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Commentary On Corinthians Volume 1 by Jean Calvin

1 Corinthians 1:10-13

10. Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

10. Observo autem vos, fratres, per nomen Domini nostri Jesu Christi, ut idem loquamini omnes, et non sint inter vos dissidia: sed apte cohaereatis in una mente et in una sententia.

11. 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.

11. Significatum enim mihi de vobis fuit, fratres mei, ab iis qui sunt Chloes, quod contentiones sint inter vos.

12. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.

12. Dico autem illud, quod unusquisque vestrum dicat, Ego quidem sum Pauli, ego autem Apollo, ego autem Cephae:, ego autem Christi.

13. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

13. Divisusne est Christus? numquid pro vobis crucifixus est Paulus? aut vos in nomen Pauli baptizati estis?

10. Now I beseech you, brethren Hitherto he has handled the Corinthians mildly, because he knew that they were much too sensitive. Now, however, after preparing their minds for receiving correction, acting the part of a good and skillful surgeon, who soothes the wound when about to apply a painful remedy, he begins to handle them with more severity. Even here, however, as we shall still farther see, he uses great moderation. The sum is this: |It is my hope that the Lord has not in vain conferred upon you so many gifts, so as not to have it in view to bring you to salvation, but you ought at the same time to take heed lest graces so distinguished be polluted by your vices. See, then, that you be agreed among yourselves; and it is not without good reason that I call for agreement among yourselves, for I have been informed that you are in a state of disagreement, amounting even to hostility, and that there are parties and contentions raging among you, by which true unity of faith is torn asunder.| As, however, they might not perhaps be sufficiently aroused by mere exhortation, he uses earnest entreaty, for he adjures them, by the name of Christ, that, as they loved him, they should aim at promoting harmony.

That ye all speak the same thing In exhorting them to harmony, he employs three different forms of expression: for, in the first place, he requires such agreement among them that all shall have one voice; secondly, he takes away the evil by which unity is broken and torn asunder; and, thirdly, he unfolds the nature of true harmony, which is, that they be agreed among themselves in mind and will. What he has placed second is first in order, -- that we beware of strifes. For from this a second thing will naturally follow, -- that we be in harmony; and then at length a third thing will follow, which is here mentioned first, -- that we all speak, as it were, with one mouth; a thing exceedingly desirable as a fruit of Christian harmony. Let us then observe, that nothing is more inconsistent on the part of Christians than to be at variance among themselves, for it is the main article of our religion that we be in harmony among ourselves; and farther, on such agreement the safety of the Church rests and is dependent.

But let us see what he requires as to Christian unity. If any one is desirous of nice distinctions -- he would have them first of all joined together in one mind; secondly, in one judgment; and, thirdly, he would have them declare in words that agreement. As, however, my rendering differs somewhat from that of Erasmus, I would, in passing, call my readers to observe, that Paul here makes use of a participle, which denotes things that are fitly and suitably joined together For the verb katartizesthai itself (from which the participle katertismenos comes) properly signifies, to be fitted and adjusted, just as the members of the human body are connected together by a most admirable symmetry.

For sententia (judgment) Paul has gnomen: but I understand it here as denoting the will, so that there is a complete division of the soul, and the first clause refers to faith, the second to love. Then only will there be Christian unity among us, when there is not merely a good agreement as to doctrine, but we are also in harmony in our affections and dispositions, and are thus in all respects of one mind. Thus Luke bears witness to believers in the primitive Church, (Acts 2:46,) that they had |one heart and one soul.| And without doubt this will be found wherever the Spirit of Christ reigns. When, however, he exhorts them to speak the same thing, he intimates still more fully from the effect, how complete the agreement ought to be -- so that no diversity may appear even in words. It is difficult, indeed, of attainment, but still it is necessary among Christians, from whom there is required not merely one faith, but also one confession.

11. It has been declared. As general observations have usually little effect, he intimates, that what he had said was more particularly applicable to them. The application, therefore, is designed with the view of leading the Corinthians to perceive, that it was not without good reason that Paul had made mention of harmony. For he shows that they had not merely turned aside from a holy unity, but had even fallen into contentions, which are worse than jarrings of sentiment. And that he may not be charged with believing too readily what was said, as though he lightly lent his ear to false accusations, he speaks with commendation of his informants, who must have been in the highest esteem, as he did not hesitate to adduce them as competent witnesses against an entire Church. It is not indeed altogether certain, whether Chloe is the name of a place or of a woman, but to me it appears more probable that it is the name of a woman. I am of opinion, therefore, that it was a well-regulated household that acquainted Paul with the distempered condition of the Corinthian Church, being desirous that it might be remedied by him. The idea entertained by many, in accordance with Chrysostom's view, that he refrained from mentioning names, lest he should bring odium upon them, appears to me to be absurd. For he does not say that some of the household had reported this to him, but, on the contrary, makes mention of them all, and there is no doubt that they would willingly have allowed their names to be made use of. Farther, that he might not exasperate their minds by undue severity, he has modified the reproof by an engaging form of address; not as though he would make light of the distemper, but with the view of bringing them to a more teachable spirit, for perceiving the severity of the malady.

12. I say then, etc. Some think there is here an instance of mimesis, imitation, as if Paul were here repeating their expressions. Now, although the manuscripts differ as to the particle hoti, I am of opinion that it is the conjunction (because) rather than the relative (which), so that there is simply an explanation of the preceding statement in this sense. |My reason for saying that there are contentions among you is, because every one of you glories in the name of some individual.| It will, however, be objected, that in these words there is no appearance as yet of contention. My answer is, that where there are jarrings in religion, it cannot but be that men's minds will soon afterwards burst forth in open strife. For as nothing is more effectual for uniting us, and there is nothing that tends more to draw our minds together, and keep them in a state of peace, than agreement in religion, so, on the other hand, if any disagreement has arisen as to matters of this nature, the effect necessarily is, that men's minds are straightway stirred up for combat, and in no other department are there more fierce contendings. Hence it is with good reason that Paul brings it forward as a sufficient evidence of contention, that the Corinthians were infested with sects and parties.

I am of Paul He makes mention here of Christ's faithful servants -- Apollos, who had been his successor at Corinth, and Peter himself too, and then adds himself to their number, that he may appear to plead not so much his own cause as that of Christ. In any other point of view it is not likely that there were any parties that espoused the separate interests of ministers joined together by a sacred agreement. He has, however, as he afterwards mentions, transferred to himself and Apollos what was applicable to others; and this he has done, in order that they might more candidly consider the thing itself, viewing it apart from respect of persons. It will, however, be replied, that he makes mention here even of those who professed that they were of Christ Was this, too, worthy of blame? I answer, that in this way he shows more fully what unseemly consequences result from those depraved affections, when we give ourselves up to men, as in that case Christ must be acknowledged merely in part, and the pious have no alternative left them, but to separate themselves from others, if they would not renounce Christ.

As, however, this passage is wrested in various ways, we must endeavor to ascertain more minutely what Paul intends here. His object is, to maintain Christ's exclusive authority in the Church, so that we may all exercise dependence upon him, that he alone may be recognized among us as Lord and Master, and that the name of no individual be set in opposition to his. Those, therefore, that draw away disciples after them (Acts 20:30,) with the view of splitting the Church into parties, he condemns as most destructive enemies of our faith. Thus then he does not, suffer men to have such pre-eminence in the Church as to usurp Christ's supremacy. He does not allow them to be held in such honor as to derogate even in the slightest degree from Christ's dignity. There is, it is true, a certain degree of honor that is due to Christ's ministers, and they are also themselves masters in their own place, but this exception must always be kept in view, that Christ must have without any infringement what belongs to him -- that he shall nevertheless be the sole Master, and looked upon as such. Hence the aim of good ministers is this, that they may all in common serve Christ, and claim for him exclusively power, authority, and glory -- fight under his banner -- obey him alone, and bring others in subjection to his sway. If any one is influenced by ambition, that man gathers disciples, not to Christ, but to himself. This then is the fountain of all evils -- this the most hurtful of all plagues -- this the deadly poison of all Churches, when ministers seek their own interests rather than those of Christ. In short, the unity of the Church consists more especially in this one thing -- that we all depend upon Christ alone, and that men thus occupy an inferior place, so as not to detract in any degree from his pre-eminence.

13. Is Christ divided? This intolerable evil was consequent upon the divisions that prevailed among the Corinthians: for Christ alone must reign in the Church. And as the object of the gospel is, that we be reconciled to God through him, it is necessary, in the first place, that we should all be bound together in him. As, however, only a very few of the Corinthians, who were in a sounder condition than the others, retained Christ as their Master, (while all made it their boast that they were Christians,) Christ was by this means torn asunder. For we must be one body, if we would be kept together under him as our head. If, on the other hand, we are split asunder into different bodies, we start aside from him also. Hence to glory in his name amidst strifes and parties is to tear him in pieces: which indeed is impossible, for never will he depart from unity and concord, because |He cannot deny himself| (2 Timothy 2:13.) Paul, therefore, by setting before them this absurdity, designs to lead the Corinthians to perceive that they are estranged from Christ, inasmuch as they are divided, for then only does he reign in us, when we have him as the bond of an inviolably sacred unity.

Was Paul crucified for you? By two powerful considerations, he shows how base a thing it is to rob Christ of the honor of being the sole Head of the Church -- the sole Teacher -- the sole Master; or to draw away from him any part of that honor, with the view of transferring it to men. The first is, that we have been redeemed by Christ on this footing, that we are not our own masters. This very argument Paul makes use of in his Epistle to the Romans (Romans 14:9,) when he says,

|For this end Christ died and rose again, that he might be Lord both of the living and the dead.|

To him, therefore, let us live and die, because we are always his. Also in this same Epistle (1 Corinthians 7:23,)

|Ye are bought with a price: be not ye the servants of men.|

As the Corinthians, therefore, had been purchased with the blood of Christ, they in a manner renounced the benefit of redemption, when they attached themselves to other leaders. Here is a doctrine that is deserving of special notice -- that we are not at liberty to put ourselves under bondage to men, because we are the Lord's heritage. Here, therefore, he accuses the Corinthians of the basest ingratitude, in estranging themselves from that Leader, by whose blood they had been redeemed, however they might have done so unwittingly.

Farther, this passage militates against the wicked contrivance of Papists, by which they attempt to bolster up their system of indulgences. For it is from the blood of Christ and the martyrs that they make up that imaginary treasure of the Church, which they tell us is dealt out by means of indulgences. Thus they pretend that the martyrs by their death merited something for us in the sight of God, that we may seek help from this source for obtaining the pardon of our sins. They will deny, indeed, that they are on that account our redeemers; but nothing is more manifest than that the one thing follows from the other. The question is as to the reconciling of sinners to God; the question is as to the obtaining of forgiveness; the question is as to the appeasing of the Lord's anger; the question is as to redemption from our iniquities. This they boast is accomplished partly by the blood of Christ, and partly by that of the martyrs. They make, therefore, the martyrs partners with Christ in procuring our salvation. Here, however, Paul in strong terms denies that any one but Christ has been crucified for us. The martyrs, it is true, died for our benefit, but (as Leo observes) it was to furnish an example of perseverance, not to procure for us the gift of righteousness.

Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? Here we have a second argument, which is taken from the profession of baptism; for we enlist ourselves under the banners of him in whose name we are baptized. We are, accordingly, bound to Christ, in whose name our baptism is celebrated. Hence it follows that the Corinthians are chargeable with perfidy and apostasy, if they place themselves under subjection to men. Observe here that the nature of baptism resembles a contract of mutual obligation; for as the Lord by that symbol receives us into his household, and introduces us among his people, so we pledge our fidelity to him, that we will never afterwards have any other spiritual Lord. Hence as it is on God's part a covenant of grace that he contracts with us, in which he promises forgiveness of sins and a new life, so on our part it is an oath of spiritual warfare, in which we promise perpetual subjection to him. The former department Paul does not here touch upon, because the subject did not admit of it; but in treating of baptism it ought not to be omitted. Nor does Paul charge the Corinthians with apostasy simply on the ground of their forsaking Christ and betaking themselves to men; but he declares that if they do not adhere to Christ alone -- that very thing would make them covenant-breakers.

It is asked, what it is to be baptized in the name of Christ? I answer that by this expression it is not simply intimated that baptism is founded on the authority of Christ, but depends also on his influence, and does in a manner consist in it; and, in fine, that the whole effect of it depends on this -- that the name of Christ is therein invoked. It is asked farther, why it is that Paul says that the Corinthians were baptized in the name of Christ, while Christ himself commanded (Matthew 28:19) the Apostles to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. I answer, that in baptism the first thing to be considered is, that God the Father, by planting us in his Church in unmerited goodness, receives us by adoption into the number of his sons. Secondly, as we cannot have any connection with him except by means of reconciliation, we have need of Christ to restore us to the Father's favor by his blood. Thirdly, as we are by baptism consecrated to God, we need also the interposition of the Holy Spirit, whose office it is to make us new creatures. Nay farther, our being washed in the blood of Christ is peculiarly his work; but as we do not obtain the mercy of the Father, or the grace of the Spirit, otherwise than through Christ alone, it is on good grounds that we speak of him as the peculiar object in view in baptism, and more particularly inscribe his name upon baptism. At the same time this does not by any means exclude the name of the Father and of the Spirit; for when we wish to sum up in short compass the efficacy of baptism, we make mention of Christ alone; but when we are disposed to speak with greater minuteness, the name of the Father and that of the Spirit require to be expressly introduced.

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