Ver. 1. "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus B D E F G It. place Χριστου (Christ) after Ιησου. by call, A D E omit κλητος (called).through the will of God, and Sosthenes the brother."—The addresses of Paul's letters are generally drawn on the type of the ancient address: N. to N., greeting! Comp. Acts 23:26. Paul does not confine himself to translating this received form into Christian language; he modifies it each time according to the interests which occupy his heart, and with a view to the state of the Church to which he writes. To his name he adds the title in virtue of which he is now addressing his readers; it is as an apostle that he writes them. The special mark of this office is the call directly received from Christ Himself. Paul puts this mark in relief by the epithet κλητός, called; a qualifying adjective, and not a participle (κληθείς), as if the apostle had meant, called to be an apostle. The meaning is, "an apostle in virtue of a call." He means that he has not taken this office at his own hand, but that he has received it by a Divine act. I do not think that there is here a polemical intention against parties who might deny his apostleship: what would this assertion prove? He means rather to place the whole contents of the letter which is to follow under the warrant of Him who confided to him his mission. We must read, according to several ancient Mjj.: of Christ Jesus, that is to say, "of the Messiah who is Jesus;" and not of Jesus Christ (Jesus who is the Messiah), according to the received text. The technical form has been mechanically substituted for the less ordinary by the copyists. By this complement, Paul may designate Christ as the Author of the call, or perhaps as the Master whose property he became by that call. As the regimen following ascribes the call to God, the second meaning is to be preferred. The words, through the will of God, refer to all the providential circumstances of Paul's birth and education, whereby his apostolic mission had been prepared for; and especially the extraordinary act which completed this preparation, and triumphed over his resistance; all which Paul sums up in those expressions of the Epistle to the Galatians (i. 15): "But when it pleased God who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by His grace...." It is with a feeling of profound humiliation that he emphasizes so expressly this idea of the will of God; for he feels that it needed unfathomable mercy to snatch him from the obstinate rebellion to which he was giving himself up. But at the same time he is powerfully strengthened in relation to himself and to the Church, by the assurance that what he is, he is by the will of God. But at the same time he is powerfully strengthened, as regards himself and the Church, by the assurance that it is God who has willed that he should be what he is.
Paul joins with his name that of a Christian, the brother Sosthenes. Reuss regards this man merely as an obscure person who no doubt acted as secretary to the apostle. I believe that there are here two errors; the place in our verse ascribed to Sosthenes is wholly different from that which the apostle gives to a simple secretary, as, for example, Tertius (Rom. 16:22). Paul uses particular delicacy in his way of mentioning those whom he associates with him in the composition of his letters. In his two Epistles addressed to the Church of Thessalonica, of which Silas and Timothy had been the founders along with him, he mentions them absolutely as his equals, except in so far as he puts himself in the first place; and the first person plural, which he frequently uses, again and again applies, as in ver. 2, to the three taken together. It is nearly the same in Phil. 1:1, where Timothy's name is closely associated in the address with that of Paul, no doubt because Timothy had laboured with him in founding that Church. There is a marked difference between this form and that of the Epistle to the Colossians, where Timothy's name is certainly associated with Paul's, but where it is more profoundly distinguished from it by an appendix added to the latter, in the first place, then by the title of apostle given to Paul and the name brother to Timothy. This difference arises from the fact that neither the one nor the other having founded the Church, Paul writes here in his character of apostle to the Gentiles, which Timothy does not share. In the letters to the Romans and Ephesians, whom Paul addresses more expressly still as the apostle of the Gentile world, he associates no name with his own. The position given to Sosthenes in our address is therefore somewhat like the place of Timothy in the Epistles to the Philippians and Colossians. Paul makes this brother share to a certain extent in the composition and responsibility of the letter. Sosthenes is perhaps his secretary; but he is more than that: he must be a man enjoying high consideration among the Corinthians, a fellow-labourer with the apostle who, as well as Timothy (2 Cor. 1:1), cooperated in the evangelization of Corinth and Achaia If it is so, it is probable that we here find the same person who, as chief of the synagogue of Corinth, had played a part in the scene of Paul's appearance before Gallio (Acts 18:17). It was he who, after Paul's liberation, as the account of the Acts says, "was beaten by all" (the words—the Greeks are a gloss), consequently by Jews and Greeks, without Gallio's taking any concern. He took probably a doubtful attitude in this affair, later his position was more decided (see Hofmann). The place assigned him here is consequently, as Heinrici says, a place of honour; it reminds us of that ascribed by Paul to those mentioned in the address of the Epistle to the Galatians (i. 2): "and all the brethren who are with me." Assuredly those brethren were not all his secretaries, but all, in name of the Christian brotherhood, exhorted the Galatians to take to heart the warnings which Paul addressed to them as their spiritual father; so it is that the credit which Sosthenes has with the Church must be added to the superior authority of the apostle. Clement of Alexandria, according to the account of Eusebius (Η. E. i. 12), made Sosthenes one of the seventy disciples: the statement is without value.
From the author, Paul passes to the readers:
Ver. 2. "To the Church of God, the sanctified in Christ Jesus, Β D E F G It. place after θεου (of God) the words ηγιασμενοις εν Χριστω Ιησου (sanctified in Christ Jesus); T. R. places them, with ℵ A L Ρ Syr., after τη ουσῃ εν Κορινθω (which is at Corinth). which is at Corinth, saints by call, with all that in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is ℵ A B D F G omit the τε before και, which is the reading of Τ. R. with E L P. theirs and ours."—The term ἐκκλησία, Church, formed of the two words, ἐκ, out of, and καλεῖν, to call, denotes in ordinary Greek language an assembly of citizens called out of their dwellings by an official summons; comp. Acts. 19:41. Applied to the religious domain in the New Testament, the word preserves essentially the same meaning. Here too there is a summoner: God, who calls sinners to salvation by the preaching of the gospel (Gal. 1:6). There are the summoned: sinners, called to faith thenceforth to form the new society of which Christ is the head. The complement of God indicates at once Him who has summoned the assembly, and Him to whom it belongs. The term, the Church of God, thus corresponds to the ordinary Old Testament phrase: Kehal Jehova, the assembly (congregation) of the Lord; but there is this difference, that the latter was recruited by way of filiation, while in the new covenant the Church is formed and recruited by the personal adherence of faith.
According to the reading of several Mjj. (Vatic, Clarom., etc.), the apostle immediately adds to the words: the Church of God, the apposition ἡγιασμένοις ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, the sanctified in Christ Jesus. As the Church is composed of a plurality of individuals, the apostle may certainly, by a construction ad sensum, join to the singular substantive this apposition in the plural. The received reading separates this substantive from its apposition by placing between the two the words τῇ οὔσῃ ἐν Κορίνθῳ, which is at Corinth. This arrangement seems at first sight more natural; but for that very reason it has the character of a correction. It seems to me probable that, thinking already of the moral disorders which stained this Church, the apostle felt himself constrained to characterize the community he is addressing rather morally than geographically. God is holy, and the Church of God ought to be holy like Him to whom it belongs. The perfect participle ἡγιασμένοις indicates not an obligation to be fulfilled, but a state which already exists in them, and that in virtue of a previously accomplished fact. That fact is faith in Christ, which implicitly contains the act of total consecration to God. To embrace Christ by faith is to accept the holiness which He realized in His person; it is to be transplanted from the soil of our natural and profane life into that of His Divine holiness. The regimen, in Christ Jesus, expresses this idea,—that our holiness is only participation in His in virtue of the union of faith with Him: "For their sakes I sanctify myself," says Jesus (John 17:19), "that they also might be sanctified in truth." Several Fathers have applied the expression, sanctified in Jesus Christ, to the fact of baptism; their error has been confounding the sign of faith with faith itself.
After having thus characterized the assembly of God as composed of consecrated ones, the apostle adds the local definition: which is (which really exists, οὔσῃ) at Corinth. He had passed from the unity of the Church to the plurality of its members; he returns from this plurality to the unity which should continue. One feels that his mind is already taken up with the divisions which threatened to break this unity. When we think of the frightful corruption which reigned in this city (Introd. p. 6), we can understand with what inward satisfaction the apostle must have written the words, "the Church of God... at Corinth"! Bengel has well rendered this feeling in the short annotation: Ecclesia in Corintho, lætum et ingens paradoxon.
Immediately after the words: sanctified in Christ Jesus, it is surprising to find: saints by call, which seem after the preceding to form a pleonasm. The solution of this difficulty is involved in the explanation of the regimen which follows: with all those who call upon... This regimen has been connected with the dative τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ, as if the apostle meant: I address my letter, or I address this salutation, to the Church which is at Corinth, and not only to it, but also to the Christians of the whole world (Chrysostom, Theodoret, Calvin, Osiander, Reuss). But, on the contrary, no apostolical letter has a destination so particular and local as the First Epistle to the Corinthians. Meyer limits the application of the words: with all who call upon, like the similar address of 2 Cor. 1:1: "with all the saints who are in all Achaia," and thinks that those referred to here are simply all the Christians scattered throughout the province of Achaia, and who are grouped round the Church of the metropolis; so, after him, Beet, Edwards, and others. But the passage quoted- proves exactly the contrary of the conclusion drawn from it. For it shows how Paul would have written here also, if such had been his meaning. Holsten, feeling the impossibility of importing such a restriction, imagines another less arbitrary. He refers the words to the Christians of other Churches, who might be at present staying at Corinth, especially to the emissaries who had come from Jerusalem (those of Christ), of whose presence Paul was well aware. But the phrase used is far too general to admit of so limited an application. Mosheim, Ewald think that Paul means by it expressly to include in his salutation all the parties which were formed. But the preposition σύν, with, would imply that one of the parties was already separated from the Church itself, while the whole letter proves that they still formed part of it. We must therefore give up the attempt to make the regimen "with all them who..." dependent on the term: the Church of God, and connect it, as is in itself more natural, with the preceding words: "saints by call." The meaning is: "saints in virtue of the Divine call, and that in communion with all them who invoke the name of the Lord in every place." Thus the tautology disappears which is implied in the words: "saints by call," with the preceding: "sanctified in Christ Jesus." There is not here a new synonymous epithet needlessly added to the preceding. The sainthood of the faithful is expressed a second time to connect this new feature with it: that sainthood is the common seal of the members of the Church universal. The words κλητοῖς ἁγίοις are there solely as the point of support for the following regimen: σὺν πᾶσι, with all them who... This construction also explains quite naturally the two adjectives, πᾶσι, all, and παντί, every (place), which follow. More than once in this letter the apostle will have to censure the Corinthians for isolating their course from that of the rest of the Church, and for acting as if they were the only Church in the world (comp. especially xiv. 36); and therefore in the very outset he associates them with a larger whole, of which they are only one of the members, and with which they ought to move in harmony. Heinrici, while explaining the σύν exactly as we do, thinks he can separate κλητοῖς from ἁγίοις by a comma, and connect the σύν with κλητοῖς alone: "saints, called with all them who..." This translation is grammatically forced, and besides it leaves the pleonasm of "saints" and "sanctified" as it was.
Holiness is the normal character of all them that call on the name of the Lord, says the apostle. This expression is evidently in his view the paraphrase of the term "believers." A Christian is therefore, according to him, a man who calls on the name of Jesus as his Lord. The term ἐπικαλεῖσθαι is applied in the Old Testament (by the LXX.) only to the invocation of Jehovah (Isa. 43:7; Joel 2:32; Zech. 13:9). Immediately after Pentecost, the name for believers was, "they who call on the name of the Lord" (Acts 9:14, 21; Rom. 10:12, 13); the name of Jesus was substituted in this formula for that of Jehovah in the Old Testament. The very word Name, applied, as it is in these passages, to Jesus, includes the idea of a Divine Being; so when the Lord says of His angel, Ex. 23:21, "My name is in him," that is to say, He makes this being His perfect revelation. The title Lord characterizes Jesus as the one to whom God has committed the universal sovereignty belonging to Himself; and the Church is, in the apostle's eyes, the community of those who recognise and adore Him as such. It is therefore on an act of adoration, and not on a profession of faith of an intellectual nature, that he makes the Christian character to rest. The words: ἐν παντὶ τόπῳ, in every place, designate the universality of the Christian Church in point of right (and already, in part, of fact, when St. Paul wrote); comp. 1 Tim. 2:8. This idea accords with the πᾶσι, all, which precedes, and, as we have seen, it agrees with the context. But a large number of commentators endeavour to limit the sense of this expression, by assigning to it as its complement the words following: αὐτῶν καὶ ἡμῶν, "of them and of us," or "theirs and ours." But what would the expression signify: "their and our place"? De Wette, Osiander, Rückert understand thereby Corinth and Ephesus; Paul would mean: all them that call upon the Lord on your side of the sea, as well as on ours. But to what purpose is this distinction? Besides, the Church of Corinth had already been sufficiently described at the beginning of the verse. Mosheim and Ewald think that by "our place" the apostle means to denote the place of worship of his own partisans, and by "their place" the rooms where the other parties assembled. This explanation is already refuted by our foregoing remarks (p. 44). And Paul would have carefully avoided legalizing in any way the separation which he blamed so severely. Meyer's explanation, followed by Beet and Edwards, seems to me still more forced; the expression, our place, denotes the Christian communities of Achaia, in so far as morally the property of the apostles; here of Paul and Sosthenes, who preached the gospel in them; and the expression, their place, refers to those same communities, in so far as they depended on the Church of Corinth, their metropolis. Does such an exegetical monstrosity deserve refutation? Yet it is surpassed still, if that be possible, by Hofmann's explanation, according to which Paul means that Christians (them), more especially the preachers of the gospel (us), are found everywhere among those by whom Christ is invoked! We must, with Chrysostom, Calvin, Olshausen, etc., simply give up the attempt to make the complements of them and of us depend on the word place; and leave the phrase, in every place, in its absolute and general sense. As to the two pronouns, αὐτῶν and ἡμῶν, of them and of us, they depend on the word Lord, and are the more detailed repetition of the pronoun ἡμῶν (our Lord), which preceded: "Our Lord, who is not only yours, our readers, but also ours, your preachers." There is here, as it were, a protest beforehand against those who, forgetting that there is in the Church only one Lord, say: "As for me, I am of Paul; I, of Apollos; I, of Peter!" "Who is Paul, who is Apollos, other than servants by whom ye believed, by each of them according as the Lord gave to him?" (iii. 5, 22, 23). So thoroughly is this the prevailing concern in the apostle's mind, from the very beginning of this letter, that six times, between vers. 1 and 10, he repeats the expression: of our Lord Jesus Christ. The received reading, τε καί, instead of the simple καί, may certainly be maintained, though it has against it several important manuscripts; it dwells a little more strongly on the fact that believers have Jesus Christ for their only Lord, as well as preachers, and thus better justifies the repetition of the preceding ἡμῶν in these two pronouns.
Ver. 3. "Grace and peace be unto you, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ!"—This prayer is the Christian paraphrase of two salutations, the Greek (χαίρειν, Acts 23:26) and the Hebrew ("Peace be to thee ").—Grace is the Divine good will, bending compassionately toward the sinner to pardon him; toward the reconciled child, to bless him. Peace is the profound tranquillity with which faith in this Divine love fills the believer's heart.—Paul does not say: "be to you from God by Jesus Christ," but "from God and from Jesus Christ," for Jesus is not in his eyes the impersonal channel of the Divine love; He loves with His own peculiar love as brother, as God loves with His love as Father.—By this prayer, the apostle invites the Corinthians to take their place ever anew under the influence of this double source of salvation, the love of the Father and the love of the Son.
We have said that in the address of Paul's letters there are already betrayed the concerns with which his mind is preoccupied at the time of writing; this is easy to establish in the Epistles to the Romans and to the Galatians, and we have seen the proof of it also in the address we have just studied. Holiness is the characteristic of the members of the Church; the relation of a common life between the particular Church and the Church universal; the dignity of Lord, as competent to Jesus only: such are the traits which distinguish this address from every other; and is it not manifest that they are dictated to the apostle by the particular circumstances of the Church of Corinth, at the time when he wrote?
The Epistle to the Galatians is the only one in which the apostle passes directly from the address to the handling of his subject, without interposing a thanksgiving. This is due to the tone of abrupt and severe rebuke which characterizes the beginning of the letter. In his other Epistles, before speaking to the Church of what it lacks, of what he would teach or correct in it, the apostle begins by expressing his gratitude for the work already accomplished, and the desires he cherishes for fresh progress to be made. This is what he does here in vers. 4-9. But, as in the addresses, there is in these thanksgivings a great variety, according to the state of each Church. If we compare that which follows with those of the two Epistles to the Thessalonians, the wide difference will be immediately perceived: there, he congratulates the Thessalonians on the work of their faith, the labour of their love, the patience of their hope (1 Thess. 1:3; 2 Thess. 1:3 seq.). Here, there is nothing of the kind: the apostle blesses God for the spiritual gifts, both of knowledge and of speech, which He bestows abundantly at Corinth. We shall have no difficulty in understanding the reason of this difference.
Vers. 4-6. "I thank my ℵ Β omit the word μου (of me). God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you in Jesus Christ; 5. That in everything ye were enriched in Him, in every kind, of utterance, and in every kind of knowledge; 6. Even as the testimony of Christ B F G read θεου (of God) instead of του Χριστου (of Christ). was confirmed in you."—On account of the severity of the rebukes to be found in this letter, some commentators have detected in this thanksgiving a touch of flattery or even of irony. But the whole Epistle shows that the apostle is no flatterer, and irony is excluded by the expression, "I thank my God." Though many things were wanting in the Church of Corinth, the gratitude which the apostle expresses to his God for what He has done in its behalf is nevertheless sincere and earnest; as appears besides from the very measuredness of his commendations shown in the terms he uses.
He addresses his thanks to his God: thereby he describes God as the Being in close communion with whom he lives and labours; who, in particular, stood by him in his work at Corinth, and there gave him the most personal proofs of His help and love (Acts 18:9, 10); if he uses the word my instead of our (Sosthenes and I), it is because the matter involves his personal relation to God, in which he can associate none of those who labour with him. It is undoubtedly by mistake that the Sinaït. and the Vatic, have omitted this pronoun μου. The first corrector of the Sinaït., who is almost contemporary with the copyist, has supplied it (Edwards).—The word always might seem exaggerated; but the apostle's constant concern was the Church in general, and that of Corinth was one of its most important members.—The general term: on your behalf, is defined by the more precise phrase, for the grace of God which..., intended to express the more special subject of the thanksgiving. This grace comprehends the whole state of salvation, with the new life which has been displayed in the Church. It is a mistake, as it seems to me, in many interpreters to limit the application of the word grace to the spiritual gifts about to be spoken of: the term is more general.
Ver. 5. With the meaning of the word grace, which we have rejected, ὅτι would require to be translated by in that. But if we take the word grace in the most general sense, on should be translated by "seeing that," or "because." Indeed, there is here a new fact proving the reality of the preceding. Only from the state of grace could the abundance of gifts arise which distinguishes the Church of Corinth, and which more especially gives occasion to the apostle's gratitude.—The in everything is qualified by the two following terms, knowledge and utterance. The sequel of the Epistle leaves no doubt as to the meaning of these two terms. Chaps. xii.-xiv. will show what a wealth of gifts, both of Christian knowledge and of manifestations in utterance (tongues, prophecies, doctrine), had been bestowed on this Church. We see from viii. 1 and 10, xiii. 2, 8, and 9, that the word γνῶσις, knowledge, denotes the understanding of the facts of salvation and of their manifold applications to Christian life. Here it includes the idea of σοφία, wisdom, which is sometimes distinguished from it; comp. xii. 8.—The term utterance has been applied by de Wette to the rich Christian instruction which the Corinthians had received from Paul's mouth and from which they had derived their knowledge of the gospel. But the term utterance must denote a spiritual gift bestowed on the Corinthians, and in connection with the term knowledge. What the apostle has in view, therefore, is those different forms of the new tongue which the Holy Spirit had developed in the Church. The verb ἐπλουτίσθητε denotes their abundance; the word παντί, every, their variety; comp. xiv. 26: "When ye come together, each of you hath a psalm, a teaching, a tongue, a revelation, an interpretation." Edwards sees in this aorist an allusion to the present loss of those former riches, as if it should be translated, "Ye had been enriched." This is certainly a mistake; the riches remained still, as is shown by chaps. xii.-xiv. The aorist simply relates to the point of time at which the spiritual endowment of the Church took place, when its faith was sealed by the communication of the Spirit. It is not by accident that the apostle only mentions here the speculative and oratorical powers, and not the moral virtues; the gifts of the Spirit and not the fruits of the Spirit, as at Thessalonica. His intention is not doubtful; for in chap. xiii. 8-13 he himself contrasts the two principal gifts of utterance, tongues, and prophecy, and then knowledge, as things which pass away, with the three things which abide: faith, hope, and love. Here then, side by side with the riches for which the apostle gives thanks, we already discover the defect which afflicts him, but of which he does not speak, because it would be contrary to the object of the passage as one sacred to thanksgiving. This defect stood in relation to the character of the Greek mind, which was distinguished rather by intellectual and oratorical gifts than by seriousness of heart and conscience.
Ver. 6. This verse may be understood in two ways: some (Meyer, Edwards, etc.) regard it as indicating the cause of that abundance of gifts which has just been mentioned. They then apply the term ἐβεβαιώθη, was confirmed, or rather affirmed, to an internal fact: "in consequence of the depth and firmness of faith with which the gospel impressed (affirmed) itself in you." To support this meaning, they rely on the βεβαιώσει of ver. 8; but we shall see that this ground proves nothing, because there the idea of confirmation applies, not to the gospel, but to the persons of the Corinthians. This explanation is not in keeping with the natural meaning of καθώς, according as, which indicates rather a mode than a cause. The sense seems to me quite different: the apostle means, not that the wealth of their gifts is due to the depth and solidity of their faith, which would be contrary to the spirit of the whole passage, but that these gifts have been the mode of confirming the gospel specially granted to the Church of Corinth. Elsewhere, God could confirm the apostolic preaching otherwise; by miracles, for example, or by moral virtues, fruits of the Spirit; comp. Heb. 2:3: "The salvation which, having at the first been spoken by the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him, God Himself bearing witness with them by signs and wonders and by distribution of the powers of the Spirit;" also, 1 and 2 Thess. 1:3 and Gal. 3:2. The conj. καθώς agrees perfectly with this meaning: "Thus, and not otherwise, did the Divine confirmation of the testimony rendered to Christ take place among you."—The term testimony is here used to denote preaching, because this is essentially the attestation of a historical fact (vers. 23, 24). The gen. Χριστοῦ denotes the subject of the testimony, and not its author. It would be otherwise with the gen. θεοῦ, of God, if this reading were adopted with the Vatic.
Ver. 7. "So that ye come behind in no gift, waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ."—In the explanation of the preceding verse, which we have rejected, the ὥστε, so that, is made to refer to the verb ἐβεβαιώθη of ver. 6: "Your faith was confirmed in such a way, that in consequence no gift was lacking to you..." But in the sense of ver. 6, which we have adopted, this verse being rather an observation thrown in by the way, it is natural to refer the ὥστε to the ἐπλουτίσθητε of ver. 5, which gives a simpler and clearer meaning: "Ye were so enriched, that in point of gifts ye lacked nothing." There is indeed an evident contrast between the two ideas of being enriched and lacking.—The word ὑστερεῖσθται, to lack, denotes a deficiency either relatively to the normal level which a Church should attain (xvi. 17; Col. 1:24; 1 Thess. 3:10), or comparatively to other Churches more richly endowed (2 Cor. 11:5, xii. 11). The first of these two meanings is evidently the more suitable here. The Corinthians realize, in respect of gifts, χαρίσματα, all that can be desired for a Church on the earth. The ἐν μηδενί corresponds to the ἐν παντί of ver. 5.
The word χάρισμα, gift, will play a large part in this Epistle. As the form of the Greek term indicates, it denotes in general every concrete product in which grace is embodied. Several commentators (Calvin, de Wette, Meyer) apply the word here to the blessings of salvation in general, as in Rom. 1:11; but the evident relation to ver. 5 (comp. the reference of ὑστερεῖσθαι to πλουτισθῆναι, and that of μηδενί to παντί) leads US to give a more definite sense to the word χάρισμα. According to the two expressions, knowledge and utterance, it must be applied here to the new spiritual powers with which the Spirit had endowed the members of the Church at Corinth. These various powers, which so often in Paul's writings bear the name of χαρίσματα, gifts of grace, are certainly the effects of the supernatural life due to faith in Christ; but they fit in notwithstanding to pre-existing natural aptitudes in individuals and peoples. The Holy Spirit does not substitute Himself for the human soul; He sanctifies it and consecrates its innate talents to the service of the work of salvation. By this new direction, He purifies and exalts them, and enables them to reach their perfect development. This was what had taken place at Corinth, and it was thus especially that the apostolic testimony had been divinely confirmed in this Church. We see how Paul still carefully avoids (as in ver. 5) speaking of the moral fruits of the gospel, for this was the very respect in which there was a deficiency, and a grave deficiency, at Corinth.
The following words, waiting for the revelation..., have been very variously understood. Grotius and Rückert have seen in them an indirect reproof to those of the members of the Church who, according to chap. xv., denied the resurrection. But the apostle speaks of waiting for the Lord's return, and not of faith in the resurrection. Chrysostom supposes that he wishes to alarm them by thus glancing at the approach of the judgment; but this would not be very suitable to a thanksgiving. Calvin, Hofmann, Meyer suppose, on the contrary, that he wishes to encourage them: "Ye can go to meet the Lord's advent with confidence, for ye possess all the graces that suffice for that time;" or, as Meyer says: "The blessings which ye have received fit you to see the Lord come without fear." But would the apostle thus reassure people whom he saw filled with the most presumptuous self-satisfaction, and given over to a deceitful security? Comp. iv. 6-8, x. 1-22. Reuss supposes that Paul wishes to lead them to put to good account the spiritual aids which they now enjoy. But Paul would have declared this intention more clearly. Mosheim seems to me to have come nearer the true sense, when he finds irony here: "Ye lack nothing, waiting however the great revelation!" Without going the length of finding a sarcasm which would be out of place here, I think that there is really in this appendix, "waiting the revelation...," the purpose of bringing this too self-satisfied Church to a more modest estimate. Rich as they are, they ought not to forget that as yet it is only a waiting state: they lack nothing... waiting for the moment which will give them everything. As is said, indeed (xiii. 11), all our present gifts of utterance and knowledge have still the character of the imperfect state of childhood, in comparison with that which the perfect state will bring about. There was a tendency among the Corinthians to anticipate this latter state; they already imagined that they were swimming in the full enjoyment of the perfected kingdom of God (iv. 8). The apostle reminds them that real knowledge is yet to come; and this no doubt is the reason why he here uses the term, the revelation of Jesus Christ, to denote His advent. He means thereby less to characterize His visible presence (παρουσία), than the full revelation both of Him and of all things in Him, which will accompany that time. In that light what will become of your knowledge, your present prophesyings and ecstasies? Comp. 2 Thess. 1:7; 1 Pet. 1:7, where the use of this term is also occasioned by the context.—The term ἀπεκδέχεσθαι, compounded of the three words, ἀπό, far from (here, from far), ἐκ, from the hands of, and δέχεσθαι, to receive, admirably depicts the attitude of waiting.
After expressing his gratitude for what God has already done for his readers, the apostle, as in Eph. 1:17 seq., and Phil. 1:6 seq., adds the hope that God will yet accomplish in them all that is lacking, that they may be able to stand in that great day; such is the idea of the two following verses.
Ver. 8. "Who shall also confirm you unto D E F G: αχρι τελους, instead of εως τελονς. the end, that ye may be blameless in the day D E F G It.: παρουσια, instead of ημερα. of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9. God is faithful, by whom D F G: υφʼ ου, instead of διʼ ου. ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord."—The pron. ὅς, who, refers of course to the person of Jesus Christ (ver. 7). But this name being expressly repeated at the end of the verse, many commentators have been led to refer the pronoun ὅς to θεός, God (ver. 4). But this reference would reduce the whole passage, vers. 5-7, to a simple parenthesis; it has besides against it the repetition of the word θεός in ver. 9. If the expression our Lord Jesus Christ appears again at the end of the verse, instead of the pronoun, this arises from the fact that the term "the day of Christ" is a sort of technical phrase in the New Testament; it corresponds to the "day of the Lord" in the Old Testament.—The καί, also, implies that the work to be yet accomplished will only be the legitimate continuation of that which is already wrought in them. There is undoubtedly an intentional correlation between the βεβαιώσει, will confirm, of ver. 8, and the ἐβεβαιώθη, was confirmed, of ver. 6. Since God confirmed Paul's preaching at Corinth by the gifts which His Spirit produced there, He will certainly confirm believers in their faith in the gospel to the end.—This end is the Lord's coming again, for which the Church should constantly watch, for the very reason that it knows not the time of it; comp. Luke 12:35 and 36; Mark 13:32. If this event does not happen during the life of this or that generation, death takes its place for each, till that generation for which it will be realized externally. The phrase, in the day of Christ, does not depend on the verb will confirm, but on the epithet ἀναγκλήτους, unblameable. We must understand between the verb and the adjective the words εἰς τὸ εἶναι, as in Rom. 8:29; 1 Thess. 3:13; Phil. 3:21 (where the words εἰς το γενέσθαι are a gloss): the end is directly connected with the means.—Ἀνέγκλητος signifies exempt from accusation, and many apply the word to the act of justification which will cover the infirmities and stains of believers in that supreme hour, so that, as Meyer says, the epithet is not equivalent to ἀναμάρτητος, exempt from sin. It does not seem to me that this meaning suits the parallels 2 Cor. 7:1, 1 Thess. 5:23; for these passages represent believers as completely sanctified at that time. If then they are no longer subject to any accusation, it will not be only, as during their earthly career, in virtue of their justification by faith, it will be in virtue of their thenceforth perfected sanctification. The Greek-Latin reading παρουσία, advent, instead of ἡμέρα, day, has no probability.
Ver. 9. The asyndeton between the preceding verse and this arises from the fact that the latter is only the emphasized reaffirmation, in another form, of the same idea: the faithfulness of God, as the pledge of the confirmation of believers in their attachment to the gospel. The assurance here expressed by the apostle is doubtless not a certainty of a mathematical order; for the entire close of chap. ix. and the first half of chap. x. are intended to show the Corinthians that they may, through lack of watchfulness and obedience, make shipwreck of the Divine work in them; the certainty in question is of a moral nature, implying the acquiescence of the human will. As the ye were called assumes the free acceptance of faith, so continuance in the state of salvation supposes perseverance in that acceptance. But the apostle sets forth here only the Divine factor, because it is that which contains the solid assurance of this hope.
The words, by whom ye were called, sum up the work already accomplished at Corinth by Paul's ministry; comp. Phil. 1:6. We need not with Meyer apply the phrase, the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ, to the state of glory in the heavenly kingdom. The term κοινωνία, fellowship, implies something inward and present. Paul means to speak of the participation of believers in the life of Christ, of their close union to His person even here below. The form, Jesus Christ our Lord, recurs so to speak in every phrase of this preface; it reappears again in the following verse. It is obvious that it is the thought which is filling the apostle's mind; for he is about to enumerate the human names which they dare at Corinth to put side by side with that of this one Lord.
This thanksgiving has therefore, like the foregoing address, a character very peculiarly appropriate to the state of the Church. While frankly commending the graces which had been bestowed on them, the apostle gives them clearly to understand what they lack and what they must yet seek, to be ready to receive their Lord. He now passes to the treatment of the various subjects of which he has to speak with them.