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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : 1 Corinthians 15:1-10

Commentary On Corinthians Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

1 Corinthians 15:1-10

1. Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;

1. Notum autem vobis facio, fratres, evangelium quod evangelizavi vobis, quod et recepistis, in quo etiam stetistis.

2. By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain:

2. Per quod etiam salutem habetis: quo pacto annuntiarim vobis, si tenetis, nisi frustra credidistis.

3. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

3. Tradidi enim vobis imprimis quod et acceperam, quod Christus mortuus fuerit, pro peccatis nostris secundum Scripturas,

4. And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

4. Et quod sepultus sit, et quod resurrexit tertio die, secundum Scripturas.

5. And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:

5. Et quod visus fait Cephae, deinde ipsis duodecim:

6. After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.

6. Postea visus fait plus quam qaingentis fratribus simul, ex quibus plures manent adhuc ad hunc usque diem: qaidam autem obdormierunt.

7. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

7. Deinde visus fait Iacobo: post apostolis omnibus:

8. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

8. Postremo vero onmium, velut abortivo, visus fait et mihi.

9. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

9. Ego enim sum minimus apostolorum, qui non sum idoneus ut dicar apostolus: quandoquidem persequutus sum ecclesiam Dei.

10. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

10. Sed gratia Dei sum id quod sum: et gratia ejus, quae mihi collata est, non fuit inanis, sed copiosius quam illi omnes laboravi: non ego tamen, sed gratia Dei quae mihi aderat.

1. Now I make known to you. He now enters on another subject -- the resurrection -- the belief of which among the Corinthians had been shaken by some wicked persons. It is uncertain, however, whether they doubted merely as to the ultimate resurrection of the body, or as to the immortality of the soul also. It is abundantly well known, that there were a variety of errors as to this point. Some philosophers contended that souls are immortal. As to the resurrection of the body, it never entered into the mind of any one of them. The Sadducees, however, had grosser views; for they thought of nothing but the present life; nay more, they thought that the soul of man was a breath of wind without substance. It is not, therefore, altogether certain (as I have already said) whether the Corinthians had at this time gone to such a height of madness, as to cast off all expectation of a future life, or whether they merely denied the resurrection of the body; for the arguments which Paul makes use of seem to imply, that they were altogether bewitched with the mad dream of the Sadducees.

For example, when he says,

Of what advantage is it to be baptized for the dead? (1 Corinthians 15:29.)

Were it not better to eat and to drink? (1 Corinthians 15:32.)

Why are we in peril every hour? (1 Corinthians 15:30,)

and the like, it might very readily be replied, in accordance with the views of the philosophers, |Because after death the soul survives the body.| Hence some apply the whole of Paul's reasoning contained in this chapter to the immortality of the soul. For my part, while I leave undetermined what the error of the Corinthians was, yet I cannot bring myself to view Paul's words as referring to anything else than the resurrection of the body. Let it, therefore be regarded as a settled point, that it is of this exclusively that he treats in this chapter. And what if the impiety of Hymeneus and Philetus had extended thus far, who said that the resurrection was already past, (2 Timothy 2:18,) and that there would be nothing more of it? Similar to these, there are at the present day some madmen, or rather devils, who call themselves Libertines. To me, however, the following conjecture appears more probable -- that they were carried away by some delusion, which took away from them the hope of a future resurrection, just as those in the present day, by imagining an allegorical resurrection, take away from us the true resurrection that is promised to us.

However this may be, it is truly a dreadful case, and next to a prodigy, that those who had been instructed by so distinguished a master, should have been capable of falling so quickly into errors of so gross a nature. But what is there that is surprising in this, when in the Israelitish Church the Sadducees had the audacity to declare openly that man differs nothing from a brute, in so far as concerns the essence of the soul, and has no enjoyment but what is common to him with the beasts? Let us observe, however, that blindness of this kind is a just judgment from God, so that those who do not rest satisfied with the truth of God, are tossed hither and thither by the delusions of Satan.

It is asked, however, why it is that he has left off or deferred to the close of the Epistle, what should properly have had the precedence of everything else? Some reply, that this was done for the purpose of impressing it more deeply upon the memory. I am rather of opinion that Paul did not wish to introduce a subject of such importance, until he had asserted his authority, which had been considerably lessened among the Corinthians, and until he had, by repressing their pride, prepared them for listening to him with docility.

I make known to you. To make known here does not mean to teach what was previously unknown to them, but to recall to their recollection what they had heard previously. |Call to your recollection, along with me, that gospel which you had learned, before you were led aside from the right course.| He calls the doctrine of the resurrection the gospel, that they may not imagine that any one is at liberty to form any opinion that he chooses on this point, as on other questions, which bring with them no injury to salvation.

When he adds, which I preached to you, he amplifies what he had said: |If you acknowledge me as an apostle, I have assuredly taught you so.| There is another amplification in the words -- which also ye have received, for if they now allow themselves to be persuaded of the contrary, they will be chargeable with fickleness. A third amplification is to this effect, that they had hitherto continued in that belief with a firm and steady resolution, which is somewhat more than that they had once believed. But the most important thing of all is, that he declares that their salvation is involved in this, for it follows from this, that, if the resurrection is taken away, they have no religion left them, no assurance of faith, and in short, have no faith remaining. Others understand in another sense the word stand, as meaning that they are upheld; but the interpretation that I have given is a more correct one.

2. If you keep in memory -- unless in vain These two expressions are very cutting. In the first, he reproves their carelessness or fickleness, because such a sudden fall was an evidence that they had never understood what had been delivered to them, or that their knowledge of it had been loose and floating, inasmuch as it had so quickly vanished. By the second, he warns them that they had needlessly and uselessly professed allegiance to Christ, if they did not hold fast this main doctrine.

3. For I delivered to you first of all He now confirms what he had previously stated, by explaining that the resurrection had been preached by him, and that too as a fundamental doctrine of the gospel. First of all, says he, as it is wont to be with a foundation in the erecting of a house. At the same time he adds to the authority of his preaching, when he subjoins, that he delivered nothing but what he had received, for he does not simply mean that he related what he had from the report of others, but that it was what had been enjoined upon him by the Lord. For the word must be explained in accordance with the connection of the passage. Now it is the duty of an apostle to bring forward nothing but what he has received from the Lord, so as from hand to hand (as they say) to administer to the Church the pure word of God.

That Christ died, etc. See now more clearly whence he received it, for he quotes the Scriptures in proof. In the first place, he makes mention of the death of Christ, nay also of his burial, that we may infer, that, as he was like us in these things, he is so also in his resurrection. He has, therefore, died with us that we may rise with him. In his burial, too, the reality of the death in which he has taken part with us, is made more clearly apparent. Now there are many passages of Scripture in which Christ's death and resurrection are predicted, but nowhere more plainly than in Isaiah 53, in Daniel 9:26, and in Psalm 22

For our sins That is, that by taking our curse upon him he might redeem us from it. For what else was Christ's death, but a sacrifice for expiating our sins -- what but a satisfactory penalty, by which we might be reconciled to God -- what but the condemnation of one, for the purpose of obtaining forgiveness for us? He speaks also in the same manner in Romans 4:25, but in that passage, on the other hand, he ascribes it also to the resurrection as its effect -- that it confers righteousness upon us; for as sin was done away through the death of Christ, so righteousness is procured through his resurrection. This distinction must be carefully observed, that we may know what we must look for from the death of Christ, and what from his resurrection. When, however, the Scripture in other places makes mention only of his death, let us understand that in those cases his resurrection is included in his death, but when they are mentioned separately, the commencement of our salvation is (as we see) in the one, and the consummation of it in the other.

5. That he was seen by Cephas He now brings forward eye witnesses, (autoptas) as they are called by Luke, (Luke 1:2,) who saw the accomplishment of what the Scriptures had foretold would take place. He does not, however, adduce them all, for he makes no mention of women. When, therefore, he says that he appeared first to Peter, you are to understand by this that he is put before all the men, so that there is nothing inconsistent with this in the statement of Mark (Mark 16:9) that he appeared to Mary.

But how is it that he says, that he appeared to the twelve, when, after the death of Judas, there were only eleven remaining? Chrysostom is of opinion that this took place after Matthias had been chosen in his room. Others have chosen rather to correct the expression, looking upon it as a mistake But as we know, that there were twelve in number that were set apart by Christ's appointment, though one of them had been expunged from the roll, there is no absurdity in supposing that the name was retained. On this principle, there was a body of men at Rome that were called Centumviri, while they were in number 102. By the twelve, therefore, you are simply to understand the chosen Apostles.

It does not quite appear when it was that this appearing to more than five hundred took place. Only it is possible that this large multitude assembled at Jerusalem, when he manifested himself to them. For Luke (Luke 24:33) makes mention in a general way of the disciples who had assembled with the eleven; but how many there were he does not say. Chrysostom refers it to the ascension, and explains the word epano to mean, from on high. Unquestionably, as to what he says in reference to his having appeared to James apart, this may have been subsequently to the ascension.

By all the Apostles I understand not merely the twelve, but also those disciples to whom Christ had assigned the office of preaching the gospel. In proportion as our Lord was desirous that there should be many witnesses of his resurrection, and that it should be frequently testified of, let us know that it should be so much the more surely believed among us. (Luke 1:1.) Farther, inasmuch as the Apostle proves the resurrection of Christ from the fact that he appeared to many, he intimates by this, that it was not figurative but true and natural, for the eyes of the body cannot be witnesses of a spiritual resurrection.

8. Last of all to me, as to one born prematurely, He now introduces himself along with the others, for Christ had manifested himself to him as alive, and invested with glory. As it was no deceptive vision, it was calculated to be of use for establishing a belief in the resurrection, as he also makes use of this argument in Acts 26:8. But as it was of no small importance that his authority should have the greatest weight and influence among the Corinthians, he introduces, by the way, a commendation of himself personally, but at the same time qualified in such a manner that, while he claims much for himself, he is at the same time exceedingly modest. Lest any one, therefore, should meet him with the objection: |Who art thou that we should give credit to thee?| he, of his own accord, confesses his unworthiness, and, in the first place, indeed he compares himself to one that is born prematurely, and that, in my opinion, with reference to his sudden conversion. For as infants do not come forth from the womb, until they have been there formed and matured during a regular course of time, so the Lord observed a regular period of time in creating, nourishing, and forming his Apostles. Paul, on the other hand, had been cast forth from the womb when he had scarcely received the vital spark. There are some that understand the term rendered abortive as employed to mean posthumous; but the former term is much more suitable, inasmuch as he was in one moment begotten, and born, and a man of full age. Now this premature birth renders the grace of God more illustrious in Paul than if he had by little and little, and by successive steps, grown up to maturity in Christ.

9. For I am the least It is not certain whether his enemies threw out this for the purpose of detracting from his credit, or whether it was entirely of his own accord, that he made the acknowledgment. For my part, while I have no doubt that, he was at all times voluntarily, and even cheerfully, disposed to abase himself, that he might magnify the grace of God, yet I suspect that in this instance he wished to obviate calumnies. For that there were some at Corinth that made it their aim to detract from his dignity by malicious slander, may be inferred not only from many foregoing passages, but also from his adding a little afterwards a comparison, which he would assuredly never have touched upon, if he had not been constrained to it by the wickedness of some, |Detract from me as much as you please -- I shall suffer myself to be cast down below the ground -- I shall suffer myself to be of no account whatever, that the goodness of God towards me may shine forth the more. Let me, therefore, be reckoned the least of the Apostles: nay more, I acknowledge myself to be unworthy of this distinction. For by what merits could I have attained to that honor? When I persecuted the Church of God, what did I merit? But there is no reason why you should judge of me according to my own worth, for the Lord did not look to what I was, but made me by his grace quite another man.| The sum is this, that Paul does not refuse to be the most worthless of all, and next to nothing, provided this contempt does not impede him in any degree in his ministry, and does not at all detract from his doctrine. He is contented that, as to himself, he shall be reckoned unworthy of any honor, provided only he commends his apostleship in respect of the grace conferred upon him. And assuredly God had not adorned him with such distinguished endowments in order that his grace might lie buried or neglected, but he had designed thereby to render his apostleship illustrious and distinguished.

10. And his grace was not vain. Those that set free-will in opposition to the grace of God, that whatever good we do may not be ascribed wholly to Him, wrest these words to suit their own interpretation -- as if Paul boasted, that he had by his own industry taken care that God's grace toward him had not been misdirected. Hence they infer, that God, indeed, offers his grace, but that the right use of it is in man's own power, and that it is in his own power to prevent its being ineffectual. I maintain, however, that these words of Paul give no support to their error, for he does not here claim anything as his own, as if he had himself, independently of God, done anything praiseworthy. What then? That he might not seem to glory to no purpose in mere words, while devoid of reality, he says, that he affirms nothing that is not openly apparent. Farther, even admitting that these words intimate, that Paul did not abuse the grace of God, and did not render it ineffectual by his negligence, I maintain, nevertheless, that there is no reason on that account, why we should divide between him and God the praise, that ought to be ascribed wholly to God, inasmuch as he confers upon us not merely the power of doing well, but also the inclination and the accomplishment.

But more abundantly Some refer this to vain-glorious boasters, who, by detracting from Paul, endeavored to set off themselves and their goods to advantage, as, in their opinion at least, it is not likely that he wished to enter upon a contest with the Apostles. When he compares himself, however, with the Apostles, he does so merely for the sake of those wicked persons, who were accustomed to bring them forward for the purpose of detracting from his reputation, as we see in the Epistle to the Galatians (Galatians 1:11.) Hence the probability is, that it is of the Apostles that he speaks, when he represents his own labors as superior to theirs, and it is quite true, that he was superior to others, not merely in respect of his enduring many hardships, encountering many dangers, abstaining from things lawful, and perseveringly despising all perils; (2 Corinthians 11:26;) but also because the Lord gave to his labors a much larger measure of success. For I take labor here to mean the fruit of his labor that appeared.

Not I, but the grace The old translator, by leaving out the article, has given occasion of mistake to those that are not acquainted with the Greek language, for in consequence of his having rendered the words thus -- not I, but the grace of God with me, they thought that only the half of the praise is ascribed to God, and that the other half is reserved for man. They, accordingly, understand the meaning to be that Paul labored not alone, inasmuch as he could do nothing without co-operating grace, but at the same time it was under the influence of his own free-will, and by means of his own strength. His words, however, have quite a different meaning, for what he had said was his own, he afterwards, correcting himself, ascribes wholly to the grace of God -- wholly, I say, not in part, for whatever he might have seemed to do, was wholly, he declares, the work of grace. A remarkable passage certainly, both for laying low the pride of man, and for magnifying the operation of Divine grace in us. For Paul, as though he had improperly made himself the author of anything good, corrects what he had said, and declares the grace of God to have been the efficient cause of the whole. Let us not think that there is here a mere pretense of humility It is in good earnest that he speaks thus, and from knowing that it is so in truth. Let us learn, therefore, that we have nothing that is good, but what the Lord has graciously given us, that we do nothing good but what he worketh in us, (Philippians 2:13) -- not that we do nothing ourselves, but that we do nothing without being influenced -- that is, under the guidance and impulse of the Holy Spirit.

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