Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,
says Yahweh of Hosts. Zechariah 4:6
Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, O ancient doors,
That the King of Glory may come in! Who is this King of Glory?
Yahweh of Hosts: He is the King of Glory. Psalm 24:9-10
Note: Theodor Zahn, Introduction to the New Testament, trans. from 3rd German ed., 3 vols. (Minneapolis: Klock & Klock Christian Publishers, 1977; 1909 English edition).
In striking contrast to the situation of the Christians in Thessalonica, the Church in Corinth was enjoying a condition of undisturbed peace. There are a number of things which account for this condition, e.g. the mixed character of the population of a great commercial city, where men are constantly coming and going from all parts of the world, the great number of different religious cults tolerated in Corinth, the impartiality in religious matters of the proconsul in whose term of office the Church became established, the social standing of some of the members of the Church, and the prominent place of others even in the government of the city. But, as indicated by the ironical comparison which the apostle makes between the situation of the Corinthians, who were living in this world as if it were the millennium (iv.8-13), and that of himself and his fellow missionaries, this condition of peace had been secured at too great cost. The word of the Cross, the sharp contrast which it implies to all natural wisdom with the practical inferences therefrom (i. 17-31; Gal. vi. 14), had not made an impression sufficiently deep. They need to be reawakened to a sense of the fact that they were a body of persons separated by faith and baptism from the world about them, and from their own past (i. 2, iii. 17, vi. 11). Members of the Church were actually bringing suit against each other in heathen courts (vi. 1-8). No scruples were felt about maintaining friendly and social intercourse with the heathen (x. 27). Many even went so far as to take part in festivities connected with idolatrous worship, in the banquets held in heathen temples (viii. 10, x. 21). Although this dangerous approach to the worship of idols which had been so recently abandoned was not approved by all, so that, as may be inferred from the detail with which it was answered (viii. 1-x. 33), the question was submitted to Paul in the communication of the Church whether it was permissible to use meat that had been offered to idols, it was the opinion of the majority, expressed in the communication from the Church, that this liberal attitude toward heathen worship was entirely justifiable. Because every Christian knew that the heathen conception of the gods was entirely false, it was argued, everyone was free to consider everything associated with heathen worship a matter of indifference so long as he did not engage in the worship itself. Indeed, it was said, to act with this freedom was an obligation, in fulfilling which an encouraging example might be given to such of their fellow-Christians as were still undeveloped in knowledge and in the sense of moral freedom. By this it was hoped they might be raised to a level with themselves.
Without disputing at all the theoretical presupposition of this position, but rather himself affirming repeatedly the nothingness of the gods believed in and worshipped by the heathen (viii. 4, x. 19), Paul combats such an employment of their Christian knowledge and such a use of their Christian liberty. The principle advocated by the Church, πάντα ἔξεστιν (x. 23, cf. vi. 12), he holds, must be limited in two directions. In the first place, not everything permissible is advantageous to one's neighbor. Out of tender regard for a fellow Christian less developed than himself, particularly for the sake of the conscience of such a person, the Christian must stand ready to give up his undoubted rights and liberties (viii. 1-3, 7-12), an example which had been set by Paul himself in the conduct of his ministry (viii. 13-ix. 22). In the second place, not everything permissible is best for the Christian himself the use of whose freedom is in question. Just as the apostle for his own spiritual good foregoes many things in themselves pleasant (ix. 23-27), so for their own sakes the Corinthians ought to avoid dangerous contact with heathen worship. The history of Israel in the wilderness proves by terrible example that wantonly to long after the pleasures enjoyed in the old life before conversion, to incline toward the use of heathen forms of worship, and to indulge in the practice of heathen unchastity, is to tempt God, and to bring down destruction even upon the redeemed (x. 1-11). In order to correct the spirit of false confidence with which many of the Corinthians had been treading upon this slippery ground (x. 12, 22), the apostle insists that, quite apart from the question whether or not there is a Zeus or an Apollo, an Aphrodite or an Isis, there are evil spirits which work in connection with the worship of these so-called gods, to whose influence everyone is exposed who has anything to do with heathen worship, even though so indirectly as was the case among the Corinthians (x. 15-21). From x. 13, taken in connection with x. 14 (διόπερ), it appears that the Church had argued that it was impossible to cut themselves off entirely from contact with heathen life, because it would only be to subject themselves to greater temptations than it was possible for human powers to endure (cf. Hofmann, ii. 2, 207, and the similar line of thought in 2 Cor. vi. 14-18). Similarly, the casuistic questions which Paul was required to answer in x. 25-30 were asked for the purpose of showing that in the intercourse of daily life it was quite impossible to avoid eating εἰδωλόθυτα.
This same principle, the necessary limitations of which Paul here points out, the Church had applied also to questions about sexual relations (vi. 12). In view of the manner in which Paul replies, it is very probable that the Church had represented the gratification of sexual desire to be a natural function, like the satisfaction of hunger, although we are no longer able to determine how far the comparison was carried and how much it was made to cover. Certain it is, however, that the Church had not agreed with what Paul had said on this subject. An exhortation in his previous letter to refrain from intercourse with wicked persons, particularly with unchaste persons, had been misunderstood, or, as Paul hints when making his transition to this subject in v. 8, unfairly misconstrued. He was represented as demanding an impossible avoidance of all contact with immoral persons, whereas his exhortation was meant to apply only to immoral members of the Church (v. 9-13). It was the general opinion in Corinth that Paul, being himself unmarried, had been too rigorous in his demands affecting this side of the natural life. So in their letter the Church had taken him to task for holding that entire abstinence from all sexual inter-course was something to be commended. Paul confesses this to be the principle upon which he stands, and makes various applications of it (vii. 1, 8, 26-35, 40), but in such a way as to make it appear that marriage is to be the rule, the right to remain single being conditioned upon personal possession of the charismata requisite thereto (vii. 2, 7, 9). At the same time we learn that there were some in Corinth who were opposed to the position taken by the majority, and treated marriage contemptuously, possibly on the strength of what Paul had said, recommending or even insisting that married persons should refrain altogether from sexual intercourse or even dissolve their marriage relation altogether, particularly in cases where husbands remained non-Christians; also rejecting as sinful marriage subsequent to conversion, particularly the remarriage of widows. Although Paul tells this minority quietly and earnestly that marriage is a natural right (vii. 3-5), reminding them of the command of Jesus by which the marriage bond is declared to be inviolable (vii. 10 ff.), against the majority, whose opinion was expressed in the letter, he defends his point of view not without some show of irritation. Where the case is not covered by an express command of Jesus, while not speaking with apostolic authority, he does speak as one who has been given the grace to become a faithful Christian (vii. 25). He thinks that he has the spirit of God quite as much as this self-sufficient Church (vii. 40).
This feeling on the part of Paul was due as much as anything else to the concrete case with the discussion of which this second section of the letter (chaps, v. -vii.) begins. He does not need to mention the source whence he had derived this information; for this case of one of their own members who was living in incestuous relations, or in relations of concubinage, with his father's wife, i.e. with his step-mother, was talked of quite publicly, more openly than was customary in such cases even among the heathen. The haughty manner in which the Church had written the apostle, not about this particular case, to be sure, but about kindred questions (v. 9 ff, vi. 12 ff.,vii. 1 ff.), and the general moral condition of the Church (v. 6), show that there was no feeling of shame about the matter, and that nothing had been done to remove the scandal. As shown by the relation of v. 2, 13 to Deut. xvii. 7, 12, xxiv. 7, the only atonement which Paul deemed adequate was the removal of the offender from the Church by official condemnation to death. He had decided at once how this requirement of God's law could be carried out consistently with the nature of the Church of the new covenant; and since he could not, or would not, act alone in the matter, he communicated his view to the Church, with the suggestion that they adopt it and unite with their absent founder in carrying it out. The apostle in Ephesus proposes that the Church in Corinth join with him in the name of Jesus and in the confidence that Jesus' miraculous power will be vouchsafed to them (cf. Matt. xviii. 19 f.), to constitute a court which shall deliver the offender over to Satan in bodily death, in order that his spirit may be saved in the day of judgment. It is not to be an act of excommunication by the Church, but a judgment of God, a miracle in answer to prayer, in which Paul and the Church are to unite, and for which a definite day and hour are to be arranged.
While the two sections chaps, v. -vii. and chaps, viii.-x. show that the moral life and the moral judgment of the Church were imperilled by lack of separation from the customs and ideas of their heathen neighbours, from chap, xv., particularly from the poetical quotation xv. 33, we learn that in the case of some (xv. 12, 34, τινές), things had reached the point where their judgment about matters of faith was being formed under the influence of heathen conceptions. As Paul's argument shows, the contention of some of the Corinthians, "There is no resurrection of the dead," was not intended to refer to the resurrection of Christ. In this case, on account of Christ's exceptional character and the close relation in time between His death and resurrection, those denying the resurrection of the dead would necessarily have had to make an exception of this event of gospel history. What they did mean to deny was only the Christian's hope of a future bodily resurrection. But this denial was so radical in character, and so fundamentally connected with the belief that the bodily resurrection of the dead was impossible and inconceivable, that Paul felt it necessary first of all to show that the resurrection of Christ, denial of which was after all involved in their premises (xv. 13, 16), was a fact amply attested, and an essential element not only in the gospel which Paul preached and upon which the faith of the Corinthians was based, but of all the apostolic preaching (xv. 1-11).
Another source of degeneracy was the unusually rich endowment of the Church with χαρἰσματα, especially with various forms of inspired speech. Not only did this increase the feeling of self-importance on the part of the Church as a whole, but the pride felt by individuals because of their special gifts, and the preference for one gift above another, produced discord and disorder in public worship. The Church had asked particularly for Paul's opinion about the so-called speaking with tongues. Here, too, as in the case of questions about marriage and sacrifices made to idols, there was an opposing minority view, as is evidenced by the two principles which Paul lays down at the beginning of his discussion (chaps, xii.-xiv.). While to some the ecstatic and unintelligible utterances of those who spoke with tongues seemed like the outbursts of enthusiasm heard in heathen worship, and while in general these opposed the use of tongues for fear of the utterances of blasphemies in connection with it, the majority showed an abnormal, or, as Paul expresses it in xiv. 20, a childish preference for tongues, regarding this gift as the strongest possible proof of the overwhelming power of the Spirit in the Church, which feeling on their part was due to the associations of heathen worship quite as much as were the exaggerated fears of the minority (xii. 2).
These fears Paul sets at rest by the assurance that no one speaking by the Spirit of God can call Jesus accursed. On the other hand, in order to guard against an over-valuation of the gift of tongues, he lays down the principle that even the simplest confession of Jesus as Lord cannot be made without the Holy Spirit. Exclusive preference for a single charisma, no matter which one it was, and the giving of prominence to those possessing it, is contrary to the divine purpose in bestowing a diversity of gifts, and is inconsistent with the nature of the Church (xii. 4-30). The necessary condition for the proper valuation of the different charismata is the insight that it is in no sense these spiritual endowments and extraordinary powers which in this world bring human and even inanimate nature into the service of the Church, that give men value and insure their salvation, but only conformity of the heart to God, faith in the gospel, and hope in everlasting life, and above everything else love (xii. 31-xiii. 13). But love also teaches the proper valuation and right use of the charismata (xiv. 1-40). Judged by this standard, the prophet who, while speaking to the Church with enthusiasm and in the belief that he has a revelation, yet retains self-consciousness and self-control, who is able also when occasion offers to reach the heart and conscience even of unbelievers who come into the Christian religious services, stands infinitely higher than the person who speaks with tongues, and in a state of ecstasy gives utterance to unintelligible prayers and praise. Because love does not seek its own, but the good of its neighbour and the prosperity of the whole Church, it supplies also the practical rules regulating the use both of tongues and of prophecy in the services of the Church. It was lack of discrimination in the use of this talent which led even women, as the connection shows, especially those who possessed the gift of glossolalia (speaking with tongues) or of prophecy, to speak openly in the public services of the Church (xiv. 33-35). Since Paul discountenances this practice altogether, what is said in xi. 3-16, where prayer and prophecy on the part of women are spoken of as if entirely allowable, objection being made only to the custom that had been introduced in Corinth of allowing the women to remove their veils, must refer to services held in private houses. It is quite easy to see how the woman who was capable and felt called upon to act as priestess or prophetess in her own household, perhaps because her husband was not a Christian or not especially gifted, might feel that she ought to bear witness to this equality between man and woman in the eyes of men and of God, also by appearing in public and speaking (11. 6).
Besides the arguments against this disposition on the part of the women to be independent, suggested by the nature of the subject in hand, Paul reminds the Corinthians twice that in permitting such practices they are acting contrary to the custom of all the other Churches (xi. 16, xiv. 33). Their conduct is such as would become them if they were the oldest Church in existence, when the fact that the gospel had gone out from them might give them a certain authority in matters of custom in the Church; or if they were the only Church in the world, with no need whatever to consult the judgment and practice of other Churches (xiv. 36). This same thought is the conclusion also of the discussion about idolatrous sacrifices. The Corinthians need to be careful, lest in deciding these questions arbitrarily they offend Jews and Gentiles and the Church of God, i.e. the entire community of Christians (x. 32). Even more clearly than by the passages cited and other hints less strong (iv. 17, vii. 17), the supreme contempt with which the Church seemed to Paul to treat its relation to all the rest of the Church is brought out in the greeting of the letter, in which at the very start Paul endeavours to bring the readers to the realisation that they constitute a society of persons called to be saints not in and of themselves, but only as they stand related to all other persons in the world who call upon the name of Christ. The same exaggerated sense of independence which influenced individuals to assert their personal views or preferences without regard to anyone else, even at the cost of sacrificing order and unity in the life and worship of the Church as a whole, threatened also to sever its connection with all the rest of the Church.
This danger was all the more imminent, because at this time the Church was in peril of losing its respect for the authority of its founder and its reverence for him. This affected their relation to other Churches, because it was Paul's personal influence, with the doctrinal traditions and the rules regulating practical life which they had received from him, that from the beginning constituted the bond of union between them and the rest of the Church (vii. 10, xi. 23, xv. 3, 11), particularly the Churches in the Gentile world, which like themselves had been organised by Paul, and of which also he was the head (iv. 17, vii. 17, xi. 16, xiv. 33, xvi. 1, 19). Consequently, when the apostle, moved by the insolent manner in which he had been talked about and criticised behind his back (iv. 3, 7, 19, ix. 3), and by the way in which the Church had taken him to task in their communication (v. 9ff.), affirms very positively his general authority as an apostle of recognised position (i. 1, 17, ix. 1, xv. 10), and his special authority as the organiser of the Corinthian Church (iii. 10, iv. 15, ix. 2), far more is involved than his own honour or a specific obligation of reverence on the part of the Church.
The existence of cliques in the Church, of which Paul had learned recently, and on the basis of which information he discusses at length the question of factionalism at the very beginning of the letter (i. 10-iv. 6), must have imperilled both the pleasant relations between the Church and its founder and its own inner harmony. Nothing could be more erroneous than to suppose that either in Paul's thought, or in fact, the Church was divided into four factions or even sects. One party is not set over against another, e.g. the professed followers of Paul over against the followers of Apollos, and the Cephas party over against the party of Christ. But he is simply speaking of a deep-seated habit which more or less all the Corinthians had, namely, that the individual, without reference to others of like opinion, called himself the personal follower of Paul, i.e. he made Paul his hero, in contrast naturally to others who affected a like relation to Apollos, Cephas, or Christ (i. 12, iii. 4, 22, iv. 6). If a leader is at all essential to a party, then, so far as we are able to ascertain, these alleged parties in Corinth had no leaders. Certainly the men whom individuals in Corinth professed to follow had no purpose of being such leaders. Paul does not simply find fault with those who were using his name as if that which they were doing was only an exaggeration of something in itself justifiable, or an awkward defence of his interests; but, specifically, in connection with his own name, he shows the foolishness and unchristlikeness of such talk, thereby condemning in the severest terms the persons by whom his name was so used (i. 13). That Apollos also condemned the persons in Corinth who were using his name, is very clear from iv. 6, xvi. 12. It is self-evident that Paul assumes that Christ cannot approve what His apostle condemns, along with the other formulae expressing this folly. The same is true with reference to the relation of Peter to the followers of Cephas, as is especially evidenced by the fact that elsewhere Paul speaks of him only in terms of respect (xv. 5, 11, ix. 5, iii. 22; Gal. ii. 6-9). Consequently the men whose followers the Corinthians were fond of calling themselves had either already disowned their admirers, or, Paul thinks, would have done so had they been asked about the matter.
It is impossible, therefore, to suppose that the question here is one with reference to parties which relatively were clearly defined. In this case the difference of opinion which came out in the course of the letter regarding the relation of the sexes, sacrifices to idols, speaking with tongues, and the resurrection, would have to be referred necessarily to one or another of the four alleged parties, something quite impossible to do. If it were a question of distinct parties, it is also hard to understand why, after chap, v., Paul makes not the slightest reference to any of the four watchwords. Still less can we suppose that the reference is to sects which held their own religious services, having separated themselves in this way from the body of the Church. The communication which Paul had received shortly before, to which 1 Cor. is the apostle's answer, had been written, and the messengers bearing it sent not by individual Christians in Corinth, but by all the readers, i.e. by the Corinthian Church (vii. 1, xvi. 17 f.). The whole Church was in the habit of assembling to celebrate the Lord's Supper and for other religious services (x. 17, xi. 17-22, xiv. 4, 5, 19, 23-25, 33 f.). In view of disorders of all kinds, and even of σχίσματα (xi. 18), in connection with these services, it is probable, at least there is nothing in what Paul says which excludes it, though he does not say it in so many words, that those whose views were expressed in the various watch-words sat together in groups. Only upon this supposition--and not by supposing that these groups were formed purely on the basis of kinship or on a social basis (xi. 22, 33)--can we understand how the apostle foresaw that inevitably the outcome of such manifest divisions in the religious service, which was still one, must eventually result in the formation of distinct parties, and the breaking up of the Church into a number of sects (xi. 19, αἱρέσεις).
In a Church which had been founded by Paul there was no occasion for anyone to affirm that he was a follower of Paul with an emphasis implying opposition to someone else, unless some other teacher had made an impression in Corinth by which Paul was likely to be overshadowed. That this teacher was Apollos, and that it was his successful work as a teacher in Corinth that gave rise to the use of the two watchwords first mentioned in i. 12, does not require proof. Moreover, from iii. 4-8, iv. 6 it appears that up to iv. 6 the discussion is concerned mainly with the differences between the followers of Paul and of Apollos. What these differences were we ascertain from i. 17b-iii. 2. The purpose of the whole passage is to justify the way in which Paul had preached in Corinth during the eighteen months of his residence there (Acts xviii. 11) in the face of hostile criticism, and to show that his preaching was free from certain pretensions which were contrary to his principles. Paul's statements could not well be more entirely misunderstood than by Hilgenfeld (Einl. 267), when he assumes that Paul is here replying to the criticisms of Jewish Christians, who represented his successes as due to the use which he made of Greek culture, since it is not the fact that he had refrained from the use of these means which Paul proves. On the contrary, always simply stating this fact or assuming it (i. 17, οὐκ ἐν σοφίᾳ λόγου, i. 23, ii. 1, 4, iii. 1; 2 Cor. xi. 6), he justifies his action at length by setting forth his reasons and objects. Consequently the objection which he is meeting must have been to the effect that his preaching showed a lack of requisite learning and of convincing eloquence.
In reply to this criticism, he develops the principles which he regarded as rightly determining the method of preaching the gospel in missionary fields, the method required by the nature of the gospel. Both in its essential content, as presenting the cross of Christ, and in its consequent character, as a foolish preaching, missionary preaching--and that is the only commission that he has received from Christ--is inconsistent with the use of rhetoric and of other forms of learning (i. 17-31). While Paul's refusal to use these means in the presentation of his message, and his strict confinement of himself to the essentials of the gospel, was very natural in view of his state of mind when he came to Corinth, it was nevertheless in keeping with the principles which he regarded as regulative of the missionary preaching (ii. 1-5). Nor does he omit to say that for those whose self-denying faith has led to their salvation through the gospel, this sharp distinction between the foolish gospel and the natural mind both of Jews and of Greeks largely disappears; since for Christians Christ comes to be also the only wisdom (i. 24, 30). He points out also that it is not the office of Christian teachers to be continually repeating the word of the cross to those who have been converted and are of mature spiritual understanding, but also to develop those conceptions of divine truth, which, being fully realised in the glory of the world to come, will bring the reconciliation of all contradictions in the nature of things and of all differences between faith and reason (ii. 6-12). But even if it were untrue that the things which he taught them could not be set forth in the categories of human culture, but from their nature demanded a method all their own (ii. 13), the immaturity of his hearers made it impossible for Paul, while he was engaged in organising the Church, to employ this method of teaching (iii. 1 f.)
It is clear, therefore, that the difference between the followers of Paul and of Apollos was not one affecting the essentials of the word of the cross and of the "wisdom of God," any more than the difference between Paul and Apollos themselves, but only involved the question as to how these should be presented, and a difference of opinion as to the value of rhetoric and logic in setting them forth. Many of the Corinthians seem to have been so carried away by the brilliant discourses of the eloquent Alexandrian, that thereafter the unadorned preaching of the "plain" (2 Cor. xi. 6, ἰδιώτης) Paul seemed in comparison very deficient. It was not until it had been presented to them by Apollos' logic, so they thought, that they had come to have a true understanding of Christianity. When Apollos was talked about in this way, it is easy to see how some would regard such remarks as disparaging to the founder of the Church, and the less such persons approved of the method of Apollos, the more earnest they would be in their championship of Paul. Instead of all judging these two men at their real value, in the light of what they had actually done for the Church and in accordance with their respective gifts, individuals formed their own estimates in accordance with their own feelings, with the result that they vied with each other in their championship of one or the other of these two men (iv. 6 ). That they believed such championship gave them a better hold upon Christianity is indicated by Paul's question, whether Christ is divided so that they possess Him in greater or less degree according as they follow one or the other of their teachers (i. 13). Paul condemns their procedure, not only because it involves presumption in the formation of their judgments, but also because, in a manner inconsistent with the dignity of a Christian, it involves submission to men who are no rivals of God and of Christ in the work of redemption and in the bestowment of pardon upon the individual (i. 13b, iii. 4-7, 22).
This condemnation applies also to those who called themselves followers of Cephas. Inasmuch as it is impossible to suppose that at this time Peter had been in Corinth in person, we must assume that Christians who had been converted through his influence, perhaps also baptized by him, but who in any case had had personal relations with him, had come from their own home to Corinth, and had increased the existing confusion by their ἐγὼ δὲ Κηφᾶ. This is confirmed by the conclusion of the letter. As he is on the point of adding the parting benediction in his own hand, Paul stops suddenly to insert an anathema against everyone who does not love the Lord (xvi. 22), before putting down the benediction which he had already started to write. In this way he means to indicate that the persons referred to are excluded from his greeting to the Church, and so from the Church itself, to which he gives assurance of the grace of Jesus and of his own love (xvi. 23 f.). When to this anathema he adds a significant phrase in the language of the Palestinian Jews, it is clear that the persons whom he has in mind are Christians who had come from Palestine. That iii. 16-20 is directed against the followers of Peter, we must infer from the fact that the name of Peter occurs again in iii. 22 along with those of Paul and Apollos, in striking contrast to iii. 4-8, and in seeming contradiction to the reference in iv. 6 to an earlier passage. After speaking in iii. 10-15 of those who, like Apollos, with good intentions, but in a way not altogether skilful, had built upon the foundation of the Church in Corinth laid by Paul, in iii. 16-20 Paul turns to those who, though engaged upon the same structure, had done their work in such a way that, in an outburst of anger, he feels constrained to call it not the building but the destroying of the temple of God. He trusts, however, that God will frustrate their evil designs and overwhelm them with destruction.
It was impossible for anyone to boast with pride that he was a follower of Peter in a Church founded by Paul, without at the same time belittling Paul, the inevitable result of which, especially where opposition already existed between the admirers of Paul and of Apollos, must have been an increase of the confusion and the insubordination to Paul of which there were already tokens enough. These followers of Peter were responsible, at least primarily, for the aspersions against which Paul defends his apostolic dignity, even in i. 1, more clearly in ix. 1-3, and in somewhat different tone in xv. 8-10. It was argued that a man who had never seen the Lord Jesus, the Redeemer, in the flesh, could not rank as an apostle in the full sense in which this title belonged to Peter and to the other disciples whom Jesus Himself had called and trained for their mission. But by placing the appearance of Jesus, to which was due his conversion and call, on the same level with the personal intercourse between Jesus and His disciples (ix. 1), especially with the appearances of the risen Lord to His disciples (xv. 5-8), Paul claims for himself the full apostolic title and all the rights which belonged to the other apostles. Inasmuch, however, as he aims to avoid any protracted argument on this point with these opponents who had come from abroad, simply insisting that the Corinthians shall recognise him as their apostle (ix. 2, cf. iii. 10, iv. 15), he makes in this letter only a few pointed remarks about these followers of Peter. One observes that Paul knows more than he writes, and fears more than he knows. Possibly he found it advisable, before saying any more, to wait until he saw the effect of the threatening hint which he makes in this letter, perhaps also until he was more accurately informed as to what these persons were doing.
He does say more in 2 Cor., and such parts of this letter as bear upon this subject may be discussed here, though there is no doubt that in the meantime not only had Paul learned more about these persons, but also their work in Corinth had assumed larger proportions. If the followers of Peter mentioned in 1 Cor. were Jewish Christians who had come from Palestine, and were exerting a very active and in Paul's judgment destructive influence in and over the Church in Corinth, then they can be no other than the persons against whom Paul directs his attack in 2 Cor. ii. 17 ff., v. 12, xi. 1-12, 18. They had come to Corinth with letters of recommendation from outside authorities (iii. 1 ), and on the basis of these letters they claimed to possess authority at least equal to that of Paul. They boasted the purity of their Judaism, and made the Gentile Christians in Corinth feel the superiority which this gave them (xi. 18-22); to which Paul objects that the assumption of this air of superiority on their part only shows that the advantages which they claimed were merely external and borrowed, and not based upon their consciousness of personal merit and personal service (v. 12, cf. iii. 2). In preaching the word of God, they employ all the tricks which the salesman uses to get rid of his wares (ii. 17, cf. iv. 2, xi. 13, ἐργάται δόλιοι, cf. Phil. iii. 2). They were travelling preachers, and had therefore the same formal right to call themselves apostles as Barnabas, Silas, and Timothy, and they thought also the same right as Paul (cf. Skizzen, 53-65). They accepted the hospitality of the Corinthian Church, and took advantage of their position as evangelists to claim support from their hearers. Paul's refusal to do so they declared to be proof of lack of faith in his calling and of want of love for the Church; it was only a shrewd device on his part, they said, to get the Church more entirely under his control (xi. 7-12, xii. 13-18).
These facts make it very clear why he discusses this topic in 1 Cor. ix. 1-18 with a detail which, considering the particular theme of 1 Cor. viii.-x., is out of all proportion. He does it because even here in the first letter he has in view these followers of Peter who refused to admit that he had the same apostolic rights as the Twelve (1 Cor. ix. 1). It is for this same reason that he makes special mention of Cephas among the brethren and apostles of the Lord in 1 Cor. ix. 5. To a certain extent Paul recognises the formal right of these wandering preachers to call themselves apostles, when with "foolish boasting" he compares himself to them (2 Cor. xi. 21 ff.), and calls them "the very chief apostles" (xi. 5, xii. 11, cf. xi. 23). But he does not hesitate at all to express his real opinion of them, comparing them to the serpent who deceived Eve, and calling them false apostles and servants of Satan, who make pretence of being apostles of Christ and servants of righteousness (xi. 3, 13-15). It was because their only purpose was to deceive that they made no direct attack upon the gospel which Paul had brought to Corinth. That they did not is proved absolutely by the fact that, while these persons are condemned in the strongest possible terms by Paul, there is not a single passage in either of the letters in which he opposes or warns his readers against "another gospel" (Gal. i. 6), or even against doctrine inconsistent with the one gospel of Christ (contrast with Col. ii. 6-8, 20-23; Eph. iv. 14; Heb. xiii. 9). It was just because these teachers from abroad had no Jesus and no gospel to preach other than those which Paul had preached before them, and no Holy Spirit to offer their hearers other than the one they had received when the gospel was preached to them for the first time, that it seemed to Paul so incomprehensible and so uncalled for that the Corinthians should receive these intruders, and allow themselves to be alienated from their own apostle by their influence (2 Cor. xi. 4). Paul is certainly afraid that they may succeed in accomplishing more, by their cunning devices depriving the Church altogether of its simple and primitive Christian faith (2 Cor. xi. 3). That, of course, would involve subsequent corrupting of the gospel which the Corinthians had believed (1 Cor. xv. 1). There could be no doubt as to the direction which this falsification would take. By boasting the purity of their Judaism (2 Cor. xi. 22), these persons had made an impression upon the Gentile Christians which amounted virtually to moral influence over them, and the Gentile Christians had allowed themselves to be imposed upon by them (cf. 1 Cor. vii. 18 f.). Hence to the apostle, who saw in the indirectness and deceitfulness of these persons only proof that their false Jewish ways had not been overcome by the life-giving truth of the new covenant and by the liberating spirit of Christ (2 Cor. ii. 14-iv. 6), it must have seemed that the only possible outcome of the unhealthy development of things in Corinth, which he was striving to check, was a form of Christianity corrupted by Jewish influences. But at the time when 2 Cor. was written, and less so when 1 Cor. was written, there were no positive indications that this was to be the outcome.
It is only from the way in which they are contrasted with each other that we are able to understand the three watchwords in which the names of Paul, of Apollos, and of Cephas were misused; the same is true of the fourth, ἐγὼ δὲ Χριστοῦ, which Paul condemns quite as much as he does the others (1 Cor. i. 12). Since taken by itself no fault can be found with the expression Χριστοῦ εἶναι, which simply expresses the fact that to be a, Christian means to belong to Christ (1 Cor. iii. 28; 2 Cor. x. 7; Rom. viii. 9; Mark ix. 41), what was to be condemned was the way in which individuals claimed this prerogative of belonging to Christ for themselves in opposition to the other members of the Church, instead of endeavouring, as Paul did, to impress upon the mind of the Church, so rent by factions, the fact that they all belonged to Christ, and that it was in the one indivisible Christ that they were to find their own unity and at the same time the bond between themselves and all Other Christians (I Cor. i. 2, 13, iii. 11, 28). Even if the Christ party had opposed their ἐγὼ δὲ Χριστοῦ to the other watchwords, thinking that thereby they raised themselves above the petty squabbling of the rest, they could not have expressed it in this way if they were endeavouring to defend the authority which Paul and Apollos possessed through their connection with the history of the Church, against the misuse which was being made of their names and against the despicable criticisms of the followers of Peter, as Paul himself was doing, and as he insisted the Church ought to do (1 Cor. iii. 5-iv. 5, ix. 1-6 ; 2 Cor. iii. 2 f., v. 12, xii. 11).
As contrasted with the tendencies represented by the other watchwords, the ἐγὼ δὲ Χριστοῦ represents a conscious and studied indifference to all human authority, an insolent ignoring on the part of those who used it of all dependence for their Christian faith upon things historical. If, now, it is clear from the way in which the Church expresses itself in the letter to Paul and from the way in which Paul addresses the Church in his reply, that the Corinthians had an exaggerated sense of their independence of all authority, this watchword which some individuals were using can only be taken as an extreme expression of this feeling of independence to which the Church as a whole was inclined. Just as the self-consciousness of the Church, which was so inconsiderately expressed in their communication to Paul, was based upon the exceptional endowment of its members with natural and Christian gifts, so it is impossible to conceive of anyone as saying ἐγὼ δὲ Χριστοῦ unless he were possessed of exceptional ability, or thought that he was. If Paul charges the Church with being conceited (v. 2, cf. viii. 1 f., xiii. 4), even more emphatically does he accuse individuals of so being (iv. 18 f.). It was presumptuous enough for individuals to take sides with Apollos or Cephas against Paul, and vice versa (iv. 6), but this was not to be compared with the presumption of the individual who, from an exaggerated sense of his own independent knowledge, met these expressions of some particular human authority with the assertion that he belonged to Christ. Consequently Paul endeavours to bring not only the Church in general (xiv. 36), but also the individual who feels himself to be of importance (iv. 7, xiv. 37), to the consciousness that everything of which he boasts has been received from God through other men.
This same relation between the Church as a whole, which Paul addresses in his letter as "you," and the individuals whom he singles out as leaders in this general movement toward independence, we meet again in 2 Cor. x. 1-11. Paul makes the return of the Church to a state of entire obedience (x. 6) the condition of any action on his part against individual revolters or evil-doers; since he cannot and will not proceed to discipline such individuals without the co-operation of the Church. If, now, it be asked why as yet the Church had not resubmitted itself entirely to Paul's authority, we have the following answer:--There was someone in the Church who believed and boasted that he belonged to Christ, as if Paul could not claim this same distinction for himself (x. 7), someone who was bold enough to talk about the apostle's egotistical letters and his unimpressive personal appearance (x. 10 f., cf. x. 1). Just as we are unavoidably reminded by the Χριστοῦ εἶναι (x. 7), for which nothing in this context calls, of the watchword in 1 Cor. i. 12, so we must assume that the strongest expressions of insubordination to Paul came from the Christ party (e.g. 1 Cor. iv. 18 ; 2 Cor. x. 9-11), and that to them more than to anyone else was due the danger of a rupture between the Church and its apostle, and so between the Corinthian Church and the whole body of Christians.
The fact that there are no long sections in either letter devoted especially to opposing the Christ followers, is explained by the relation, pointed out above, of this movement to the tendency of the Church as a whole. Very probably it was one of the Christ party who was entrusted by the Church with the preparation of the communication sent to Paul. What Paul said in replying to the Church he said primarily for the benefit of those members of the Christ party who were so conscious of their Christian knowledge and discernment with the freedom and independence which these involved.
It was high time that Paul should express his mind. It was impossible for him to leave the settling of matters in Corinth to Timothy, who possibly had left Ephesus before the arrival of the latest oral and written reports from Corinth, and who could not go to Corinth at once on account of his errands in Macedonia (iv. 17, xvi. 10) . Since, moreover, in spite of all possible haste, the summer now beginning might end before his own arrival in Corinth (xvi. 5, iv. 19), Paul saw that there was occasion to discuss thoroughly in an extended letter not only the questions that had been asked him by the Church, but also the unfortunate condition of affairs of which he had been informed by members of the household of Chloe and by the three messengers of the Church. In this manner he hoped to prepare the way for the visit which had been announced some time before, and, so far as possible, to keep that visit free from the painful necessity of discussing off-hand and orally the numerous aggravated and threatening questions arising out of the conditions in the Church (cf. also xvi. 2). He presented himself to the Church rod in hand, but at the same time with all the love of a father who would much prefer to forgive than to punish; it is for them to decide how he shall come to them (iv. 21).
The agreement between the letter and the occasion for it indicated in the letter itself is so entire, and, besides this, the letter is so strikingly testified to by the letter of the Romans to the Corinthians, written in the year 96, that no reasonable doubt can be entertained as to the genuineness and unity of the Epistle.
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