Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,
1 Corinthians 1:7-8
Waiting for Christ.
I. St. Paul had found the Corinthians in great darkness of mind, worshipping many different gods, of whom they had different fancies and notions, worshipping the goddess of Pleasure above all. They had a dream of some God, some Father, some Friend; at times they fancied these gods to whom they were doing homage were likenesses of Him, His children to whom He had given power in various places and over various things. But then it seemed to them that there was more evil than good in the world, and that these powers must oftener mean evil to them than good, and that He from whom they got their power must be harder and sterner than they were, and must design worse and more terrible mischief to the creatures He had formed. The Corinthians believed the Apostle's gospel; they renounced their idols. They found that there was a love stronger than the evil that was in them, stronger than the evil that was in their brethren—one which could convert the most rebellious to itself. But still the world was full of misery. There was the tyranny of the Roman empire established over the great part of it; in each particular country and neighbourhood there were crimes, divisions, and oppressions.
II. Besides believing, then, the Corinthians had need to hope and to wait. What had they to hope and wait for? That He who had been declared to be the Deliverer of the world, who had proved Himself so by dying for it, who was proving Himself so in their hearts, would come forth, would declare Himself to be the King of kings and Lord of lords, would put down the wrong, would establish the right. To work for this, to wait for this, was, the Apostle tells them, the best thing for them, one and all.
III. So it was with the Corinthians. Why is it to be different with us? We have heard that Christ is the great Deliverer and King. Every event that has happened in any nation of the earth, any great judgment that has befallen it, any great deliverance that has been wrought for it, has been a day of the Lord, an appearing of Christ, a proof that He is in deed, and not in name only, our Sovereign. Christ's light is about us at this moment; we need not wait for that till another day; we may come to it; we may ask Him to scatter the darkness that is in us now.
F. D. Maurice, Sermons in Country Churches, p. 29.
References: 1 Corinthians 1:12.—G. Salmon, Non-Miraculous Christianity, p. 50. 1 Corinthians 1:13.—T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iii., p. 166; H. P. Liddon, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. i., p. 379; Ibid., Easter Sermons, vol. ii., p. 224; Ibid., Penny Pulpit, No. 1113. 1 Corinthians 1:14-22.—F. W. Robertson, Lectures on Corinthians, p. 28.
1 Corinthians 1:17What makes the Cross of Christ of none effect?
I. The making it identical with the crucifix, as though the Cross of Christ were nothing more than His crucifixion.
II. The exhibition of false doctrine and of speculation concerning the Cross of Christ.
III. The exhibition of the Cross of Christ without a personal recognition of its claim.
IV. The multiplication and complication of the requirements of the Cross of Christ.
V. Lack of faith in the power of the Cross.
VI. The use of the Cross for objects foreign to itself.
S. Martin, Westminster Chapel Sermons, 1st series, p. 198.
References: 1 Corinthians 1:17.—J. Oswald Dykes, Sermons, p. 20. 1 Corinthians 1:17, 1 Corinthians 1:18.—A. J. Parry, Phases of Truth, p. 104.
1 Corinthians 1:18The Two Paths.
These phrases, "Them that are perishing," "Us which are being saved," have not in themselves to do with the final state of the persons spoken of, not with the state when religious truth has been finally accepted or rejected, but rather with the anterior condition, their condition when it is preached to them, the condition of which their accepting or rejecting it is a test or an incident.
I. St. Paul divides the world into two classes, not in respect of their ultimate destiny,—he did not pretend at this moment to look on to that,—but in respect of their present state, their state when religious truth was set before them, and when the question was how they would look on it. The one class were in the way of safety, of progress, making the best of themselves, rising ever to things higher and better; the other class were in the way of ruin, going to waste, undoing themselves, going farther from God and happiness and life. And to these two classes, he said, religious truth comes with exactly opposite results. The one class recognise and welcome the good, can see moral beauty, have tender consciences, and unspoilt hearts; the other class are blind to heavenly outlines—they see no difference between them and coarse and clumsy imitations of fraud. "The Cross to them is foolishness."
II. We may ruin ourselves. There is no doubt or limitation there. We may be doing so, beginning to tread that dreadful path already. And in a sense we may save ourselves, but not in the same full sense. Walk dutifully with God, trust Him, come back to Him whenever you have offended, however deeply, and He will save you, save you daily, give you ever more and more of life and peace and happiness, till the struggle and risk is over and heaven is won.
E. C. Wickham, Wellington College Sermons, p. 240.
References: 1 Corinthians 1:18.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvii., No. 1611; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ix., p. 212; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., p. 190; T. J. Crawford, The Preaching of the Cross, p. 1; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 94; H. W. Beecher, Sermons, 10th series, p. 23.
1 Corinthians 1:21I. What was the preaching referred to in the text? The word might fairly be rendered "the truth preached," for St. Paul is not thinking of the action and process of announcement, but of the message announced. In his eyes mere discourse or oratory, irrespective of the claims of the subject on which it was employed, would have had no charm or dignity whatever. The world was saved by the substance of a message from heaven, not by the human words that conveyed it. Now, one leading characteristic of the apostolical preaching which gave it its saving power was its positive and definite character. Resting on solid evidence, planting its feet firmly on the soil of earth, and in the full daylight of human history, the Christian creed raised its head to heaven, unveiled to the believer the inner being of God, displayed the manner in which when God the Son took our nature upon Him a bridge was really constructed between earth and heaven, and even discovered to us the inmost heart of the All Merciful in the true meaning and value of the Sacrifice which was offered on Calvary for the sins of the whole world. From that fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness flow all the hopes of pardon, all the reinforcements of grace, all the power of sacraments, by which the work of the Redeemer is carried forward in the sphere of sense and time, in preparation for the momentous, the endless future.
II. Of this preaching, what was the object? St. Paul answers, "To save them that believe." When the Apostle speaks of salvation, he means a salvation of the individual human soul from ruin, ruin begun here and rendered beyond the grave permanent and irretrievable, salvation from eternal death. And the preaching of the apostles presented Christ to men, in St. Paul's phrase, as evidently set forth crucified among them, as their Saviour, as their all-sufficient Saviour, able to save to the utmost those that come unto God by Him.
III. Who are capable of receiving this salvation? "Them that believe." As a matter of fact, then, the recipients of salvation are a limited class. Belief is, in its essence, the act by which the soul accepts salvation. This belief is a movement of the whole soul, of all its powers going forth to meet the appointed truth; it is thought, it is affection, it is trust, it is self-surrender, face to face with the unseen, but clearly apprehended, Christ. Faith does not, cannot of itself, save; but faith is the hand which we hold out to receive the salvation which is wrought for us, and which we must thus receive in this our hand in order to make it our own.
H. P. Liddon, Family Churchman, July 28th, 1886.
References: 1 Corinthians 1:21.—J. Hunter, Story of Daniel, p. 39; J. B. Brown, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 200. 1 Corinthians 1:21-23.—T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iv., p. 47; H. Allon, Sermons in Union Chapel, Islington, p. 40; Homilist, vol. ii., p. 1. 1 Corinthians 1:22.—J. B. Brown, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxii., p. 225. 1 Corinthians 1:22-24.—Magee, The Gospel and the Age, p. 1; Beecher, Sermons, 1870, p. 261; R. Lorimer, Bible Studies in Life and Truth, p. 45; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 539. 1 Corinthians 1:22-25.—Homilist, vol. ii., p. 339. 1 Corinthians 1:23.—J. M. Neale, Sermons for the Christian Year, vol. ii., p. 119; T. R. Stevenson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 246. 1 Corinthians 1:23, 1 Corinthians 1:24.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. i., Nos. 7, 8; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 92; Ibid., vol. xviii., p. 340; W. Cunningham, Sermons, pp. 120,134; F. W. Robertson, Lectures on Corinthians, p. 83; W. J. Knox-Little, The Mystery of the Passion, p. 85; J. Oswald Dykes, Sermons, p. 34; Bishop Stubbs, The Anglican Pulpit of Today, p. 49. 1 Corinthians 1:23-25.—C. Kingsley, Town and Country Sermons, p. 408. 1 Corinthians 1:23-30.—Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 406. 1 Corinthians 1:24.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iii., No. 132; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ix., p. 186; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iv., p. 85; J. Irons, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 377. 1 Corinthians 1:26.—H. Phillips, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 358; Saturday Evening, p. 247. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. x., No. 587. 1 Corinthians 1:26-31.—A. J. Parry, Phases of Truth, p. 133. 1 Corinthians 1:27.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 25; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ix., p. 165. 1 Corinthians 1:28-31.—Christian World Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 377.
1 Corinthians 1:30Christ the Source of all Blessings.
I. St. Paul seems to have had in his mind a conception of the gradual growth of the Christian spirit under the hand of Christ, from its dawn of grace to its final fulfilment in glory. He seems to view Christ as the great Dispenser of the Father's treasures, accumulating gifts upon the believer's soul until it brightens into the very image of Himself; to view it rising higher and higher, as it is drawn nearer and nearer to Him, till the crisis of the final redemption is come and it is lost from the eye, hidden beyond the clouds. The words are as the ladder to the Patriarch's vision, "set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God ascending and descending on it."
II. Wisdom—the apprehension of the true and Divine knowledge—is the first stage on the path of peace; the clearing of the eye of reason for the prospect itself of eternity and of God. Christ is here declared to be made unto us wisdom, not so much because He is the Giver of wisdom as because He is the ground and object of it; not so much because He declares to us the truth as because He is the truth. He gives us knowledge in giving us Himself. The "righteousness, sanctification, and redemption" are ingredients of the wisdom. Christ is our wisdom in being to us these things: that is, He is the prime object of all true wisdom inasmuch as He is the source of all true blessedness.
III. Weigh well the force of the expression "is made unto us." As one with Christ we obtain the whole inheritance of grace and glory. The instant that we are incorporated into the mystical body of which He is the Head, that instant we possess the seed of the entire life of the Christian—yea, all his eternity is but the less or greater development of the Christ he bears within, around, and upon him. To receive Him is to receive the germ of every blessing that is written in the book of God.
W. Archer Butler, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 1.
References: 1 Corinthians 1:30.—W. Landels, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 376; R. S. Candlish, The Gospel of Forgiveness, p. 301; Homilist, new series, vol. i., p. 240; Ibid., 2nd series, vol. i., p. 240; Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 271.
1 Corinthians 1:30-31Righteousness not of Us, but in Us.
In every age of the Church, not in the primitive age only, Christians have been tempted to pride themselves on their gifts, or at least to forget that they were gifts, and to take them for granted. Ever have they been tempted to forget their own responsibilities, their having received what they are bound to improve, and the duty of fear and trembling while improving it. One of the first elements of knowledge and a Christian spirit is to refer all that is good in us, all that we have of spiritual life and righteousness, to Christ our Saviour; to believe that He works in us, or, to put the same thing more pointedly, to believe that saving truth, life, light, and holiness are not of us, though they must be in us.
I. Whatever we have is not of us, but of God. This is that great truth which is at the foundation of all true doctrine as to the way of salvation. All teaching about duty and obedience, about attaining heaven, and about the office of Christ towards us, is hollow and unsubstantial, which is not built here, in the doctrine of our original corruption and helplessness; and in consequence, of original guilt and sin.
II. While truth and righteousness are not of us, it is quite as certain that they are also in us if we be Christ's; not merely nominally given to us and imputed to us, but really implanted in us by the office of the Blessed Spirit. Let us never forget this great and simple view, which the whole of Scripture sets before us. What was actually done by Christ in the flesh eighteen hundred years ago is in type and resemblance really wrought in us one by one even to the end of time. Christ Himself vouchsafes to repeat in each of us in figure and mystery all that He did and suffered in the flesh. He is formed in us, born in us, suffers in us, rises again in us, lives in us; and this not by a succession of events, but all at once; for He comes to us as a Spirit, all dying, all rising again, all living. We are ever receiving our birth, our justification, our renewal, ever dying to sin, ever rising to righteousness. His whole economy in all its parts is ever in us all at once; and this Divine presence constitutes the title of each of us to heaven; this is what He will acknowledge and accept at the last day. As the king's image appropriates the coin to him, so the likeness of Christ in us separates us from the world and assigns us over to the kingdom of heaven.
J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. v., p. 128.
References: 1 Corinthians 1:30, 1 Corinthians 1:31.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvii., No. 991. 1 Corinthians 1:31.—Ibid., vol. xx., No. 1178; Saturday Evening, p. 260. 1 Corinthians 2:1, 1 Corinthians 2:2.—W. Morley Punshon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 168; H. W. Beecher, Sermons, 1870, pp. 448, 465. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.—Ibid., Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 148; W. Baxendale, Ibid., vol. xxviii., p. 364, vol. xxx., p. 168. 1 Corinthians 2:1-7.—F. W. Robertson, Lectures on Corinthians, p. 36.
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:
Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;
That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;
Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:
So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
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.
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.
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.
Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;
Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.
And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.
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 the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
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?
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 the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:
But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ 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.
For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
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;
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:
That no flesh should glory in his presence.
But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.