, was not really working. That a quickened soul can be described as fleshly yet not carnal, Romans 7:14 really teaches, and that characterized the state of the Corinthian saints. (1 Cor. 3:1.) So he had fed them with milk, not with meat; for they could not have profited by the latter, neither yet, he added, were they in a condition to receive it. "For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not men (anthropoi)?" he asks. (1 Cor. 3:4.) Their strifes and divisions proved they were carnal (sarkikoi), the flesh being at work in them. Their spiritual condition was that which he described as (sarkinoi) fleshly.* Hence they not only stood in the way of their own spiritual growth by encouraging the formation of parties, but they were robbing themselves of the value and profit of gifts which the Lord had given for edification. If we take up exclusively one line of teaching, following one teacher, we deprive ourselves of the benefits we might derive from other gifts to men. "Therefore," he writes, "let no man 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." (1 Cor. 3:21-23.) How foolish were they! how shortsighted!
*Observe, he says as fleshly; for they really had received the Spirit, but their spiritual condition was practically like quickened souls which had not received that gift.
And what were the labourers in truth? In what light ought they to view them? Paul, and with himself he here joins Apollos, would have them remember that such are but ministers* (hyperetas) of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. (1 Cor. 4:1.) It is not the servant whom men in general exalt, but the master. But what was it at Corinth? What has it been in the Church of God? In the absence in person of the Master, and from ignoring the presence of the Holy Ghost, the servant (lit. here, the underling) has been exalted and made much of. How foolish on the part of the saints! how wrong on the part of the stewards! for stewards the labourers were, and are. (1 Peter 4:10.) Now it is required in a steward that he should be faithful to his master; for to him he must render his account. They were forgetting that. A faithful steward remembers whom he has to serve. His master's approval is that which he seeks after, whatever others may say or think of him. In that spirit Paul had worked and would work. But what were the leaders of parties at Corinth doing? What sense had they of their responsibilities as builders? (1 Cor. 3:10-19.) Things were out of course in that assembly, and, as was natural, the fruit produced was in keeping with the seed sown. The teachers gloried in their gifts, unmindful of the One to whom they were indebted for whatever they had. The rest were reigning, as it were, then as kings, full, wanting nothing, though "without us," as Paul writes; their hearts' affections becoming estranged from him who had first brought to them the truth. Had those schisms made them better Christians? 1 Corinthians 4:8 supplies us with an answer. Hence he wrote, not to shame them, but to warn them, his beloved children, and sent Timothy to them, he himself hoping to revisit them, when he would know, not the speech of those which were puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power; that was the proper test, and he would apply it.
* Servant (hyperetes), really an under rower, an underling. Such was ever Paul in relation to Christ. This puts the labourer in his right place. Would that all such remembered this.
Thus fully does he enter into this question of parties and schools of doctrine. It was the early introduction of a sectarian spirit, which has done so much harm in the assembly of God. Now the reader may remark how throughout these chapters the apostle traces all up to God. Some might make a party name of the Lord Jesus Christ, none could of God; for there is but one God. They were God's assembly, and God had called them. (1 Cor. 1:2, 9.) It was God's testimony which Paul declared, and God's wisdom in mystery which he spake, and which God had revealed (1 Cor. 2:1, 7, 10); and the result was, that whilst Paul planted, and Apollos watered, it was God who gave the increase. And the Corinthian saints were God's husbandry, God's building, and God's temple too, by the Holy Ghost; and the teachers were God's fellow-labourers, called by Him for His service. (1 Cor. 3:6, 9, 16.) Furthermore, the labourers were but stewards of the mysteries of God, and by-and-by each would have his praise of God. (1 Cor. 4:1, 5.) What was there in this way of presenting the truth to encourage the formation of parties among them? There were many and weighty objections against it then, are there not such still?
But other disorders were rife. An incestuous person was in their midst, with their full cognizance, the sin unrebuked, the guilty party being unjudged, and the assembly unconcerned about it. (1 Cor. 5:2.) In decided language he writes about this. They were unleavened. Let them be a new lump by purging out the leaven that had come in. Watchful should they be against any introduction of evil into the assembly; and as for the guilty person, they were to put him out from among themselves. (1 Cor. 5:13.) The responsibility of the assembly in cases which call for discipline is here distinctly asserted.
Passing on from that, he next takes up the unrighteousness practised amongst them, some doing wrong and defrauding their brethren, others resorting to law before the heathen, the world, about matters which the least esteemed in the Church might easily have settled. Let such, he tells them, decide those cases. And what truth does he bring to bear on these saints? They were going to judge the world, and angels too; could they not judge such small matters, things which pertain to this life? Besides, they were inheritors of the kingdom; their conduct then ought to be in harmony with that which befits the kingdom. Now all this proceeded from their natural will being in action instead of being kept in subjection; a will which when checked in one outlet will make a way for itself, if permitted, through another channel. If I may not act unrighteously to my neighbour, I may at least do what I like, a man may say, with my body. This liberty is for the Christian negatived at once. The body is for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. It is also a member of Christ, and indwelt by the Holy Ghost; and he adds, "Ye are not your own; for ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body." (1 Cor. 6:19, 20.) Here the apostle really stopped; for his thesis was the proper treatment of his body by the individual Christian. How low morally and socially have men sunk through sin that such directions should be needed! How great the grace in which the Christian capable of sinning, really shares! His body is both a member of Christ and a temple of the Holy Ghost. With this the first part of the epistle ends.
Paul now turns to answer certain questions which they had written to him. The change from heathenism, with its vices, was immense; the change, too, from Judaism was great; questions therefore might well arise on which the Corinthian saints desired the mind of the apostle. To answer such he now sets himself. And first about marriage, and about virgins; for these were two questions, as his language implies.* No one was compelled to marry, but it was God's institution in Eden for His then unfallen creature's happiness and comfort; and since the fall it has become a provision against uncleanness as well. The sanctity, and for the Christian the inviolability, of the tie once formed is here insisted on. No Christian is to break it. That is God's distinct command. (v. 10.) If an unbeliever left a Christian, well and good; the Christian was not in bondage in such a case. "Let him depart," is the advice of the apostle; wise advice, in full accordance with the mind of God, though not set forth as a command from the Lord. If the unbelieving partner consented to remain with the Christian, the latter was not to put him or her away; for herein lay a difference between Judaism and Christianity, the unbelieving partner being sanctified by the believing one, else were their children unclean, but now, he adds, are they holy. Under the law no marriage was legitimate, nor could be legitimized, where one of the partners was of a race with which Israel was forbidden to intermarry, and the children of such unions were unclean. With Christians it is different. Hence separation on the part of the believer from the unbeliever was not called for. So the children now of such marriages are holy; i.e. they are not by reason of birth incapacitated from entering into the congregation of the Lord, to use the language of the Old Testament; for holy in this sense, we need scarcely add, is spoken of them as living on earth, not of their souls' standing before God. The difference between the unbelieving parent and the children should be noticed. The unbelieving partner was sanctified (hegiastai) whilst the believing one lived, but the children were holy (hagia). Circumstances could not change their condition, which flowed from their birth; whereas if death took away the Christian partner, the unbelieving one would be sanctified no longer.
*"Now concerning (peri de) the things whereof ye wrote unto me." In this way does he commence this part of the epistle, and each question referred to is marked in the same way, peri de, now concerning. See 1 Cor. 7:25; 1 Cor. 8:1; 1 Cor. 12:1; 1 Cor. 16:1.
But these directions only applied to those who were united in wedlock before conversion. Hence he adds a few remarks, to guard the saints against the thought that with conversion a change in their outward condition should necessarily be effected. Such a thought, if entertained, might make some restless and dissatisfied, so he says, "Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called;" and "Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God." (1 Cor. 7:20, 24.) So, to put an extreme case, but then a common one, a converted slave was to go on quietly in slavery until, if it should please God, emancipation was permitted him. That he was free to accept; but he was not free to run away, or to refuse to serve his master. Of this Onesimus was an example, How carefully did the apostle guard the rights of Philemon, and maintain the duty of a slave, preserving to the master the right and privilege of manumitting his brother in Christ.
Concerning virgins (1 Cor. 7:25) - the term here applies to both sexes - Paul had no commandment; but he gave his judgment. "It was good for the present distress," he writes, "so to be." The advantages of that condition he sets forth (vv. 32-35), the approach of the end he recalls to mind (vv. 29-31); but celibacy he does not enforce. Marriage is not wrong; a second marriage was not forbidden, if in the Lord; but, he adds, here writing of a widow, "She is happier if she so abide after my judgment (gnome). (See 1 Cor. 5:26.) And I think also that I have the Spirit of God." (v. 40.)
The next question taken up was that concerning the eating of things offered to idols, raised, it would seem, by the conduct of such as pleaded for their liberty or right (exousia) in such a matter. The apostle, while examining this plea, and dealing with it, raised a point which they had evidently overlooked. The inanity of the idol he fully admitted (v. 4), yet knowledge in such matters is not all; for knowledge puffs up, but love edifies, lit. builds up. A Christian was to act in this matter out of care for his brother. Due regard for a weak brother's conscience was to be shown, lest, emboldened by the act of the one who had knowledge sitting at meat in the idol-house, the weak brother, having conscience still of the idol, should partake of the food as of a thing sacrificed to idols, and thus his conscience be defiled, and he perish, a brother for whom Christ died. (1 Cor. 8)
Acting in such a way they would sin against Christ. Would they then plead for the exercise of their liberty? Why did they deny Paul the exercise of his in the preaching to them without charge? In this they showed their inconsistency. (1 Cor. 9) Of course his right to be supported was incontestible; he affirmed it. The principle of it all men owned. (1 Cor. 9:7.) God's word too recognized it (v. 9), and the Lord upheld it. (1 Cor. 9:14; Luke 10:7.) But Paul did not claim it, desiring rather the welfare of others among whom he laboured. What were they doing? How great the difference between them and him! But his example was evidently lost on them. They were gratifying themselves, ministering to their bodies. He was deeply conscious of the need of soberness and watchfulness. He, whilst preaching to others, kept his body under, lest he should be a castaway; for one might preach most attractively to others, yet not submit oneself to the truth; be, after all, not really a Christian. His practice proved he was not such an one. Liberty was a plea which should, in such matters as they pleaded for it, be carefully examined; and Paul's example it was well to keep in mind. Care for others should characterize them, and a walk like Paul's should instruct them.
Now the importance of watchfulness over oneself the history of Israel exemplified. How many came out of Egypt! How few of them entered the land! Had they forgotten that history, written for our admonition on whom the ends of the ages have come? Watchfulness became them, and a taking heed to themselves, lest they should fall. Wherefore let them flee from idolatry. (1 Cor. 10:14.) Would they make the question raised simply one of the exercise or not of a right? Had they forgotten that he that eat of the sacrifice was partaker of the altar? Now they were partakers of the Lord's table. Between that and the table of demons there was, there could be, no fellowship. If the former was their place and privilege, they could not be partakers of the latter. Our right, our liberty, is not all that we have to think of; another question has to be remembered, Is such a thing expedient? All things are lawful; but all things are not expedient or profitable. All things are lawful; but all things edify not. Let no man seek his own, but another's welfare. (1 Cor. 10:23, 24.) Yet there was to be no bondage in such a matter. Whatever was sold in the shambles they might freely eat, asking no questions about it for conscience' sake. The earth and its fulness are the Lord's. An invitation even to a heathen man's house to dine they need not refuse, if minded to go, and there they might freely eat of all that was set before them. But if told that food set before them had been offered to an idol, they were not to eat of it for the person's sake who told them, and for that one's conscience. Let them show real care for their brother's welfare, and that communion with demons must at all cost be refused; and let them do all to the glory of God, putting no stumbling-block in the way of any, but seeking their welfare, thus becoming imitators of Paul as he was of Christ.
Amid all that he had to blame there was one point, however, on which he could speak with approval. They remembered him in all things, and kept the ordinances which he had delivered to them. A practice, however, it would seem, was springing up amongst them, or at all events was pleaded for, of women praying or prophesying before others with their head uncovered just like men. In Christ, it is true, there is no distinction between the sexes. In creation, and in the assembly there is. Women were to remember that, and to show it by a covering on their head, if they prayed or prophesied. "The head of every man," writes the apostle, "is Christ; the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven." Thus creation order is to be maintained, and the teaching of nature to be hearkened to. (1 Cor. 11:14; 15.) Would any gainsay this? We, says Paul, have no such custom, nor the assemblies of God. (v. 16.) Then passing from the subject as to what became women in the circumstances indicated, he proceeded to deal with the disorders rife in the assembly when gathered together for the Lord's Supper. The scandalous conduct allowed by these saints he reproved and corrected, reminding them in the most touching way of that which might have checked such grave disorders; viz., that the showing of the Lord's death was the avowed purpose for which they met. What became them at such a time? Then giving them that revelation about the supper which he had received, he points out what apparently they had not perceived, how the Lord had been dealing with them for those gross and scandalous goings on. Sickness and even death had come in amongst them, the Lord thus judging because they had not judged themselves. Now, what did the supper set forth? The surrender of the Lord to death on behalf of others. What did their ways at it indicate? Selfishness of the grossest kind, in the presence of that which spoke of His dying for them.
From correcting the disorders at the supper, he goes on, as was natural, to treat of the exercise of gift in the assembly. (1 Cor. 12 - 14) Endowed richly with spiritual gifts, and living in a day when revelations were vouchsafed by the Spirit, it became necessary, since the enemy was counterfeiting the working of the Holy Ghost, to guard the saints against being misled by the activity of demons. Hence at the outset of this question he gives a clear rule, by which a Christian could judge who was speaking in the power of the Spirit of God, and who was energized by a demon. No one speaking by the Holy Ghost would say, "Cursed is Jesus." No one could say "Lord Jesus" but by the Spirit of God. (1 Cor. 12:3.) No demon is allowed to declare the dignities and exaltation of the Lord Jesus. God has thus provided a test by which the presence and energizing power of a demon can be detected.
Now, if the Holy Ghost is working, "there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are differences of administrations or services, but the same Lord; and there are diversities of operations, but the same God which worketh all in all." (vv. 4-6.) The Corinthians, unmindful of these truths, were desirous of exercising the gift of tongues to their own exaltation and self-glorification; yet what was it but a gift given them, and by the Spirit just as He would? In truth, every gift was, as its name implied - charisma - a favour bestowed on its possessor by the Holy Ghost according as He chose. The individual had not deserved it, nor could he claim it; he only received it; and each endowment of the Spirit was for the profit of all. Further, by the Spirit, who had bestowed the gifts, they were all baptized into one body, so were members one of another, being Christ's body.
Let them learn then from the ordinary treatment of the human body what became them who had received such gifts as members of Christ's body. (vv. 14-26.) The more abundant honour is bestowed on the uncomely parts. Was that their thought about others? and did they think that the exercise of supernatural powers were the highest gifts to be desired? God had set the gifted ones in the assembly in an order of His selecting, in which such as could exhibit miraculous powers were far removed from being in the front rank. (vv. 28-30.) Would they desire gifts? Let them desire the best. Howbeit there was something better than any spiritual gift; viz., the activity of the divine nature, love, in which they were sadly deficient, and without which the person, however richly endowed with gifts, was nothing? (1 Cor. 13)
After this he treats somewhat at length of the difference between speaking with tongues and prophesying, and lays down rules for their exercise, pointing out that if they would glory in speaking with tongues, he valued most the ability to prophesy, so as to speak to men to edification, to exhortation, and comfort. Then he ends this part of the subject with directions concerning women - what became them when all met together in assembly. There might be those of them who could prophesy, but such were not to do it when the assembly was gathered together.
Looking back on all that we have gone through, one governing evil principle we plainly see was at work in Corinth - the gratification of the natural man in one way or another. Varied were the manifestations of it, from the indulgence of the grossest licentiousness to the enjoyment of intellectual pleasure. Self really ruled, whether at the table of the Lord, in the house of feasting, before the heathen tribunals, or in the assembly of God; and that evil so strongly noted at Corinth was at the bottom of the false doctrine which some of them (1 Cor. 15:12) were imbibing, which denied the resurrection of the body. (vv. 32-34.)
Now, the gospel which Paul preached, by which they were saved, made resurrection of the body a fundamental part of its teaching. (1 Cor. 15:1-4.) And the Lord Jesus, who had really died, had been seen by many after He rose, and of witnesses to His resurrection Paul was one, who had seen Him as risen, though only in glory. The attesting witnesses to His resurrection were many and various. (vv. 5-11.) But if there is no resurrection, Christ was not risen, and the consequences, if that was true, were serious. The testimony of God in that case was not true. The Corinthians, too, were yet in their sins. Those who had fallen asleep in Christ had perished, and Christians such as Paul were of all men most miserable. Doubtless they had never intended to surrender all that. "Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird." (Prov. 1:17.) But self so rife among them was thus producing disastrous and deadly fruit. Christ was risen, so a resurrection is not only possible, but the resurrection of all who die is thereby made certain. He, the risen One, is the firstfruits of those fallen asleep. Yet all will not be raised at once; His own will be raised at His coming; and by-and-by, since death is to be annulled, all the ungodly dead must rise too. The consequences therefore of Christ's resurrection are traced out to the end. (vv. 20-28.) How stupid as well as wrong was that new doctrine! Why were gaps in the ranks caused by those who died filled up, as others came forward and made a profession of Christianity by being baptized? If their new doctrine was true, "Let us eat and drink," says the apostle; "for tomorrow we die." Responsibility we may fling to the winds, and let self-gratification be the guiding star of our life. (vv. 29-34.)
Then addressing the man who would argue it out, and would ask in a cavilling way, "How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?" he calls such an one a fool. The operations of nature could teach him that resurrection is not impossible. The revelation of God would teach him that it is certain, and the study of God's works would show him that there are different kinds of flesh, and there are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies. The body then will be raised, and a change will pass over it. Sown a natural body it will be raised a spiritual body. We have born the image of the earthy man (choikos); we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one - epouranios (vv. 35-50); and in a moment will that take place, so the suddenness of the Lord's coming is here dwelt on. Therefore, he concludes, "be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." (v. 58.)
In the last chapter Paul dwells on service, and it may be read somewhat as a commentary on the verse just quoted; and surely part of it must have been a rebuke to many there who were glorying in gifts instead of caring for others. Directions for the collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem were first given. (1 Cor. 16:1-9.) Then Timothy, a worker for Christ, as Paul was, is commended to their care and consideration, should he visit them. The servant's responsibility to the Master is fully owned in the case of Apollos. Next those who devoted themselves to the saints, exemplified in the house of Stephanas, they were to acknowledge and submit to; and besides this they were to own servants, such as the three from Corinth, who had ministered to Paul's temporal necessities. No service too small, too commonplace, to be noticed, recorded, and remembered.
Then with a salutation from the assemblies of Asia, and especially from that in the house of Aquila and Priscilla at Ephesus, Paul appends his own salutation, and pronounces a withering curse on any one who does not love the Lord Jesus Christ: "Let such an one be Anathema Maranatha;" i.e. devoted to destruction at the coming of our Lord.
He had written strongly, but faithfully; and his last words attested that it was all in love: "My love be with you all in Christ Jesus." Having despatched the letter, he waited with intense anxiety to learn its effect on them. He did not wait in vain. C. E. Stuart.