1 CORINTHIANS 1
1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,
We open a very remarkable epistle in our daily readings; for the epistles to the Corinthians breathe the emotions of the apostle Paul in a way not found in any of his other writings. They are like the Psalms of the New Testament, in which he shares his innermost feelings. Particularly is this so when we read the second epistle. The apostle spent much time in Corinth -- a city of great moral deviation, and in which it must have been difficult for the Truth to survive.
There were troubles within as well as without. Schisms and party-politics were prevalent; ecclesial politics were evident. Paul was criticized and condemned, and yet, throughout, he remained faithful to his calling and honest in his responses. He felt the bitter hammer blows of brethren who wished that his words were silenced, and his influence weakened. Yet, Paul reminded the Corinthians that they had been converted by the simple words of Truth in the powerful effect upon their consciences. - GEM
2 Unto the ecclesia 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:
The only foundation of Truth was that based upon the atoning work of the Lord Yahshua, for he "determined not to know any thing among you, save Yahshua Christ, and him crucified".
This principle envelopes the whole subject of the salvation effected by the Master, as the One who manifested Yahweh in flesh; and who was prepared to offer himself to declare the divine righteousness in its judgment against sin's flesh. - GEM
3 Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Paul's two epistles to the ecclesia at Corinth is revealed more intensely than anywhere else the great burden that he constantly bore --
"The care of all the ecclesias" (2 Cor. 11:28).
Paul's conflict in Corinth which caused these epistles to be written was largely similar to the conflict in Galatia which caused the Galatian epistle. In both cases it was false teachers who perverted the Gospel and belittled the apostle.
But the conflict in Corinth was much more personal, severe, and intense. To the influence of false teachers was added the great pressure of the corruption of the city of Corinth, and the brethren and sisters' own backgrounds as drawn from it.
Corinth was proverbally the vice capital of the Roman Empire. To "Corinthianize" was a word commonly used for lewdness and licentiousness. It was the central seaport and crossroads of the Empire. It was a hub of wealth and activity -- the center of Greek commerce, industry, and finance. The population was about three-quarters of a million, the majority slaves.
Paul went to Corinth on his second missionary journey, after his disappointing confrontation with the self-satisfied, sterile philosophers of educated and cultured Athens.
Paul says he was in Corinth "in fear and trembling," but Christ appeared to him and told him not to be afraid but to speak out, for he had "much people in that city." Paul stayed there eighteen months, and built up an ecclesia. This was around 50 to 52 AD.
It was about five years later that the two epistles were written, a few months apart -- the first probably in the winter or early spring of 56 AD, and the second in summer or fall, same year.
The first was written from Ephesus, near the end of Paul's three-year stay there during his third missionary journey.
Conditions were bad in Corinth. There were divisions, serious moral corruptions, major doctrinal errors. The faithful among them were deeply concerned, but appeared to be a small minority.
Paul made it plain that there had to be correction or disfellowship (1 Cor. 4:21; 5:5, 9, 13; 2 Cor. 13:2).
We have two epistles and a record of two visits to Corinth by Paul -- the founding visit and a visit fairly soon after the second epistle. There may have been two other letters, one certainly before the two we have (1 Cor. 5:9), and one possibly between them (2 Cor. 2:4; 7:8), and possibly one other visit, between the two recorded (2 Cor. 2:1; 13:2).
It is clear from the first epistle that the two main problems were a glorification of worldly wisdom, and moral corruption. Corinth as a city was proud, clever, self-satisfied, rich in this world's goods, and utterly corrupt.
Herein we have a close parallel with our own day and problems, for these same two things are increasingly the main destructive influence pressing upon the Truth -- worldly wisdom and moral looseness.
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.
The church (ecclesia) was associated with the apostles in the ministry of reconciliation. By "the church" (ecclesia), I mean, not that multiform thing called "the church" by the world in these times; but that one, undivided body of disciples, collected together by the personal labours of the apostles and evangelists; and all through subsequent generations, who should believe and practise the same truth.
To this "one body", (Eph 4:4) energized by the "one spirit", (Eph 4:4) and perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment", (1 Cor. 1:10; Acts 4:32) and styled "THE BRIDE" -- is committed the work of making known "the manifold wisdom of God", (Eph. 3:10) as contained in the word; and of inviting the world to be reconciled to God. (Rev. 22:17)
No member of this body is exempt from the obligation of co-operating in this work. It is the duty and privilege of every one in his own sphere to endeavour to turn men to righteousness; for there is no distinction of "clergy" and "laity" in the family of God.
Elpis Israel 1.5.
"I gave her space to repent of her fornication, and she repented not" (Rev. ii. 21).
These are solemn words. They indicate the unchanging way of the Deity towards apostates from the truth. He first warns, then waits, and finally, in the event of no reformation, abandons.
Those who are now professing God's truth are by this passage brought face to face with a question of overwhelming moment. It is beyond denial that with some He must be more than displeased. His command to be of one mind (1 Cor. i. 10, etc.), is being frequently violated-a state of active antagonism prevails.
That God would strengthen the two contending sides is not to be thought of. God could not long remain with both-though He might for a time. Separation from God is the certain outcome for one or the other-however much it may now glory in peace and prosperity. It is simply a question as to which side God will continue to co-operate with-with the one which maintains, by word and act the absolute integrity of His revelation, or with the one which connives at the conduct of those who impugn its veracity?
Now is the time to reflect-the space given for repentance. ATJ
The Christadelphian, Aug 1887
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.
The natural man is responsive only to that which he can experience in the ordinary range of his faculties. The Spirit of God is not within this range at all. Consequently it is to him a myth or a notion, though in reality the first and truest and most powerful of all truth.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 52
The "cross," as a subject of preaching, can only be understood in a symbolical sense. It occurs in Paul's letters, as the representative of the system of doctrine which had its centre and culmination in the death of Christ, and not as a literal expression-though having its origin in a literal occurrence.
It cannot be that the cross itself-the actual framework upon which Christ was cruelly impaled by the Jews and Romans-had any vitality or place in the preaching of the apostles. Otherwise, the Roman Catholics are right in their superstitious deference to the structural form, and in their devout appreciation of "the wood of the true cross," which has been distributed in ship loads among the million worshippers of this mark of the beast.
Unless we put the cross in its proper place, as the symbolical expression of the great doctrine of Christ's sacrifice, in its absolute truth, it becomes an idol, whether clasped in material form with the devotions of the benighted Catholic, or cherished as a spiritual ideal with the undiscerning enthusiasm of "evangelical religion."
The brazen serpent, elevated in the wilderness for the cure of believing, serpent-bitten Israelites, was a legitimate object of regard, when accepted as a divine appointment for good; but when, afterwards, the children of Israel degenerated to the idolatrous worship of it, Hezekiah, with divine approbation, "brake it in pieces," calling it contemptibly "a piece of brass."-(2 Kings xviii. 4.)
Weeping, as the expression of an intelligently broken and contrite heart, is an acceptable sacrifice to God; but when put in the place of truth and righteousness, it became a cause of offence in Israel, and is certainly not less so now.
"And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with goodwill at your hands."-(Malachi ii. 13.)
The religious outcry about "the cross" of the present day, is in the same category of perverted truth, and is doubtless as displeasing to the Almighty, as the excessive and irrational zeal of the Jews for the sacrifices and feasts of the law, while neglecting the "weightier matters" with which they were associated. There is a true doctrine of the cross, but the moderns, with all their outcry about the cross, deny it.
That true doctrine is that death-the resolution to original dust of the creature formed from the dust.-(Rom. v. 12; Gen. iii. 19.)-is the consequence of sin; that death reigns on account of sin; that Christ came to suffer the death due to sin in the nature that was in sin, and to rise to the possession of life eternal for bestowal upon all who believe in him.
The moderns deny the first proposition, and by consequence, all the rest. They say there is no death; that all men are immortal; that eternal torture in hell is the wages of sin; that all men by nature go to hell to be tormented of the devil, and that Christ came to endure the suffering due to these hell-doomed immortal creatures. What is their preaching of the cross, under these circumstances, but a denial of the truth, and a trumpeting of pagan doctrines under a false name?
To preach the cross truly, is to preach immortality through a crucified and risen Christ. No man can preach the truth without preaching this: but the precise terms in which he may do so, is a question of circumstances. In a day when "the cross" is universally current in a perverted sense, the use of the phrase is not a likely way of making the truth understood. We must adopt whatever language is necessary to convey the truth. The truth is the main thing; words are merely secondary, and must be subordinated to ideas.
In the days of Paul, there was no false tradition of great antiquity hanging around, and almost depending upon the phrase he used to express the doctrine of Christ's sacrifice. It was a new and fresh and ignominious motto, and exactly equivalent to what "the gallows" would be in our day. He could use it with great advantage. It was a neat, curt, intelligible and telling expression of the great doctrine of Christ as the end of the law for righteousness. Its use was convenient and effectual as against Jews and Greeks.
To the former, it asserted the supremacy of Christ's sacrifice over those of the law, and in a word, placed it in the forefront of the gospel. In relation to the latter, it was a challenge of the "philosophy and vain deceit" which taught human immortality from human nature, and human deification from human virtue. But the situation is wholly changed now, except as regards the Jews, who seem now wholly beyond the influence of gospel operations.
The Gentiles have accepted Paul's phrase without accepting Paul's doctrine; and hence in attempting to force the doctrine upon their attention, it is useless using the phrase, without new forms of phraseology, which will make the phrase scripturally intelligible.
You must remember that Paul's language was affected by the circumstances of his own time, and that therefore, to some extent, with an alteration of these circumstances, there is forced upon us, if we would succeed in making Paul's ideas understood, the necessity of an alteration of phrase. The moderns deny the kingdom that Paul preached, and therefore, in modern teaching of the truth, there must, of necessity, be given great prominence to the doctrine of the kingdom.
They do not deny the cross in the historical sense; they misunderstand it, so that the doctrine of the cross naturally becomes more a matter of explanation than proclamation. The kingdom is entirely unknown. The dead weight of modern opposition falls upon this branch of the truth: and therefore through the sheer force of necessity, this takes the front in the battle.
But do not suppose because Christadelphians speak much about the kingdom, they think little of the cross scripturally understood. You will find that both occupy, in the system of truth to which they are related, that position of supreme importance which they possess in fact-the one as much as the other; but in the public presentation of the truth, the form or manner of it is determined by the public necessity which, as already said, calls for a prominence of ideas over phrases misunderstood, and a prominence of the kingdom (apparently) over the cross.
The Ambassador of the Coming Age, April 1868. p113
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 (the philosopher)? Where is the disputer of this world?" We have to say, "Where is the scientist? Where is the higher critic? Where is the unbeliever?" They are having a fine dance in the sunshine, to be sure; but what is all this world of "learning" they have created for themselves but an intellectual cloud- land with much apparatus and much inspiration of pride, visible only in the smoke of their intellectual meerschaums?
There is fact and truth in science: but there is science falsely so-called. Speculations and inductions are not science, but mere methods of human thought which may be entirely illusory in their results. Scientific meditation is respectable, when it confines itself to fact: though even then, there should not be such a fuss. But when it lifts its hand against attested divine truth, it becomes the worst foe of mankind.
By the side of "the unsearchable riches of Christ," it is only properly classified in Paul's rough but correct word-"dung."
What else is human notion of any kind at last when lifted against Christ? A Professor dies: his memory is glorified in high - sounding words by fellow - sinners. But what is he in himself? Rottenness-decomposition-dung.
Can his theories, his writings, his diplomas, his fame, redeem his bones from corruption? The best his friends can propose is "cremation!" Can any of them say,
"I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth on me, though he were dead, yet shall he live?"
Where is learning in the presence of death? Learning that bows at the feet of Christ (there is such learning, but true learning and Christ are not incompatible) has a useful lowly place as a servant. But learning that denies or even competes with him is to be spurned indignantly from the presence of divine light and knowledge.
"Be steadfast and immovable," was Paul's advice to the brethren in his day. "Stand fast. Be strong: quit you like men." The advice has not lost its force, or its value, or its need.
"Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together as the manner of some is."
Stand by the banner that Christ has erected in this breaking of bread. A crown waits the victor. The battle will not be long. The length of natural life at the most will see the end of our conflict, and then for us (whatever else may happen) will have arrived the goal of all effort, the joy of all aspiration, the haven of all rest-the air musical with the voice of melody-sorrow and sighing a memory of the past-the cup of life and gladness full for ever.
The Christadelphian, Dec 1898
24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
The glory of the name, as we have before seen, is moral and spiritual, as well as physical. The glory that Christ manifested during his ministry on earth, consisted in the exhibiting of those "moral attributes," set forth in the name of Yahweh: - and in the display of that Spirit power, by which he performed those marvellous works; - those miracles of his grace. Part of this glory appeared through his character as a sufferer. The sufferings are referred to by the prophet Isaiah, in chapter 53 - where the "long-suffering", patience, and forbearance, and meekness of the Saviour are portrayed. ...
..."Christ" is styled "the wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 1:24); and "Of God he is made unto" all who are in him -
"wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" (chap. 1:30). If we are able to partake of His wisdom and His righteousness, we partake to a certain extent in the glory of His name.
Paul shows it to be a part of the mission of believers to make known this wisdom to the world, in his epistle to the Ephesians. Having spoken of the "fellowship of the mystery, which hath been hidden from the ages in God, who created all things," he says: "To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the Ecclesia the manifold wisdom of God" (Eph. 3:9-10).
By the phrase, "manifold wisdom," it may be understood that wisdom has many foldings - a multiplicity and diversity of forms; so deep, so rich, so profound and unfathomable, as to lead the apostle to exclaim: "O the depth of the riches, of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past tracing out".
The Word, is the medium through which this wisdom is conveyed to us, in all its varied shades of light. Righteousness is the companion of Wisdom. The Spirit of wisdom personified in the Proverbs is represented as saying, 'I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment" (Prov. 8:18-20). "All the words of my mouth are in righteousness" (chap. 8:8).
Christ being the manifestation of the wisdom of God, he is also the manifestation of His righteousness. "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth" (Rom. 10:4). This righteousness is a part of those "attributes" of the Deity constituting the glory of His name. "For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth" (2 Cor. 3:9-10).
Sis Lasius - Yahweh Elohim Ch 4.
29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.
God has ever chosen persons despised by their contemporaries to bring to nothing the theology of the schools. He does not use the wise in their own conceit, professors and presidents of divinity establishments, to enlighten the people. He leaves them in their solemn foolishness as blind to lead the blind; and takes fishermen, and carpenters, and tentmakers, and healers of the sick, &c., to reduce their "wisdom" to absurdity, "that no flesh should glory in his presence."
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Jan 1854
30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
The individualization of the Eternal Word in a man, instead of excluding the notion of a personal and independent volition, rather seems to involve it, for the result was the appearance of a new personage on the scene -- the Son of God who,
"though he were a Son, learnt obedience by the things that he suffered" (Heb. 5:8).
The rendering of perfect obedience by such a man was surely the work of God, since the man who could render such obedience had to be expressly produced by God; and seeing "the flesh," viewed historically and racially, could never have brought such a Deliverer to the birth, surely the flesh has no share in the glory of the deliverance. It remains absolutely true that "of God, he (Christ) is made unto us righteousness."
There ought to be no difficulty in receiving and rejoicing in the whole truth of the matter. There would be none if men were content to receive the testimony in its entirety and simplicity.