Matthew Poole's Commentary
Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,1 Corinthians Chapter 1
1Co 1:1-3 After saluting the church at Corinth,
1Co 1:4-9 and thanking God for his grace toward them,
1Co 1:10 Paul exhorteth them to unity,
1Co 1:11-16 and reproveth their dissensions.
1Co 1:17-25 The plain doctrine of the gospel, how foolish soever
in the eyes of the world, is the power and wisdom of
God to the salvation of believers.
1Co 1:26-29 God, to take away human boasting, hath not called the
wise, the mighty, the noble; but the foolish, the
weak, the despised among men.
1Co 1:30,31 Christ is our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification,
Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ: our common custom is to subscribe our name to the bottom of our letters; it seems by the apostolical Epistles, that their fashion was otherwise: he elsewhere telleth us, that it was his token in every epistle, which makes some doubt, whether that to the Hebrews was wrote by him; but others think it is there concealed, for the particular spite the Jews had to him. He had the name of Saul as well as Paul, as we read, Act 7:58 9:1: whether he had two names, (as many of the Jews had), or Saul was the name by which he was called before his conversion, and Paul his name after he was converted, or after he was made a citizen of Rome, (for Paul is a Roman name, nor do we read that after his conversion he was ever called by the name of Saul), is not worth our disputing. He was a man of Tarsus in Cilicia, by his nation a Jew, both by father and mother; an Hebrew of the Hebrews, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Pharisee, bred up at the feet of Gamaliel, one of their great doctors; he was also citizen of Rome, as himself tells us, Act 21:39 22:3,27 Php 3:5; by his trade a tent maker, Act 18:3; a great zealot for the Jewish ceremonies and law, and upon that score a great persecutor, consenting to the death of Stephen, and breathing out threatenings against Christians. Of his miraculous conversion we read, in Act 9:1-43, as also of his being called to be an apostle, not one of those first sent out by Christ, but yet called: he gives king Agrippa a full account of his calling, Act 26:12-19.
Through the will of God; so as he was an apostle by the will of God, God's special revelation from heaven: he did not thrust himself into the employment, but was sent of God in an extraordinary manner; not only mediately, (as all ministers are), but by an immediate call and mission.
And Sosthenes our brother: in the salutation prefixed to this Epistle, he joineth Sosthenes, whom he calls his brother. Of this Sosthenes we read, Act 18:17; he was a chief ruler of the synagogue, but converted to Christianity; Paul disdaineth not to call him his brother.
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:Unto the church of God which is at Corinth; unto those in Corinth who having received the doctrine of the gospel, and owned Jesus Christ as their Saviour, were united in one ecclesiastical body for the worship of God, and communion one with another. Corinth was a famous city in Achaia, (which Achaia was joined to Greece by a neck of land betwixt the Aegean and Ionian Seas), it grew the most famous mart of all Greece. Paul came thither from Athens, Acts 18:1.
Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue there, believed, upon Paul’s preaching; so did many Corinthians, and were baptized, 1 Corinthians 1:9. He stayed there eighteen months, 1 Corinthians 1:11; there Sosthenes (mentioned 1 Corinthians 1:1) was converted; from thence Paul went to Ephesus, 1 Corinthians 1:19. These believers were those here called the church of God at Corinth, to whom he writes this Epistle (as it should seem from 1 Corinthians 16:8) from Ephesus, where Paul stayed three years, Acts 20:31. The members of this church the apostle calleth such as are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints: whether by the term the apostle meaneth only such as by the preaching of the gospel were separated from the heathens at Corinth, and professed faith in Christ, (as, Acts 15:9, the apostle saith the Gentiles’ hearts were purified by faith), or such in Corinth as were really regenerated, and had their hearts renewed and changed, is not easy to determine: both of them are saints by calling; the former are called externally by the preaching of the gospel, the other internally and effectually by the operation of the Spirit of grace. It is most probable, that St. Paul intended this Epistle for the whole body of those that professed the Christian religion in Corinth, though in writing of it he had a more special respect to those who were truly sanctified in Christ by the renewing of the Holy Ghost. Nor doth Paul only respect those that lived in Corinth, but he directs his Epistle to all those who in any place of Achaia called upon the name of Jesus Christ, whom he calleth their Lord, and our Lord: which is an eminent place to prove the Divine nature of Christ; he is not only called our Lord, our common Lord, but he is made the object of invocation and Divine worship: and it teacheth us, that none but such as call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, are fit matter for a gospel church; which both excludes such as deny the Godhead of Christ, and such as live without God in the world, without performance of religious homage to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and owning him as their Lord.
Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.This is the common salutation in all Paul’s Epistles, only in one or two mercy is also added.
Grace signifies free love.
Peace signifies either a reconciliation with God, or brotherly love and unity each with other: See Poole on "Romans 1:7". The apostle wisheth them spiritual blessings, and the greatest spiritual blessings, grace and peace, and that not from and with men, but from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;Lest his former salutation should be misapprehended by them, as signifying that he thought they were without grace, he here cleareth his meaning by blessing God for that grace which they had received: but no man hath so much grace, but he is still capable of more, and stands in need of further influences; therefore, as he here blesseth God for the grace of God, which they by Jesus Christ received; so he before prayed for grace and peace for them, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is both the Author and Finisher of our faith, he giveth both to will and to do. The beginnings, increases, and finishings of grace are all from him. Grace is indeed from God the Father, but by Jesus Christ; it floweth from him who is Love, but it is through his Well-beloved. No man hath the love of God, but by and through Jesus Christ.
That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;In every thing; in every grace and in every good gift, (for he is manifestly speaking of spiritual things), so as this general particle must not be extended to the things of this life, but restrained either to spiritual gifts, or spiritual, sanctifying habits. Thus we read of the riches of grace, Ephesians 1:7, and of the riches of Christ, Ephesians 3:8: nor is the metaphor improper, whether we consider riches as signifying plenty or abundance, or that which accommodateth a man in this life, and is fitted to men’s wants, to give them a supply.
In all utterance; the word may be translated, in everything, or, in all speech; but the first having been said before, it seems more proper here to translate it, in all word or speech, or in all utterance, as we translate it. If it be taken in the first sense, the gospel is by it understood, the doctrine of the gospel preached amongst them by Paul and Apollos, who preached among the Gentiles the riches of Christ, Ephesians 3:8. If we interpret it utterance, which our translators prefer, it signifies an ability to utter that knowledge which God hath given us, to the glory of God and the good of others, either in prayer or spiritual discourses.
And in all knowledge: some by knowledge here understand the gift of prophecy; but it more properly signifies the ability God had given them to comprehend in their understanding the mysteries of the gospel, the great and deep things of God. The apostle blesseth God both for the illumination of their minds by the ministry of the gospel, so as they knew the things of God, and also for the ability which God had given them to communicate this their knowledge to others.
Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:By which knowledge and utterance the testimony of Christ, that is, the gospel, which containeth both the testimony which Christ had given of himself, and which the apostles had given concerning Christ; (the gospel is called the testimony of God, Romans 2:1; 2 Timothy 1:8;) others understand the gifts of, the Spirit (for the Spirit is one of the witnesses upon earth, 1Jo 5:8); was confirmed in you; by the miraculous operations wrought by the apostles, as some think; but the way of confirmation here spoken of by the apostle seemeth rather to be understood of their knowledge and utterance. The gospel, and the doctrine of it, and the mission of the Holy Spirit, were confirmed to them and to the world by the knowledge which God had given the apostles, and these Corinthians, of the great things of God; and their ability to communicate this knowledge unto others, for the honour of God, and the good of others.
So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:Not that every one of them was filled with all the gifts of the blessed Spirit; but one excelled in one gift, another excelled in another, as the apostle expounds himself, 1 Corinthians 12:7,8; neither doth the apostle assert them perfect in their gifts, but saith that they came behind-hand, or were defective, in no gift; but were all waiting for the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to judgment, of which he mindeth them, to encourage them to go on as they had began.
Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.Which Lord Jesus Christ, ( mentioned immediately before), or which God who is faithful, ( mentioned immediately after, 1 Corinthians 1:9), shall confirm your habits of grace unto the end, approving himself the finisher of your faith, (you being not wanting in your duty and endeavour): so as either you shall not fall, or at least not totally and finally, but so as you shall rise again, and appear in the day of our Lord Jesus without blame, so as he will accept you as if you had never sinned against him.
God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.God is faithful: faithfulness is the same with veracity or truth to a man’s word, which renders a person fit to be credited. It is a great attribute of God, 1 Corinthians 10:13 1 Thessalonians 5:24. This implieth promises of God for the perseverance of believers, of which there are many to be found in holy writ. But these promises concern not all, but such only whom God hath chosen out of the world, calling them to a communion with Christ, which necessarily supposeth union with him. So as here is another argument to confirm them that God would keep them to the end, so as they should be blameless in the day of Christ; because God had called them into that state of grace wherein they were, and would not leave his work in them imperfect; he had called them unto the fellowship of Jesus Christ; see 1Jo 1:3; into a state of friendship with Christ, and into a state of union with him, into such a state as he would daily by his Spirit be communicating the blessed influences of his grace unto them.
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.By the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, is as much as, by Christ, by the authority of Christ, for this is his will; or, by the love which you bear to the Lord Jesus Christ, who hath so often recommended to you peace with, and brotherly love towards, one another.
That ye all speak the same thing; that in matters of doctrine you all speak the same thing (for it is capable of no other sense); and that you neither be divided in sentiments or opinions, nor yet in affection, that there may be no divisions among you; which is also further evidenced by the last phrase, being joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. A union in affection is the necessary and indispensable duty of all those that are the disciples of Christ, and such a duty as not only concerns Christians of the same nation, with relation one to another, but also Christians of all nations, and may be attained, if by our lusts we do not hinder it. A union in opinion, as to the fundamental truths of religion, is (though not so easy, yet) what the church of God hath in a great measure arrived at. But for a union in every particular proposition of truth, is not a thing to be expected, though we all are to labour for it: God hath neither given unto all the same means, nor the same natural capacities.
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.The apostle cometh to show one reason, as why he wrote to them, so also why in the preceding verse he so zealously pressed unity upon them, because of an information he had received from some of the family of Chloe; for it is far more probable that Chloe was the name of a person, head of a family in Corinth, than of a city or town.
There are contentions among you: what their divisions were about, the next verses will tell us.
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.Every one here signifieth no more than many of you, or several of you; so 1 Corinthians 14:26: from whence, those that think they have such a mighty argument from Hebrews 2:9, where is the same particle to prove Christ’s dying for all individuals, may undeceive themselves, and find that they have need of better arguments to prove their assertion.
I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ: we may from hence observe, that the divisions amongst the Corinthians were not in matters of faith, but occasioned from their having men’s persons in admiration. This was probably caused either from God’s making of Paul the instrument of some of their conversion, Apollos the instrument of others’ conversion, and Peter the instrument of others’, or else from the difference of their gifts. Of this Apollos we read, Acts 18:24; he was a Jew of Alexandria, who (as may be seen there, 1 Corinthians 1:28) mightily convinced they, and that publicly, and probably was as useful to the Corinthians. One minister of Christ may be justly preferred to another. We ought to honour those most whom God most honoureth, either by a more plentiful giving out of his Spirit, or by a more plentiful success upon their labours; but we ought not so far to appropriate any ministers to ourselves, as for them to despise others. We are not bound to make every minister our pastor, but we are bound to have a just respect for every minister, who by his doctrine and holy life answereth his profession and holy calling.
Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?How came these parties? There is but one Christ, but one that was crucified for you, but one into whose name, into a faith in whom, and a profession of whom, you were baptized. Peter baptized you into the name of Christ, so did I; I did not list those whom I baptized under any banner of my own, but under Christ’s banner. The Head is but one, and the body ought not to be divided.
I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;Concerning the apostle’s baptizing Crispus we read, Acts 18:8; he was the chief ruler of the synagogue of the Jews: why Paul thanks God that he baptized not many, he tells us, 1 Corinthians 1:15.
Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.Because by that providence of God it so fell out, that very few of them could pretend any such thing, as that he had baptized any in his own name.
And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.He correcteth himself, remembering that he also baptized the household of Stephanas, which (1 Corinthians 16:15) he calleth the first-fruits of Achaia, a family that had addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints. Besides, I know not whether I baptized any other; he did not remember that he had baptized any more at Corinth, though it is very probable he had baptized many more in other parts of the world, where he had been travelling.
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 Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel; baptism was not his principal work, not the main business for which Paul was sent; it was his work, otherwise he would not have baptized Crispus, or Gaius, or the household of Stephanas, but preaching was his principal work. It is very probable others (besides the apostles) baptized. It is hard to conceive how three thousand should in a day be added to the church, if Peter had baptized them all, Acts 2:41. The apostle goes on, telling us how he preached the gospel, and thereby instructing all faithful ministers how they ought to preach.
Not with wisdom of words, or speech. Wisdom of words must signify either what we call rhetoric, or logic, delivering the mysteries of the gospel in lofty, tunable expressions, or going about to evidence them from rational demonstrations and arguments. This was the way (he saith) to have taken away all authority from the doctrine of the cross of Christ: Divine faith being nothing else but the soul’s assent to the Divine revelation because it is such, is not furthered, but hindered, by the arguing the object of it from the principles of reason, and the colouring of it with high-flown words and trim phrases. There is a decent expression to be used in the communicating the will of God unto men; but we must take heed that we do not diminish the authority of God’s revealed will, either by puerile flourishings of words, or philosophical argumentation.
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness: I know (saith the apostle) that plain discourses about a Christ crucified are to some persons foolish things, and accounted canting; but to whom are they so? To those who, if they be not some that shall perish eternally, yet are some of those who at present are in a perishing estate; these indeed count sermons of Christ silly, foolish things.
But unto us which are saved it is the power of God; but to those who shall be eternally saved, and are at present in the true road to eternal life and salvation, it is, that is, the preaching of the gospel is, that institution of God by which he showeth his power in the salvation of those who shall be saved. The apostle saith the same, Romans 1:16.
For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.What Isaiah said of the wise men among the Jews in his time, is applicable to the wise men among the heathen, God will destroy their wisdom, and make their understanding appear to be no better than foolishness. So as it is not at all to be admired, if the philosophers of this world count the gospel, and the preaching of it, foolishness; the taking away the wisdom and understanding of men worldly wise, is but an ordinary dispensation of God’s providence, no more than God threatened to do in Isaiah’s time to the men of that generation.
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? where is the scribe? He alludeth again to that, Isaiah 33:18: Where is the scribe? where is the receiver? Where are the wise men amongst the heathens? Where are the scribes, the learned men in the law, amongst the Jews?
Where is the disputer of this world? Where are those amongst Jews or Gentiles that are the great inquirers into the reasons and natures of things, and manage debates and disputes about them? They understand nothing of the mysteries of the gospel, or the way of salvation, which God holds out to the world in and through Jesus Christ. Or, where are they? What have they done by all their philosophy and moral doctrine, as to the turning of men from sin unto God, from ways of iniquity unto ways of righteousness, in comparison of what we, the ministers of Christ, have done by preaching the doctrine of the gospel, and the cross of Christ?
Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? Do not you see how God hath fooled the wisdom of the world? Making it to appear vain and contemptible, and of no use, as to the saving of men’s souls; making choice of none of their doctors and great rabbis, to carry that doctrine abroad in the world; and convincing men that, without faith in Christ, all that can be learned from them will be of no avail to the soul.
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 after that in the wisdom of God: some here, by the wisdom of God, understand Jesus Christ, and make the sense thus: When he who is the Wisdom of God came and preached to the world. Others understand the gospel, which is so called, 1 Corinthians 1:24, and 1 Corinthians 2:7. But I take the wisdom of God in this text to signify the wise administrations of Divine Providence in the government of the world to his wise ends.
The world by wisdom knew not God; the unregenerate part of the world would not come to a knowledge of and an acquaintance with God, in that way whereby he chose to reveal himself in and through Jesus Christ, as to which they were hindered by their own reasonings and knowledge, and apprehended skill in things, and capacity to comprehend them.
It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe; it pleased God to institute the great ordinance of preaching the gospel, which they count foolishness, as the sacred means by which he would bring all those that give credit to the revelation of it, and receive Christ held forth in it, to eternal life and salvation.
For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:The Jews were not without some true Divine revelation, and owned the true God, and only desired some miraculous operation from Christ, Matthew 12:38 John 4:48, to confirm them that Christ was sent from God: without signs and wonders they would not believe; giving no credit at all to the words of Christ. And the Greeks, (by whom the apostle understands the Gentiles), especially the more learned part of them, (for Greece was at this time very famous for human literature), they sought after the demonstration of all things from natural causes and rational arguments, and despised every thing which could not so be made out unto them.
But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;But we preach Christ crucified; we that are the ministers of Christ, come and preach to them, that there was one hanged upon a cross at Jerusalem, who is the Saviour of the world, and was not cut off for his own sins, but for the sins of his people.
Unto the Jews a stumblingblock; the Jews are stumbled at this, looking for a Messiah that should be a great temporal Prince; and besides, accounting it an ignominious thing to believe in one as their Saviour whom they had caused to be crucified.
And unto the Greeks foolishness; and the Greeks, the most learned among the Gentiles, look upon it as a foolish, idle story, that one who was and is God blessed for ever, should be crucified.
But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.Blessed be God, Christ is not to all the Jews a stmnblingblock, nor to all the Greeks is he foolishness; for to so many of them as are called, ( not by the external call of the gospel, but only by the internal call and effectual operation of the Spirit), let them be of one nation or another, by their country, Jews or pagans, Christ is so far from being foolishness, that Christ, and the doctrine of the gospel, appear to them the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.The foolishness of God is wiser than men; the least things that are the products of the wisdom of God, or the contrivance of God for man’s salvation, which the sinful and silly world calls foolishness, are infinitely more wise, and have more wisdom in them, than the wisest imaginations, counsels, and contrivances of men.
And the weakness of God is stronger than men; and those things and means which God hath instituted in order to an end, have in them more virtue, power, and efficacy in order to the production of God’s intended effects, than any such means as appear to men’s eyes of reason to have the greatest strength, virtue, and efficacy. Whence we may observe, that the efficacy of preaching for the changing and convering souls, dependeth upon the efficacy of God working in and by that holy institution, which usually attendeth the ministry of those who are not only called and sent out by men, but by God, being fitted for their work, and faithfully discharging of it.
For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:To prove that this is the method of Divine Providence, to make use of seemingly infirm and weak means to produce his great effects, you need not look further than yourselves; look upon the whole body of your church at Corinth, it is not made up of many that have a reputation for the wise men or the noble men of your city. Some indeed were such; Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, was converted, and Sosthenes; but the generality were men of very ordinary repute.
But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;God hath even amongst you chosen persons that are in the account of the world as foolish things, to put the wise to shame; and persons of weak esteem, to confound those that are mighty in the repute of the world.
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 which are not in the world’s account, to bring to nought things which are in high esteem.
That no flesh should glory in his presence.And God doth this in infinite wisdom, consulting his own honour and glory, that none might say, that God hath chosen them because they were nobler born, or in higher repute and esteem in the world, than others, but that the freeness of Divine grace might be seen in all God’s acts of grace.
But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:But of him are ye in Christ Jesus; of his grace ye are implanted into Christ, and believe in him. You are of him, not by creation only, as all creatures are, but by redemption and regeneration, which is in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom; the principal means by which we come to the knowledge of God, and an acquaintance with his will; for he is the image of the invisible God, Colossians 1:15. The brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person, Hebrews 1:3. God hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, 2 Corinthians 4:6. So that he who hath seen him, hath seen the Father, John 14:9. All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid in him, Colossians 2:3. And no man knoweth the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him, Matthew 11:27. Thus, though God destroyed the wisdom of the wise, yet the Corinthians were not without wisdom; for God had made Christ to them wisdom, both causally, being the author of wisdom to them; and objectively, their wisdom lay in their knowledge of him, and in a fellowship and conmmnion with him. And whereas they wanted a righteousness in which they might stand before God justified and accepted, God had also made Christ to them righteousness: Sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, Romans 8:3,4.
And sanctification also, believers being renewed and sanctified by his Spirit.
And he is also made redemption: where by redemption is meant the redemption of the body, mentioned Romans 8:23; so as redemption here signifies the same with resurrection of the body. Christ is the resurrection, and the life, John 11:25.
That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.God doth this, or hath done this, for this end, that man should have nothing to glory in, neither wisdom, nor righteousness, nor sanctification, nor redemption, but should glory in the Lord; acknowledging that whatsoever wisdom, righteousness, or holiness he hath, it is all from God, in and through the Lord Jesus Christ.