1 Corinthians 1 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

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Verse 1

[1] Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,

Paul, called to be an apostle — There is great propriety in every clause of the salutation, particularly in this, as there were some in the church of Corinth who called the authority of his mission in question.

Through the will of God — Called "the commandment of God," 1 Timothy 1:1 This was to the churches the ground of his authority; to Paul himself, of an humble and ready mind. By the mention of God, the authority of man is excluded, Galatians 1:1; by the mention of the will of God, the merit of Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:8, etc.

And Sosthenes — A Corinthian, St. Paul's companion in travel. It was both humility and prudence in the apostle, thus to join his name with his own, in an epistle wherein he was to reprove so many irregularities.

Sosthenes the brother — Probably this word is emphatical; as if he had said, Who, from a Jewish opposer of the gospel, became a faithful brother.

Verse 2

[2] Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:

To the church of God which is in Corinth — St. Paul, writing in a familiar manner to the Corinthians, as also to the Thessalonians and Galatians, uses this plain appellation. To the other churches he uses a more solemn address.

Sanctified through Jesus Christ — And so undoubtedly they were in general, notwithstanding some exceptions.

Called — Of Jesus Christ, Romans 1:6 And - As the fruit of that calling made holy.

With all that in every place — Nothing could better suit that catholic love which St. Paul labours to promote in this epistle, than such a declaration of his good wishes for every true Christian upon earth.

Call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ — This plainly implies that all Christians pray to Christ, as well as to the Father through him.

Verse 4

[4] I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;

Always — Whenever I mention you to God in prayer.

Verse 5

[5] That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;

In all utterance and knowledge — Of divine things. These gifts the Corinthians particularly admired. Therefore this congratulation naturally tended to soften their spirits, and I make way for the reproofs which follow.

Verse 6

[6] Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:

The testimony of Christ — The gospel.

Was confirmed among you — By these gifts attending it. They knew they had received these by the hand of Paul: and this consideration was highly proper, to revive in them their former reverence and affection for their spiritual father.

Verse 7

[7] So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:

Waiting — With earnest desire. For the glorious revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ - A sure mark of a true or false Christian, to long for, or dread, this revelation.

Verse 8

[8] Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Who will also — if you faithfully apply to him.

Confirm you to the end. In the day of Christ — Now it is our day, wherein we are to work out our salvation; then it will be eminently the day of Christ, and of his glory in the saints.

Verse 9

[9] God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

God is faithful — To all his promises; and therefore "to him that hath shall be given." By whom ye are called - A pledge of his willingness to save you unto the uttermost.

Verse 10

[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.

Now I exhort you — Ye have faith and hope; secure love also.

By the endearing name of our Lord Jesus Christ — lnfinitely preferable to all the human names in which ye glory.

That ye all speak the same thing — They now spoke different things, 1 Corinthians 1:12 And that there be no schisms among you - No alienation of affection from each other. Is this word ever taken in any other sense in scripture? But that ye be joined in the same mind - Affections, desires.

And judgment — Touching all the grand truths of the gospel.

Verse 11

[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.

It hath been declared to me by them of the family of Chloe — Whom some suppose to have been the wife of Stephanas, and the mother of Fortunatus and Achaicus. By these three the Corinthians had sent their letter to St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 16:17.

That there are contentions — A word equivalent with schisms in the preceding verse.

Verse 12

[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.

Now this I say — That is, what I mean is this: there are various parties among you, who set themselves, one against an other, in behalf of the several teachers they admire.

And I of Christ — They spoke well, if they had not on this pretence despised their teachers, 1 Corinthians 4:8 Perhaps they valued themselves on having heard Christ preach in his own person.

Verse 13

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

Is Christ divided — Are not all the members still under one head? Was not he alone crucified for you all; and were ye not all baptized in his name? The glory of Christ then is not to be divided between him and his servants; neither is the unity of the body to be torn asunder, seeing Christ is one still.

Verse 14

[14] I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;

I thank God — (A pious phrase for the common one, "I rejoice,") that, in the course of his providence, I baptized none of you, but Crispus, once the ruler of the synagogue, and Caius.

Verse 15

[15] Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.

Lest any should say that I had baptized in my own name — In order to attach them to myself.

Verse 16

[16] And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.

I know not — That is, it does not at present occur to my memory, that I baptized any other.

Verse 17

[17] For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

For God did not send me to baptize — That was not my chief errand: those of inferior rank and abilities could do it: though all the apostles were sent to baptize also, Matthew 28:19 But to preach the gospel - So the apostle slides into his general proposition: but not with wisdom of speech - With the artificial ornaments of discourse, invented by human wisdom.

Lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect — The whole effect of St. Paul's preaching was owing to the power of God accompanying the plain declaration of that great truth, "Christ bore our sins upon the cross." But this effect might have been imputed to another cause, had he come with that wisdom of speech which they admired.

Verse 18

[18] For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

To them that perish — By obstinately rejecting the only name whereby they can be saved.

But to us who are saved — Now saved from our sins, and in the way to everlasting salvation, it is the great instrument of the power of God.

Verse 19

[19] For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.

For it is written — And the words are remarkably applicable to this great event. Isaiah 29:14

Verse 20

[20] Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

Where is the wise? etc.-The deliverance of Judea from Sennacherib is what Isaiah refers to in these words; in a bold and beautiful allusion to which, the apostle in the clause that follows triumphs over all the opposition of human wisdom to the victorious gospel of Christ. What could the wise men of the gentiles do against this? or the Jewish scribes? or the disputers of this world? - Those among both, who, proud of their acuteness, were fond of controversy, and thought they could confute all opponents.

Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world — That is, shown it to be very foolishness. Isaiah 33:18

Verse 21

[21] For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

For since in the wisdom of God — According to his wise disposals, leaving them to make the trial.

The world — Whether Jewish or gentile, by all its boasted wisdom knew not God - Though the whole creation declared its Creator, and though he declared himself by all the prophets; it pleased God, by a way which those who perish count mere foolishness, to save them that believe.

Verse 22

[22] For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:

For whereas the Jews demand of the apostles, as they did of their Lord, more signs still, after all they have seen already; and the Greeks, or gentiles, seek wisdom - The depths of philosophy, and the charms of eloquence.

Verse 23

[23] But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;

We go on to preach, in a plain and historical, not rhetorical or philosophical, manner, Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumblingblock - Just opposite to the "signs" they demand.

And to the Greeks foolishness — A silly tale, just opposite to the wisdom they seek.

Verse 24

[24] But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

But to them that are called — And obey the heavenly calling.

Christ — With his cross, his death, his life, his kingdom. And they experience, first, that he is the power, then, that he is the wisdom, of God.

Verse 25

[25] Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Because the foolishness of God — The gospel scheme, which the world judge to be mere foolishness, is wiser than the wisdom of men; and, weak as they account it, stronger than all the strength of men.

Verse 26

[26] For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:

Behold your calling — What manner of men they are whom God calls.

That not many wise men after the flesh — In the account of the world.

Not many mighty — Men of power and authority.

Verse 28

[28] And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:

Things that are not — The Jews frequently called the gentiles, "Them that are not," 2 Esdras vi. 56, 57. In so supreme contempt did they hold them.

The things that are — In high esteem.

Verse 29

[29] That no flesh should glory in his presence.

That no flesh — A fit appellation. Flesh is fair, but withering as grass.

May glory before God — In God we ought to glory.

Verse 30

[30] But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:

Of him — Out of his free grace and mercy. Are ye Engrafted into Christ Jesus, who is made unto us that believe wisdom, who were before utterly foolish and ignorant.

Righteousness — The sole ground of our justification, who were before under the wrath and curse of God.

Sanctification — A principle of universal holiness, whereas before we were altogether dead in sin.

And redemption — That is, complete deliverance from all evil, and eternal bliss both of soul and body.

Verse 31

[31] That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

Let him glory in the Lord — Not in himself, not in the flesh, not in the world. Jeremiah 9:23,24

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