« AnteriorContinuar »
manner, against the reigning idolatry, without effect. The miracles, which he wrought at Corinth, in confirmation of the gospel, ought to have drawn the attention of all ranks of men in that city. But the opinion which the philosophers and statesmen entertained of their own wisdom, was so great, that they despised the gospel as mere foolishness, (1 Cor. i. 23.) rejected its evidences, and remained, most of them, in their original ignorance and wickedness.
Though, as above observed, the common people at Corinth, strongly impressed by the apostle's miracles, readily embraced the gospel, it must be acknowiedged, that they did not seem, at the beginning, to have been much influenced thereby, either in their temper or manners. In receiving the gospel, they had been moved by vanity, rather than by the love of truth. And therefore, when they found the doctrines of the gospel, contrary in many things to their most approved maxims, they neither relished them, nor the apostle's explications of them. And as to his moral exhortations, because they were not composed according to the rules of the Grecian rhetoric, nor delivered with those tones of voice which the Greeks admired in their orators, they were not attended to by many, and had scarce any influence in restraining them from their vicious pleasures. Knowing, therefore, the humour of the Greeks, that they sought wisdom, that is, a conformity to their philosophical principies, in every new scheme of doctrine that was proposed to them, and nauseated whatever was contrary to these principles, the apostle did not, during his first abode in Corinth, attempt to explain the gospel scheme to the Corinthians in its full extent; but after the example of his divine master, he taught them as they were able to bear: 1 Cor. iii. 1. Now I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual, but as to fleshly men, even as to babes in Christ. 2. Milk I gave you, and not meat. For ye were not then able to receive it. Nay, neither yet now are ye able.
of the Occasion of writing the First Epistle to the Corinthians.
Though the Apostle had taught the word of God at Corinth, during more than a year and six months, the religious knowledge of the disciples, for the reasons already mentioned, was but imperfect at his departure. They were therefore more liable than some others, to be deceived by any impostor who came among them, as the event shewed. For after the apostle was gone, a false teacher, who was a Jew by birth, (2 Cor. xi. 22.) came to Corinth with letters of -recommendation, (2 Cor. ii. 1.) probably frona the brethren in Judea, for which reason he is called a false apostle, 2 Cor. si. 13. having been sent forth by men. This teacher was of the sect of the Sudducees, (See I Cor. xv. 12.) and of some note on account of his birth (2 Cor. v. 16, 17.) and education ; lveing perhaps a scribe learned in the law, 1 Cor. i. 20.—He seen's likewise to have been well acquainted with the character, manners, and opinions of the Greeks : for he recommended himself to the Corinthians, not only by affecting, in his discourses, that eloquence of which the Greeks were so fond, but also by suiting his doctrine to their prejudices, and his precepts to their practices. For example, because the learned Greeks regarded the body, as the prison of the soul, and expected to be delivered from it in the future state, and called the hope of the resurrection of the flesh, the hope of worms :-a filthy and abominable thing which God neither will nor can do, (Celsus ap. Origen. Lib. v. p. 240.) and because they ridiculed the doctrine of the resurrection of the body, Acts xvii. 32. this new teacher, to render the gospel acceptable to them, futly denied it to be a doctrine of the gospel, and affirmed that the resurrection of the body was neither desirable nor possible: and argued, that the only resurrection promised by Christ was the resurrection of the soul from ignorance and error, which the heretics of these times said was already passed, 2 Tim. ij. 18. Next, because the Corinthians were addicted to gluttony, drunk. enness, fornication, and every sort of lewdness, this teacher derided the apostle's precepts concerning temperance and chastity, and reasoned in defence of the licentious practices of the Greeks, as we learn from the apostle's confutation of his arguments, 1 Cor. vi. 12, 13. Nay, he went so far as to patronise a person of some note among the Corinthians, who was living in incest with his father's wife, 1 Cor. v. 1. proposing thereby to gain the good will, not only of that offender, but of many others also, who wished to retain their ancient debauched manner of living. Lastly, to ingratiate himself with the Jews, he enjoined obedience to the law of Moses, as absolutely necessary to salvation.
In thus corrupting the gospel, for the sake of rendering it acceptable to the Greeks, the false teacher proposed to make himself the head of a party in the church at Corinth, and to acquire both power and wealth. But Paul's authority as an apostle, standing in the way of his ambition, and hindering him from spreading his errors with the success he wished, he endea, voured to lessen the apostle, by representing him as one who had neither the mental nor the bodily abilities necessary to an apostle. His presence, he said, was mean, and his speech con, temptible, 2 Cor. x. 10. He found fault with his birth and education, 2 Cor. x. 10. He even affirmed that he was no apostle, because he had not attended Christ during his ministry on earth, and boldly said that Paul had abstained from taking maintenance, because he was conscious he was no apostle. On the other hand, to raise himself in the eyes of the Corinthians, he praised his own birth and education, boasted of his know, ledge and eloquence, and laid some stress on his bodily accome plishments ; by all which he gained a number of adherents, and formed, a party at Corinth against the apostle. And, because there were in that party some teachers endowed with spiritual gifts, the apostle considered them also as leaders. Hence, he speaks sometimes of one leader of the faction, and sometimes of divers, as it suited the purpose of his argu, ment.
While these things were doing at Corinth, Paul returned from Jerusalem to Ephesus, according to his promise, Acts xviii. 21. During his second abode in that city, wbich was of long continuallce, some of the family of Chloe, who were members of the church at Corinth, and who adhered to the apostle, hüppening to come to Ephesus, gave him an account of the disorderly practices, which many of the Corinthian brethren were following, and of the faction which the false teacher had formed among them, in opposition to him, 1 Cor. i. 11. These evils requiring a speedy remedy, the apostle immediately sent Timothy and Erastus to Corinth, Acts xix. 22. I Cor. iv. 17. in hopes that if they did not reclaim the faction, they might at least be able to confirm the sincere. For that purpose he ordered his messengers to inform the Corinthians, that he himself was coming to them directly from Ephesus, to increase the spiritual gifts of those who adhered to him, 2 Cor. i. 15. and to punish, by his miraculous power, the disobedient, 1 Cor. iv, 18, 19. Such was the apostle's resolution, when he sent Timothy and Erastus away. But before he had time to put this resolution in execution, three persons arrived at Ephesus, whom the sincere part of the church had dispatched from Corinth with a letter to the apostle, wherein they expressed their attachment to him, and desired his directions concerning various matters, which had been the subject of much disputation, not only with the adherents of the false teachers, but among the sincere themselves.
The coming of these messengers, together with the extraordinary success which the apostle had about that time, in converting the Ephesians, occasioned an alteration in his resolution respecting his journey to Corinth. For instead of setting out directly, he determined to remain in Ephesus till the following Pentecost, 1 Cor. xvi. 8. And then, instead of sailing straightway to Corinth, he proposed to go first into Macedonia, 1 Cor. xvi. 5, 6.- In the mean time, to compensate the loss which the Corinthians sustained from the deferring of his intended visit, he wrote to them his first epistle, in which he reproved the false teacher and his adherents, for the divisions they had occasioned in the church. And because they ridiculed him as a person rude in speech, he informed them, that Christ had ordered him, in preaching the gospel, to avoid the enticing words of man's wisdom, lest the doctrine of salvation through the cross of Christ, should be rendered ineffectual. Then addressing the heads of the faction, he plainly told them, their luxurious manner of living was very different from the persecuted lot of the true ministers of Christ. And to put the obedience of the sincere part of the church to the trial, he ordered them, in a general public meeting called for the purpose, to excommunicate the incestuous person. After which, he sharply reproved those who had gone into the heathen courts of judicature with their law suits, and directed them to a better method of settling their claims on each other, respecting worldly matters.
The Corinthians in their letter, having desired the apostle's advice concerning marriage, celibacy, and divorce ; and concerning the eating of meats which had been sacrificed to idols, he treated of these subjects at great length in this epistie. Also because the faction hud called his upostleship in question, he proved himself an apostle by various undeniable arguments, and
confuted the objection taken from his not demanding maintenance from the Corinthians. Then, in the exercise of his apostolical authority, he declared it to be sinful, on any pretext whatever, to sit down with the heathens in an idol's temple, to partake of the sacrifices which had been offered there. And with the same authority, he gave rules for the behaviour of both sexes in the public assemblies; rebuked the whole church for the indecent manner in which they had celebrated the Lord's Supper : and the spiritual men, for the irregularities which many of them had been guilty of, in the exercise of their gifts ; proved against the Greek philosophers and the Jewish Sadducees, the possibility and certainty of the resurrection of the dead; and exhorted the Corinthians, to make collections for the the saints in Judea, who were greatly distressed by the persecution which their unbelieving bretl:ren had raised against them.
From this short account of Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians, it is evident, as Locke observes, that the apostle's chief design in writing it, was to support his own authority with the brethren at Corinth, and to vindicate himself from the calumnies of the party formed by the false teacher in opposition to him, and to lessen the credit of the leaders of that party, by shewing the gross errors and miscarriages into which they had fallen; and to put an end to their schism, by uniting them to the sin. cere part of the church, that all of them unanimously submitting to him as an apostle of Christ, might receive his doctrines and precepts as of divine authority ; not those only which he had formerly delivered, but those also, which he now taught, in his answers to the questions, which the sincere part of the church had proposed to him.
At the conclusion of this account of the epistle, it may not be improper to observe, that because the unteachableness of the Greeks, and their aversion to the doctrines of the gospel, proceeded from their extreme attachment to their own false philosophy and rhetoric, the apostle in different passages of this epistle, was at great pains to shew the vanity of both, together with their pernicious influence in matters of religion. His reasonings on these topics, no doubt, were particularly designed for confuting the pretensions of the Greeks; yet they are not uninteresting to us. They are still of great use in beating down those high ideas of the powers of the human mind, which some modern pretenders to philosophy are se industrious in propa