1 Corinthians 5.
Grave reason there was why the apostle should speak of such an alternative as “a rod.” For the assembly at Corinth had at present no happy name, if common rumour were true.
“Universal report is of fornication among you, and such fornication as [is] not even among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who hath done this deed might be taken out of the midst of you.” (Vers. 1, 2.) It was distressing enough that so monstrous an evil should have found an entrance in the assembly of God. But what grieved the apostle most — as well it might — was the tolerance of the offender in their midst. The assembly cannot hinder a Christian from falling into the worst scandal, but it is bound to deal with evil as identified with Christ before God and man. Here below this is the reason of its being. It is the temple of God, as he had urged in chapter 3 for a warning against trashy and corrupting theories; but if that holy habitation of God through the Spirit be inconsistent with false teaching, certainly and yet more manifestly with immorality. Now there was in their midst grossness beyond the heathen — a brother, so-called, living with his step-mother!
Granted that the Corinthian assembly was young in the knowledge of the Lord, and few, if any, men of spiritual experience were among them. Gifts they had abundantly; but elders are nowhere hinted at, as indeed we know they were not, and could not be, in an infantine state of things. And divine wisdom, I doubt not, selected this state rather than one more mature and fully furnished, in order the better to provide for the exigencies of a day like ours.
But surely the youngest saints ought at least to have been appalled at such sin where God’s Spirit dwelt. They might have had no special teaching on discipline, nor previous cases of evil, while the apostle was with them. But why did they not mourn that he who had wrought such evil in the assembly might be taken away? Humiliation and prayer are the resource of those who feel a wrong, and know not yet the remedy: and the Lord would have acted for them, or given them to act for Him. Instead of this they were “puffed up” — a grievous aggravation of the mischief. I will not go so far as to assume that the offender was one of those, of whom they were proud, and who helped the carnal multitude to carp at the apostle; but it seems plain enough that the self-exalting doctrine and the bad morality went together in his mind. Had they allowed into their hearts the germ of that unholy idea, so rife in modern and even evangelical circles, that the evil of another is not to be judged, but each is solely to judge himself? It is to the destruction of God’s glory in the church. For what can more directly strike at all common union in good, all corporate responsibility for evil? Where such thoughts are suffered, it is plain that the presence of the Holy Ghost is either ignored or forgotten; for no believer will deliberately say that He can be a partner of iniquity, and this He must be if evil is known and unjudged where He dwells.
Seriously, as one familiar with the presence of God, and not like those whose self-esteem or vanity led them to evil in the assembly, does the apostle speak. It was that power of God in which he would have acted if present. “For I, absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged as present, in the name of our Lord Jesus [Christ], ye and my spirit being gathered together with the power of our Lord Jesus [Christ], [concerning] him that so wrought this — to deliver such an one to Satan for destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” (Ver. 3-5.)
It thoroughly fell within the province of the apostle to help the church at such an emergency, as indeed it was his joy at all times. For an apostle regulated and governed, and in this differed from such as were prophets without being apostles. But here was the assembly at Corinth, his own children in the faith, ensnared into the grossest dishonour on the Lord’s name, and withal puffed up, instead of mourning in order that the offender might be removed out of their midst. He proceeds therefore to pronounce the only judgment open to such a case. “For I,45 absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged as present [concerning]46 him that so wrought this.” The best authorities thus give the sense. “As” comes in to modify the second “present,” not the first, which is sufficiently qualified by “in spirit,” contrasted with “absent in body.” In the second case the very reverse is intended, and “as” is indispensable (for he means as if actually there), whereas in the first it would be improper. He then shows the authority for, and manner of, dealing with the person: “in the name of our47 Lord Jesus (ye being gathered, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus), to deliver such an one to Satan for destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”
This has been confounded, especially since Calvin’s time, with excommunication. But delivering to Satan is power here associated with the assembly, as the conferring of a gift is in 1 Timothy 4:14 with imposition of the hands of the elderhood. In both cases the result hinges on apostolic power. But the absence of this in no way enfeebles the duty of putting away the guilty professor, as is carefully laid down in verse 13
Our Lord indeed had Himself set forth the principle in Matthew 18, and provided for its maintenance in the worst of times. He had put the assembly as the last resort, even for a case which began with an individual trespass; for I do not doubt, spite of the omission of
εἰς δέ, “against thee,” in verse 15 (according to the Sinai and Vatican manuscripts, supported by three cursives, etc.), that they are genuine, resting as they do on most ample ancient authority, and falling in exactly with the context, which is embarrassed by the omission — an omission easily accounted for by the similarity of their sound in a Greek’s mouth to the last two syllables of the preceding word. If the matter then were told to the assembly, and the offender should not heed it, “let him be to thee as the heathen and the tax-gatherer.” But the Lord gives what is general and abiding: “Verily, I say to you, whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on the earth shall be loosed in heaven.” This goes beyond the enforcement or removal of a sentence on evil to the more general authority of the assembly as acting for Christ. Next, He shows the efficacy of its united prayer, even if but two agreed in asking: “Again, I say to you, that if two of you agree on the earth about whatever they may ask, it shall come to them from my Father that is in the heavens;” and this on a ground which takes in not merely a meeting for judicial decision or prayer but every assembly of the church as such: “for where two or three are gathered together to my name, there am I in the midst of them.” For the authority of the assembly or the validity of its action in these matters of practice and conduct depends, not in any way on its numbers or the weight of the persons composing it, but on Christ who guarantees His presence where but two or three are gathered together to His name.
This is clearly urged by the apostle in verse 4. If Satan had sought to alienate the Corinthians from Paul, he at least joins himself in spirit with them, as gathered together with the power of our Lord Jesus, in His name to deliver the incestuous Corinthian to Satan. If flesh had been indulged shamelessly, flesh must be galled and broken to pieces under the adversary’s hand, but for good in the end at any rate — “that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” In fact, as the second epistle shows, the discipline was blessed to him in this world also; but the end specified cannot fail for all born of God, whatever may be the hindrances here, or the particular shape of God’s dealing with the soul. For there is a sin unto death, and in such a case to make request of God would be an error. In the present instance it was not so; awful as the sin was: and the man not only did not fall asleep, but was brought to the deepest abasement and grief, and the apostle called on the saints to forgive, as doubtless they did.
As yet the Corinthians had no sense how they themselves were implicated in this frightful evil, and, what is more important, how the Lord’s name was compromised by it. On the contrary they were high-minded, and levity prevailed. “Therefore,” says the apostle, “your boasting [is] not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out the old leaven that ye may be a new lump, according as ye are unleavened. For also our passover, Christ, was sacrificed. Wherefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with leaven of malice and wickedness, but with unleavened [bread] of sincerity and truth.” (Ver. 6-8.)
There cannot be a more serious principle for the practical and public walk of the church. Evil is here presented under the symbol of leaven. Not only may it exist among saints, but its nature is to work, spread, and assimilate the mass to itself. The apostle insists that it shall never be tolerated. Here it is moral evil, in Galatians doctrinal; and of the two the latter is the more insidious, because more specious. It does not shock the conscience so immediately, or strongly, if at all. To the natural mind evil doctrine is but a difference of opinion, and the generous heart shrinks from proscribing a man for an opinion however erroneous. The church stands on wholly different ground, because it stands in Christ on high and has the Holy Ghost dwelling in it here below. No assembly can guarantee itself against the entrance of evil, but every assembly of God is bound not to tolerate it. When evil is known, the church is bound to put it away. Elsewhere we may find details in dealing with it. There are those who may be specially fitted not only to discern but to apply moral power, and they are responsible to act faithfully to Christ whose the church is. It is no question, where known evil is persisted in, of exercising compassion, still less of cloaking it. This would be connivance with Satan against the Lord, and the ruin, not only of the individual already ensnared, but of the assembly. When the assembly knows evil, and either forbears to judge through indifference, or (still worse) refuses it when appealed to according to the word of God, it is playing false to the name of the Lord, and can no longer be regarded as God’s assembly after adequate means to arouse have failed.
Bad as the state of things in Corinth was, the evil had arrived at no such footing as yet. It was humbling that their consciences were not yet wakened up beyond perhaps individuals, who communicated facts to the apostle or others who sympathised with their uneasiness. The mass, if they knew, acted as if they knew not, and were proud and puffed up instead of being abased in sorrow but in prayer to God. So early did the notion creep in that sin in the church belongs only to those directly guilty, that it does not involve all, and that the Lord Himself forbids others to judge, commanding tares and wheat to grow together till the harvest. Is it needful to expose such unholy and ignorant sophistry? “The field is the world,” not the church.
Now comes the grave warning of the apostle in Christ’s faithful love to the church. The tolerance of evil in any part vitiates the whole. It virtually commits the Holy Ghost to the sanction of what God hates. No interpretation can be more contrary to the spirit of the apostle’s admonition than that which supposes that the whole is only leavened when every part is saturated with the leaven. It is really meant that a little leaven gives its character to the whole lump. Even the late Dean Alford (though far from sound generally in doctrine, strict in ecclesiastical principle, or firm for the glory of Christ) speaks incomparably better than those brethren who debase the holy name of love to mean license for their friends or themselves. “That this is the meaning,” says he, “and not ‘that a little leaven will if not purged out leaven the whole lump,’ is manifest from the point in hand, namely, the inconsistency of their boasting: which would not appear by their danger of corruption hereafter, but by their character being actually lost. One of them was a fornicator of a fearfully depraved kind, tolerated and harboured: by this fact the character of the whole was tainted.”48 (Comment on 1 Cor. 5)
The apostle therefore charges them to purge out the old leaven, that they might be fresh dough, “according as ye are unleavened.” This is of high importance. The saints are unleavened, not merely ought to be. Their practical conduct is grounded on their standing. All efforts to deny the purity of the church are from the enemy. The apostle, writing even to the Corinthians, reminds them of this, and insists upon it. He recalls them to what God’s grace had done for them. He rouses their conscience to act consistently with and for Christ. Never does he think of allowing sin, because saints have the old man as well as the new. Was not the old man crucified with Christ? If God has already executed sentence upon it, there is no excuse for allowing it. The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set every believer free. Not only has he a new nature, but the Holy Ghost to work in it by the word and grace of Christ. They were unleavened then and must purge out the old leaven. The very object of God was to form the church in purity for Christ and according to Christ in this world, and the responsibility of the saints is to walk individually and corporately according to Him. His word makes His will plain.
But the figure of an unleavened lump at once recalls Christ as the true paschal lamb, and the consequent putting away of sin by His sacrifice. This deepens the ground on which the apostle demands that sin should be judged by the saints if through unwatchfulness any one had fallen into sin and repented not. The feast of unleavened bread was bound up with the passover, as every Israelite knew. This is turned to practical account here. “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened [bread] of sincerity and truth.” There might be new forms of evil besides those of old habits and associations. But as. all leaven had to be shut out by the Jew, so the Christian is solemnly called to deal unsparingly with evil in every shape.
Further, it seems to me of some importance to remark that this does not mean only at the table of the Lord on His day. The seven days of the Jewish institution represent the whole term of our stay on earth; and the celebration of the feast covers therefore the full time of each here below. Nothing inconsistent with Christ morally is tolerable in the Christian, and this not now and then but continuously. Such is the teaching of these types which the New Testament unveils and enforces. Beyond doubt the true light now shines. Redemption, far from allowing of sins in the redeemed, is the basis of holiness, and all evil was only then fully judged when Christ our passover was crucified. Before that how much was borne with because of the hardness of men’s hearts! Now that it has been condemned in the cross of Christ and consequently in grace to the believer, we are told to yield our members servants to righteousness unto holiness. Freed from sin and become servants to God we have our fruit unto holiness and the end everlasting life. Anything short of this is not Christianity.
The apostle now lays down the direction of the Lord as to unworthy confessors of His name in the assembly. Those at Corinth did not know how such should be dealt with; but why did they not at least pray and mourn? Why were they puffed up?
“ I have written to you in the epistle not to mix with fornicators;49 not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or the covetous and50 rapacious, or idolatrous, since [in that case] ye must go out of the world. But now I have written to you, if any one called a brother be51 a fornicator, or covetous, or idolatrous, or abusive, or a drunkard, or rapacious, not to mix with [him], with such an one not even to eat. For what [is it] to me to judge those without?52 Do ye not judge those within? But those without God judgeth.53 Put54 out the wicked person from among your own selves.” (Vers. 9-18.)
There appears no sufficient reason a priori, why an inspired apostle might not have written an epistle which God meant to lapse after accomplishing its end, without filling a constant place in the scriptures. Hence there would be no difficulty, to my mind, if allusion were here made to an epistle of Paul which was never included in the canon. But where is the evidence that this is the fact, or that any other epistle is here intended than the one he is writing? In the latter case, the tense used would be what is called the epistolary aorist. It is in vain then to say, “not this present epistle,” which the phrase means as naturally as a former letter which has not come down to us. (Compare Rom. 16:22; Col. 4:16; 1 Thess. 5:27; 2 Thess. 3:14.) Indeed 2 Corinthians 7:8 is the only instance that exemplifies a reference to a former letter, as the context necessitates, where the contrast is plain between the two letters. But there is nothing of the sort to determine here. As the usage the other way is far more frequent, so the sense is excellent, if we understand the actual epistle we have to be in view. The notion of a previous letter involves the inference that the present is a correction of their misunderstanding of a former command of his as regards keeping company with fornicators; but this appears gratuitous. So is the idea that there must be something in the preceding part of this epistle bearing on the point; for it is quite sufficient for the passage that he should be so instructing them now. That he must be referring to what went before is simply to deny the epistolary sense of the aorist. Again
ἐν τῃ ἐπιστολῃ, far from being irrelevant and superfluous, if he meant the letter in which he was now engaged, is full of force and precision. “I have written to you in [not “an” but] the epistle not to keep company with fornicators.” He was exhorting to this effect now. This he proceeds to qualify: “not absolutely [or in all cases] with the fornicators of this world, or the covetous and rapacious, or idolatrous, since [in that case] ye must go out of the world. But now [or as the case stands] I have written to you not to keep company, if any one called a brother be,” etc. Here the same tense is used for what must be allowed to be what he is going to say in the present epistle; the
νυνί only serving to distinguish the guarded sentence, a more definite application of the principle in verse 11, from the general statement in verse 9.
In short the apostle is showing that brotherly intercourse is restricted to brethren, and so is discipline: to extend either to men of the world is false ground, and would make intercourse with people at large impossible. Christian companionship, on the other hand, demands purity of life on the part of those who enjoy it. If any one called a brother be impure, or covetous, or idolatrous, or abusive, or a drunkard, or rapacious, one is not to mix with him: “with such an one not even to eat.” The meaning is, not that we ought not to take the Lord’s supper, but not to eat the least meal with him. The corrupt or violent professor of Christ is to be avoided even in an ordinary social act, not merely on the most solemn occasion of christian worship.
The closing verses explain why this limitation ought to be. “For what [have] I [to] do with judging those without? Do not ye judge those within? But those without God judgeth. Put out the wicked person from among your own selves.” (Vers 12, 18.) The world is not the sphere of divine judgment as yet, but His children, whom the Father judges without respect of persons, as the church is bound to do. By-and-by the world will be not only judged but condemned. (1 Cor. 11) Therefore should the believer so much the more seek to judge himself: else grace would be of ill report, as if seeking to Bloke evil. But even if he fail, the Lord does not, who chastens by a divine judgment that he should not be condemned with the world.
Those without then are not the actual arena for apostolic or church judgment, but those within, as God deals with the rest in due time. The church cannot evade their duty; strong or weak, they must stand clear in this respect before God. The saints may not be able to deliver to Satan, but are bound to put out from among themselves the wicked person. But they are not called on to put out any one who is not “wicked.” There are other steps in discipline which should never be forgotten, as rebuke in some cases, and withdrawment in others. It is false and mischievous that every offender should be thus removed; none should be but the wicked. In their case it is imperative, otherwise communion no longer exists according to Christ. It is not the entrance of the worst possible evil that destroys the character of the assembly, but the deliberate toleration of evil, were it even the least. Only we have to take care in judging that it be done in the word and Spirit of God. Unity that subsists by allowing known evil in its midst is of Satan, and directly opposed to God’s object in His assembly, which is responsible to reflect the character of Christ now in holiness, as it will by-and-by in glory.
1 Corinthians 6.
We have now to encounter a worldly evil among the Corinthian saints, as distinguished from the fleshly state and the corruption which have already passed before us.
“Dare any of you having a matter against another, go to law [seek judgment] before the unjust and not before the saints?” (Ver. 1.) Here modern practice, or even thought, greatly differs from apostolic principle. Christians now-a-days have little conscience in appealing to a worldly tribunal. It is evident that the Holy Ghost felt it to be an outrage, nor could any Christian walking rightly think of prosecuting a suit before the world against another however wrong. He must forget what God accounts each to be: the world, as having rejected His Son; the saints, as those that are by grace separated from it to God.
Here however the apostle grounds his reproof on the anomaly of seeking judgment at the hands of those whom we shall judge at Christ’s coming. “55Know ye not that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world is judged by you, are ye unworthy of the least judgments? Do ye not know that we shall judge angels? Much more things of this life. If then ye have judgments in things of this life, set up those who are of no esteem in the church.” (Ver. 2-4.) The apostle thus brings in the light of the coming day to bear upon present matters. This is certain from verse 8, if any one could question verse 2. In vain the efforts of ancients (Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret, etc.) to make it moral, or of moderns (Mosheim, Rosenmüller, etc.) to make it political and worldly. The future judgment of the quick in the kingdom of our Lord is a reality that acts on the apostle now. He uses it to judge the conduct of every day. How can it be a living truth if it operate not thus? Even the Corinthians did not doubt the fact as to the future; but, like all unspiritual persons, they had let it slip now where they ought to have remembered it.
It is evident however that “that day” was a truth so familiar and admitted on all sides by the saints that Paul could reason from it as unquestionable. The saints have the same life now, and the same Spirit; they have also the word of God. How monstrous then thus to ignore the glory with Christ to which grace calls them, and to fall into the ways of men! To faith it was the grossest inconsistency; for if the world is judged by the saints, are they unworthy of the “least judgments?” Such were and are the questions on which men usually go to law. Nor is it only the world but other beings the saints are to judge. “Know ye not that we shall judge angels? Much more things in this life.”
The future judgment of the world and of angels has slipped away from Christians generally. They believe in the judgment of the dead, not of the living; and hence the ground of the apostle’s appeal no longer exists for them. Scriptures such as these become unreal to their minds. So far they are practically infidel; and necessarily their practice is worldly in this respect. Alas! it is only a sample, not an exception. The difficult times of the last days are come, when men are lovers of self and of money, boastful and arrogant, abusive and disobedient to parents, lovers of pleasure rather than of God, having a form of piety but denying its power. From these we are commanded to turn away. Scripture is the grand resource; and this, not forgetting the apostle’s conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecution, suffering, and the certainty that all who desire to live piously in Christ shall be persecuted, while wicked men and impostors grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. The time is come when men will not bear sound teaching, but according to their own lusts will heap up to themselves teachers, having itching ears, turning away from the truth as decidedly as they have turned aside to fables. What more mischievous delusion than a millennium to be brought in by the church’s testimony and labours? It will really follow divine judgment when the Lord Himself comes, who, after executing it, will pour out the Spirit afresh on all flesh, when they see the salvation of God.
The Corinthians were not so far gone as the Christians of our day. They were well aware that the saints shall judge the world: only selfishness had dulled their remembrance of it. The Spirit of God now recalls the truth to them, and appeals to their sense of the evident incongruity that those who are to judge the world on the grandest scale were accounting themselves in feet unworthy of the smallest judgments. Such no doubt were those that could be then before the Corinthian brethren, whereas by-and-by the gravest will be held by them when glorified. And the apostle makes the inconsistency more pungently felt by characterising the world as the “unjust” and themselves as “the saints” — nay, by reminding them that we shall judge angels. Surely then things pertaining to this life between brethren ought not to go farther! Where was their faith and their love? Where their hope?
Some interpreters, as we know, take verse 4 interrogatively, others sarcastically. There seems no particular reason for the former, Matters of this life require no more than good sense and honesty; and surely the possession of these would not constitute a claim for honour in the church. Brethren might have both, and be little esteemed there, where the grace and power of Christ alone constitute such a claim. The decision of those matters in no way called for high spirituality. Indeed the apostle says, “I speak to your shame. Thus there is not among you one wise [man] who shall be able to decide between brethren” (literally, “brother [and brother]”). “But brother goeth to law with brother, and this before unbelievers. Already therefore56 it is altogether a fault in you that ye go to law among yourselves. Why are ye not rather wronged? why are ye not rather defrauded? But ye do wrong and defraud, and this,57 brethren.” (Ver. 5-8.)
It is clear that the apostle in no way wished such disputes to be brought, in the first instance at least, before the assembly. The gravest cases should be, not lighter ones. Had they not even one wise man to decide them? He is slighting such questions as well as reproving themselves for their worldliness; and their moral state was worse to him than their lack of wisdom. The Christian is called to suffer, even when he does well, and to take it patiently, not to go to law. The Corinthians were sadly forgetful of the true glory of the church; and when Christians thus forget their proper standing and the conduct that suite it, they cease to walk even as upright men should. “Ye do wrong and defraud, and this, brethren.” Nor is it so surprising, when we consider that it never was intended that Christians should walk well except by faith, any more than Peter could walk on the waves without looking to Christ. When he ceased to look to Him, he begins to sink at once, less safe than those who had never ventured out of the ship.
Failure in faith and hope too, I must repeat, will soon be found to involve failure in love. “Ye do wrong and defraud, and this, brethren.” All through from first to last, it was a direct dishonour to God, and a false testimony to their relationship to Him, if indeed they were born of God. His sense of their failure as Christians does not lessen his horror at the dishonesty or other wrong which provoked the law-suits. “Know ye not that unjust [men] shall not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not err: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor abusers of themselves as women, nor abusers of themselves with men, nor rapacious, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit God’s kingdom.” (Vers. 9, 10.) It is clear that the apostle, without confining himself to the actual case, is exposing severely the habits so common at Corinth — corruption much more than violence. He is speaking for profit and for solemn warning as the Holy Ghost always does, if He touches sin at all. He is not beating the air, nor denouncing sins only found elsewhere. Fleshly add worldly licence would surely end, if unjudged, in revolting excesses. Tampering with a little evil is the straight road to more and worse, and in none so certainly as the professing Christian. To indulge in any evil is in works to deny Christ. The business of a Christian is to manifest Him. The Corinthian saints were in danger of slipping back into the vilest ways of human corruption.
“And these things were some of you.” This would give Satan an advantage if they looked away from Christ. Old habits then resume their power, and evil communications corrupt good manners. Then he adds, “But ye were washed” [literally, “had yourselves washed”], “but ye were sanctified, but ye were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus [Christ]58 and by the Spirit of our God.” (Ver. 11.) He reminds them of the gracious power of God in Christ on whom they believed by the action of His Spirit; and will not allow that this could be all in vain. In
ἀπελούσασθε there may be an allusion to the administrative sign, as in Acts 22:16; but the connection here points rather to the reality signified. The sanctification is clearly the setting apart of the Christian to God which the Holy Spirit effects in conversion, rather than the practical holiness which He afterwards works to make good, the former being absolute as the latter is relative. This is shown conclusively by its preceding justification, which has here of course its regular sense, when the soul is not only born of God but stands acquitted of all charge before Him through the work of Christ, and is then sealed by the Spirit.
The apostle turns next to fleshly abuses: the first in respect of meats, the second and gravest in fornication. He had shown that, whatever the grace of God is in calling the vilest, all such are saved after a holy sort. This he now exemplifies in two instances where some pleaded liberty to deny practical purity. Of this he will not hear. He will not diminish liberty one jot, but he asserts its character to be Christian, as all our other privileges are. If not of Christ, it is sin. So is it with all we boast: life, righteousness, peace, and glory. In this liberty differs not from the rest. What Christian could wish any of these in or for the flesh? It would be to abandon the Second man for the first: to wish licence for sin proves utter lack of love and honour for the Saviour.
“All things are lawful to me, but all things do not profit; all things are lawful to me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats, but God will bring to nought both it and them; but the body [is] not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God both raised the Lord, and will raise up us by his power. Know ye not, that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then taking the members of Christ make [them] members of a harlot? Let it not be. What!59 Know ye not that he that is joined to the harlot is one body? For, saith he, the two [shall be] one flesh. But he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin which a man may practise is outside the body, but the fornicator sinneth against his own body. What! Know ye not that your body60 is a temple of the Holy Spirit that [is] in you, which ye have from God; and ye are not your own? For ye were bought with a price: do then glorify God in your body.”61 (Ver. 12-20.)
If all things are lawful to the Christian, certainly all do not profit. As Christ never did what did not profit, so neither should the Christian. He is free, but it is only according to Christ for good, and this in love, the good of others. But there is another guard: if all things are lawful to the Christian, he refuses to be brought under the power of anything: were it not so, it would be bondage, not liberty. Thus to have regard for others’ good must be kept up, as well the liberty itself intact. The Christian is called to serve others, never to be the slave of a habit in anything great or small.
The first application of the apostle is to meats, which he deals with in terms so curtly contemptuous as to decide the question for every godly soul. “Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats, but God will bring to nought both it and them;” He then points out an analogy as forcible as it is surprising and withal no less true: they mutually suit one another, and both perish under God’s dealing. They are but temporary. It was the more striking, as coming through one who had been a Jew to those who had been Gentiles; and all know the place meats had in Judaism. But Christianity brings in the light of God and of the future for our present guidance; as we see in the second case still more at length. For “the body is not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” If the belly is put down to its true and passing use, the body is exalted to a place of which philosophy knew nothing. As it was not formed for unhallowed or promiscuous indulgence, so it is for the Lord and the Lord is for it.
Never was the honour of the body set in its true light till Christ came and proved it not only in His own person as man but in ours as redeemed by His blood and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. (Compare Rom. 6:12, 13, 19; Rom. 8:10; Rom. 12:1 ; Col. 2:23; 1 Thess. 4:4; 1 Thess. 5:23; 1 Tim. 4:3-5.) Even now the Lord disdains not this temple of the Spirit: how much less when changed into the likeness of His glory? (Rom. 8:11, 18-23; Phil. 3:21.) In this body we shall have the portion of our Lord. For “God both raised the Lord and will raise up us by his power.” (See 1 Cor. 15; 2 Cor. 4:14.)
It is not merely that our spirits go to be with the Lord in heaven; our bodies shall be raised like His at His coming, as many bodies of the saints which slept arose and came out of their graves after His resurrection. For if death shows man’s weakness, resurrection displays God’s power. The actual spiritual effect of this is immense. Not our souls but our bodies are declared to be members of Christ. Those who descant on the soul only may claim a superior elevation. But it is never really so in practice or in theory. On the contrary the immortality of the soul is easily perverted to man’s pride; not so the resurrection, which not only exalts God and humbles man but delivers from present ease and indulgence where it is held in faith. Of this the Holy Spirit is the earnest, who joins us to the Lord and constitutes our bodies members of Christ. Hence the enormity of fornication. (Vers. 15, 16.) How basely inconsistent with such intimacy, yea union, is impurity with a harlot! It was the more needful to urge this on a city more than any other noted for this sort of licence, besides the broad fact that the heathen in general regarded fornication as an indifferent act like eating and not as in itself a sin. “The two, saith he, shall be one flesh; but he that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit.” (Vers. 16, 17.)
But its incongruity with our relation to Christ is not all that the apostle urges. Fornication he would have avoided earnestly, because of its peculiar character, differing as it does from every other sin in this that it is against the body itself, while others are external to it. How dreadful then to think not merely of the body so misused, but the Christian’s body, temple of the Holy Spirit as it is! not from any mere consecration to Him but from His being in us, and this from God, on the ground of purchase by Christ’s blood. Therefore the apostle’s appeal to glorify God in their body.
It was only because of Christ’s work that the Holy Spirit could thus be given to us and dwell in us. He quickened souls before Christ shed His blood, but He never sealed them till after. Jesus, the Holy One of God, is the sole example of man so sealed without blood. But He is the exception that proves the rule. Adam was not, because, though innocent, he was not holy nor is ever said to have been; the Second man was, and only He apart from redemption; and therefore was He sealed by God the Father in virtue and witness of His intrinsic perfection. If we can be and are, it is solely in virtue of being perfected by His one offering, and we are therefore exhorted not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God whereby we are sealed unto the day of redemption (that is, of our bodies). The Spirit given is the expression of God’s love shed abroad in our hearts; He is also the measure by which we should try our conduct, and the power of enjoying and representing Christ aright. Bought then so that we are not our own but God’s, we are called accordingly to glorify God in our body. A wondrous fact to be assured of on divine authority that such as we by grace can and should glorify God!
These then are the motives for us. We are bought with a price, and we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. “Know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit that is in you, which ye have from God; and ye are not your own? For ye were bought with a price.” It enhances the presence of the Spirit in us when we are told that we have Him from God. It could not be otherwise of course; but to have it thus stated is precious and solemn God would have us to remember and feel that it is from Him we have the Spirit thus given.
But let us not forget that it is in our body we are to glorify God. Many a one deceives himself in the thought that he is all right in spirit, though he dare not say that he keeps his body under and brings it into subjection. The Christian is bound to glorify God in his body.
So in the consecration of the priests under the law (Lev. 8) we may see that the washing of water preceded the putting on of blood, and the anointing of oil closed the matter. It is just the same order of truth which is discernible here, and which is true of the Christian in fact. Of old followed the duties of the priestly office according to the instructions of Jehovah; as we see the Christian here exhorted to glorify God. What a claim! How God values the spirit, ways, communion, and conduct of the Christian! How lowering to the standard when, like the Corinthians, we forget that we are no longer men striving to walk with decency through the world, but our body the temple of the Holy Ghost and ourselves the purchase of Christ’s blood, and with such an aim set before us as glorifying God! The unbelief of believers is the delight of the adversary and the saddest hindrance to His glory in and by us. It is the fertile source of every failure and of the most grievous sins in the saints. It is the main stumbling-block for every serious man in the world. It makes the glorifying of God an impossibility. May we be enabled then to meet the simplest matter of every-day propriety in the faith that is familiar with the richest and highest displays of God’s grace in the redemption of Christ and the gift of the Spirit!
1 Corinthians 7.
We now enter on a fresh division of the Epistle, though the opening of it is naturally connected with (at least, so as to follow) the apostle’s exhortation to personal purity, which he has just shown to be due to the Holy Ghost’s presence, as well as the Lord’s purchase of us: our consequent call is to glorify God in our body.
It seems that the saints in Corinth had written, among other topics, about marriage, and the various questions it naturally raised for the Christians as yet little versed in the truth. From the laxity of heathen, especially of the Greeks and above all the Corinthians, there was a reaction toward asceticism, that favourite resource of moralists and philosophers in the East, which had thence spread more or less into the West. The apostle urges holiness, but not at the expense of liberty in Christ.
“But concerning the things of which ye write to me, [it is] good for a man not to touch a woman; but on account of fornications, let each have his own wife, and each have her own husband. To the wife let the husband render his due, and likewise also the wife to the husband. The wife hath not authority over her own body, but the husband; and likewise also the husband hath not authority over his own body, but the wife. Defraud not one another, unless by consent for a time, that ye may have leisure for prayer, and again be together, that Satan tempt you not because of your incontinency.” (Ver. 1-5.)
When Adam was made, Jehovah said, It is not good that the man should be alone: I will make him a help meet for him. And so He builded the woman out of the man. They were to be, and were, one flesh. The apostle was the last man to weaken the order of nature. It was he who still later wrote to the Hebrews, Let marriage be every way honourable, and the bed undefiled. Here he in no way contradicts it or differs. He is in full unison with his Master (in Matthew 19 and Mark 10) who vindicated God’s original institution from creation for man in the flesh, whatever the law might allow in view of the hardness of men’s hearts, though he maintained the superior excellence of the unmarried state, where there was power to be undividedly for the Lord and His things. But it is not so with every saint. All cannot receive it, but those to whom it has been given If any one is able, let him receive it: if he boast, he is in danger of dishonouring the Lord more than those he despises. The Lord and His apostle both caution souls. Grace may call and strengthen to live above what is not only lawful but honourable every way; and surely, if kept thus in lowliness, the former is the better portion.
But there are snares through nature as it is; and nowhere was there reason to fear more from the habits and associations of the place than at Corinth. Heathenism in some cases consecrated fornication. Because of the licentious ways, there and then of the commonest occurrence but at all times a danger, let each have his own wife, and each have her own husband. Mutual consideration to the last degree becomes both in a relationship where they that were two are no longer so but one. Grace, if it lift above nature in certain cases for the Lord’s glory, enforces the honour and duties of those who are in a natural relationship. It is the sure mark of the enemy, where grace is perverted to put contempt on the least or lowest ordering of God. If we are in the relationship, we are bound to be true to its claims. Hence the husband was to pay her due to the wife, and in like manner the wife to the husband. The married estate is inconsistent with independence of each other in all that pertains to it. The wife has not authority over her own body, but the husband; and in like manner also the husband has not authority over his own body, but the wife. Hence they were not to defraud or wrongfully deprive one another, unless by consent for a time, that they might be free for prayer and again be together, lest Satan should tempt them for their incontinency. The law made nothing perfect. Christ vindicated God’s mind and will as to the first man, but Himself was the manifestation of God in man. So does the apostle speak of marriage in words far above the thoughts and ways of Israel. What is first was never so fully stated before; but grace, as ever, presents a better thing.
“But this I say by way of permission, not by way of command. Now I wish all men to be even as myself; but each hath his own gift of God, one this way, and another that. But I say to the unmarried and to widows: It is good for them that they remain even as I. But if they have not self-control, let them marry, for it is better to marry than to burn.” (Vers. 6-9.) Thus did the Holy Spirit lead the large-hearted apostle to write, in what he had laid down, declaring that it was not as a commandment, but a permission. His own wish for others was that all should be even as himself. But he does not overlook that each has as God gives him. Hence to the unmarried and to widows he says, it is good for them to remain even as he; yet even then not absolutely, but only in case they can without fear of sinning in this respect.
“But to the married, not I enjoin, but the Lord, that wife be not separated from husband (but if also she be separated, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband), and that husband leave: [or put away] not wife.” (Vers. 10, 11.) Here it was no fresh direction from apostolic authority, but the ruling of the Lord Himself, already known, the general duty of man and wife, grounded on the indissolubleness of the tie. Wife was not to be parted from husband, nor husband to dismiss wife: if parted, she was to abide unmarried, or be reconciled; for, even if she were without fault; separation is a reproach and might be a snare.
Next we have the apostle inspired to add light as to present difficulties, and this not at all a repetition of the principle for Israel, but in contrast with it. “But to the rest I say, not the Lord, If any brother have an unbelieving wife, and she consent to dwell with him, let him not leave [or put away] her; and a woman which hath an unbelieving husband, and he consents to dwell with her, let her not leave [or put away] him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified in the wife,62 and the unbelieving wife is sanctified in the brother;63 since then your children are unclean, but now are they holy.” (Vers. 12-14.) Here it was the grave question of mixed marriages, where one of the parties already united, and not the other, had been won to Christ by the gospel. In this the grace of Christianity is strikingly contra-distinguished from the rigour of Judaism. (Compare Ezra 9:10.) One of the ways in which Israel abode a holy people was in refusing to mix with the heathen in marriage. Those who thus intermarried, or took strange wives, were polluted, and their children were unclean; when they felt and judged the sin, they proved it by not only offering a ram for the trespass but putting both away. The holiness of the Christian is not only intrinsic, instead of being fleshly and external, but there is a far more gracious consideration, and a largeness, of which the law knew little or nothing. Thus, if husband or wife were a believer, he or she was not defiled by union with the unbeliever, but contrariwise the unbeliever is sanctified, and the children are holy.
In this way does the Spirit of God comfort the believer whose wife or husband, as the case might be, still remained an unbeliever; for I presume it was as true of an Israelite as of a heathen. It was of course a grievous trial to be so united. If the believer were the wife, she might be suspected and thwarted at every turn by her unbelieving husband. He would naturally be vigilant that the children should be kept from Christian truth and privileges of every kind, and would himself show his contempt for that which his wife valued, resenting above all the calm confidence of faith that counted idols nothing and confessed the Lord Jesus before men. But she is here instructed and strengthened by the apostolic injunction. If her husband consented to dwell with her, spite of that confession, she was not called to quit or put away her unbelieving husband, for he was sanctified in her, as the children were holy. What a relief this must have been to godly but scrupulous souls, who had been brought to God by the gospel, after being married to Gentiles or Jews, with children brought up in Judaism or idolatry! Were they troubled when they read in the scriptures that of old the requirement was to abandon the ill-assorted wife and the children so born? The grace of the gospel, as the apostle shows, delivers from all uncertainty as to God’s mind, and pronounces the unbeliever, whether husband or wife, to be sanctified in the believing correlative, and the children holy, not profane.
We have seen then the striking contrast between the gracious power of the gospel and the weakness of the law: under the one, the unbeliever sanctified in the believing relation and the fruit of their union holy; under the other, the Jew defiled and the children unclean.
But it may be well here to notice the use made of verse 14 by both the parties to the baptismal dispute. Thus writes Dr. Wall in his “History of Infant Baptism” (I. , 144, 5, Ed. 4,1819):
“Mr. Walker has taken the pains to produce quotations out of almost all the ancient writers, to show that this was a common phrase with them to say, an infant or other person sanctified, when they mean baptized; and I do, for brevity’s sake, refer the reader to his book. The scripture also uses it so (1 Cor. 6:11; Eph. 5:26), which makes that explication of 1 Corinthians 7:14, ‘Now are your children holy,’ which is given by Tertullian, St. Austin, St. Hierom, Paulinus, Pelagius (chap. 19), and other ancients, and since by Dr. Hammond, Mr. Walker, etc., much the more probable; whereby they make the words (
ἅγια) holy, and
(ἡγίασται), has been sanctified, to refer to baptism. — Their explication is also the more probable, because there has no other sense of those words been yet given by expositors but what is liable to much contest; but especially that sense which some Antipaedo-baptists have endeavoured to affix to them (of legitimacy, in opposition to bastardy) seems the most forced and far-fetched of all. The words are
ἡγίασται, κ. τ. λ. Τhe grammatical translation of which words is, ‘For the unbelieving husband [or an unbelieving husband] has been sanctified by the wife;’ . . . . and our translators altered the tense, and put is sanctified instead of has been sanctified; because they thought, it seems, the sense required it; but without any such alteration, the paraphrase given by many learned men is to this purpose: — For it has ordinarily come to pass, that an unbelieving husband has been brought to the faith, and so to baptism, by his wife; and likewise an unbelieving wife by her husband. If it were not so, and if the wickedness or infidelity of the unbelieving party did usually prevail, the children of such would be generally kept unbaptized, and so be unclean; but now we see, by the grace of God, a contrary effect, for they are generally baptized, and so become holy, or sanctified.”
The intelligent Christian will see that, the ancient fathers notwithstanding, scripture does not warrant this usage. 1 Corinthians 6:11, and Ephesians 5:26, teach a truth as different from the bearing of 1 Corinthians 7:14 as from 1 Timothy 4:4, 5, the cleansing power of the word as applied by the Spirit. The Christian, the assembly, is thus sanctified. It is a real divine work: cf. John 13, 15, and 1 John 5. Blood expiates, but water purifies; that is, the word, as the expression of the truth and the revelation of God in Christ, judges all contrary to God within and without. Thus are the saints, from first to last, formed morally to have part with Christ on high. His power will complete all at His return, as His first coming in love laid the foundation for all in the gift of Himself for us. It is ignorance of these scriptures to confound with them 1 Corinthians 7:14, as may yet be shown more fully. But the ancients, and those who build on them, are scarce darker as to this than the moderns, even if evangelical. Washing by the word is outside their traditions; it is perfectly certain in scripture, and most momentous for christian doctrine and practice.
But Dr. Wall’s criticism is unsound. Our translators were far nearer the truth than he. His alteration of the tense not only is not required but falsifies the sense. The aorist would be the form, rather than the perfect, to convey his notion and bear his paraphrase. The perfect expresses a state consequent on an act, whether we say “is,” or “has been, sanctified.” But it means the permanent result of a completed action, and not what ordinarily comes to pass, a sense which the gnomic or iterative aorist may approach as in James 1:10, 23; 1 Peter 1:24. Hence the teaching deduced is all wrong. The apostle means a sanctified, or holy, state, actually and always true of the husband and children of a believing wife, not of what generally becomes true. Not a hint is dropped in this verse of being converted or brought to baptism.
Must we then embrace the view which prevails among Baptists? Not so. Legitimacy is out of the question. The children are said to be
γνήσια, the danger was lest they should be
νόθα. The marriage of believers is no more lawful than that of unbelievers. The question is as to God’s sanction for the Christian’s conscience of a mixed marriage, and its fruit; and, as to this, the apostle decides that the unbelieving partner is hallowed in the believing one, and the children holy, not unclean: the one being placed in that state of holiness by the faith of the other, and the children viewed as in it already. Of fitness for baptism, on the one hand, the text says nothing: if it did, it would be asserted for the unbelieving husband or wife, no less than for the children. On the other hand, it is a mean and untrue sense of
ἡγίασται that it refers to the lawfulness or validity of the marriage, especially as all turns on the faith of at least one of the parties. So Mr. Booth’s effort to render
ἐν to, instead of “in,” is futile. Luke 1:17, l Thessalonians 4:7, and 2 Peter 1:5, 6, 7, give not the least warrant for it, any more than 1 Corinthians 7:15. The first is elliptic, and has a pregnant force. John was to turn disobedient ones not merely to, but so as to abide in, thoughts of just men. (2) God called us, says the apostle to the Thessalonians, not for uncleanness, but in sanctification, which similarly is far stronger than
εἰς, to. (8) Peter calls on the christian Jews, in their faith to supply or have also virtue, in virtue, knowledge, etc.; as Paul reminds the Corinthians, God hath called us in peace.
It remains clear then that the unbelieving husband is sanctified in virtue of the christian wife, and the children holy, to the relief of those that were troubled by scruples from God’s judgment of such a state of things among the Jews. God’s grace in the gospel reverses the sentence of the law, to the pure making pure what had hitherto been unclean. Otherwise it might have seemed the duty of the believing husband to have put away his unbelieving wife and their children, as Gentile admixture was abhorrent to the law. Hence the apostle keeps up the language of the Jewish ceremonial, even where he determines the question by God’s gracious and holy sanction of such marriages and their offspring, in contrast with the obligation of the Jews as shown in Ezra and Nehemiah.
We have now the question raised of separation on the part of the unbeliever. “But if the unbelieving separateth himself, let him be separated. The brother or the sister64 is not in bondage in such [circumstances]: but God hath called us65 in peace. For what knowest thou, O wife, if thou shalt save thy husband? or what knowest thou, O husband, if thou shalt save thy wife? Only66 as the Lord67 divided68 to each, as God†† hath called each, so let him walk. And so I ordain in all the assemblies.” (Ver. 15-17.) Thus, if the unbelieving party in the relationship were to sever himself from the other, the believer is released from bondage, be it the brother or the sister in the case. Not that such an act on the unbeliever’s side gives to the believer thus abandoned licence to marry, but that the believer is thereby left the more free to serve the Lord by the other’s separation. Such a union after all is apt to involve strife, the natural man hating the life of the Spirit. Not that this would justify anything on the believer’s part to break the marriage tie: the unbeliever is supposed to have broken it of himself or even herself; and “in peace hath God called us,” (or “you,”) not to seek separation. On the contrary, whatever the trial involved in such a life, the brother or the sister must earnestly desire the salvation of the unbeliever; but this after all is in God’s disposal. “For what knowest thou, woman, if thou shalt save the husband? or what knowest thou, husband, if thou shalt save the wife?” If it were so, what a joy! We have to acquiesce therefore in the ordering of the Lord and as we should on no account take the initiative into our own hands, so also to save the unbeliever is a question, and should not swamp everything else. Thus the apostle even here cautions by pressing the rule, whatever the issue: “Only as the Lord divided to each, as God hath called each, so let him walk.” This was intended to guard against undue or excessive feeling. Our place is one of intelligent subjection, owning the Lord’s allotment and God’s call: the one at the time of conversion, the other the permanent condition. So was each to walk. If Judaism enfeebled, Christianity strengthened a sense of relationship, and meets every difficulty and complication in grace. Nor was the apostle laying down anything peculiar on the Corinthians because of their peculiar circumstances: “So I ordain in all the assemblies.” There may be ever so many assemblies, but the order of all is one, and apostolic authority is universal. Nothing is more opposed to its true idea than ecclesiastical independency. The notion of different bodies, each with a distinct regimen, is a modern invention, while the assumption of a continual power of regulation in or over the church may be ancient but is no better. Neither the one nor the other was “from the beginning,” when the foundation was laid by the apostles and prophets. There is no authoritative regulation now outside the word of God, though the Lord raises up those that guide and take the lead, but they, as all, are bound by scripture to which the Spirit answers in power.
It will be seen that the authorised version following the common text inverts the true relationships here. It is God that has called, the Lord that divided, not the converse, as in what is known as the Received Text.
“Was any one called circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Hath any one been called in uncircumcision? Let him not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping God’s commandments. Let each abide in that calling in which he was called. Wast thou called [as] a bondman? Let it not be a care to thee; but if also thou canst be free, use [it] rather. For the bondman called in [the] Lord is [the] Lord’s freedman: likewise he that was called free is Christ’s bondman. Ye were bought with a price; become not bondmen of men. Brethren, wherein each was called, in this let him abide with God.” (Vers. 18-24.) Christ thus raises the Christian superior to all circumstances. Hence, when called of God, it is not worth while to change. Why should the circumcised man care to disguise or obliterate the fact of his circumcision? Why should the uncircumcised seek or submit to it? It is no longer a question of distinctions in the flesh. What God values, and what the Christian should, is keeping His commandments, not forms of truth or schools of doctrine, which are an unquestionable danger. The believer is sanctified to obedience, and this, the obedience of Christ, not that of a Jew, as the apostle of the circumcision himself insists. (1 Peter 1:2.) So does the apostle of the uncircumcision here.
But we are led somewhat farther. “In the calling in which each was called, in this let him abide. Wast thou called a bondman? Let it” (that is, the bondage) “not be a care to thee. But if also thou canst be free, use it” (that is, the freedom) “rather.” I am aware that many in ancient (Chrysostom, Theodoret, Oecum., Phot., etc.,) and in modern times (Bengel, De Wette, Estius, Meyer, etc.) take this last verse (21) quite differently, supposing it to mean, Even if thou canst be free, use it rather (that is, the bondage). Prefer to be a slave rather than a freeman. This however appears not only to be extravagant, but to make the human circumstances of too much weight, as if slavery were more favourable for christian walk than freedom. Yet even the Syriac so construed the words; and such is the view taken in one of the most recent of English versions. The true sense is given in the authorised Bible; and such was the conviction of the Reformers and of most since the Reformation.
It may be well to notice here the grounds of the question. The Dean of Canterbury thus argues for the sense of remaining rather in slavery: “This rendering .... is required by the usage of the particles,
εἰ καί — by which, see Hartung, Partikel-lehre, i. 139, the
καί, ‘also’ or ‘even,’ does not belong to the
εἰ, as in
καὶ εἰ, but is spread over the whole contents of the concessive clause. . . . It is also required by the context: for the burden of the whole passage is, ‘Let each man remain in the state in which he was called.’“ It is remarkable that the same commentator, in his note on, Mark 14:29, seems to reverse this statement, and says that the
εἰ intensifies the whole hypothesis; the
εἰ intensifies only that word which it introduces in the hypothesis, citing Klotz on Devar. p. 519 f. (I cite from the fifth edition of both vols.) Allowing however that the latter is incorrect, I maintain that the principle is quite consistent with the ordinary version and view. For the effect of
εἰ is in some cases simply to emphasize the verb that follows; whereas
καὶ εἰ, were this the reading, would really be more in favour of the sense desired. For we should then translate it, Wert thou called, a slave? Let it not trouble thee; but even if thou canst become free, use it [that is, slavery] rather. But these very epistles to the Corinthians furnish plain instances, which prove what is just affirmed. Thus, in 1 Corinthians 4:7, the Dean gives (New Testament newly compared, 1870) “if thou didst receive.” As Madvig observes, the
καί is often best rendered by the emphatic present or past (do, did), or emphatic auxiliary. So 2 Cor. 4:3, 16; 2 Cor. 5:16; 2 Cor. 7:8 (three times), 12; 2 Cor. 11:6, 15; 2 Cor. 12:11. In every case the right rendering is “if also” where an additional fact is intended; “if even” or “though” where it is not.
In the text under discussion then the apostle meets the question as to one called while a slave by the answer, Let it (that is,
δουλεία, understood from the preceding
δοῦλος) not be a care to thee; as he meets the added supposition, but if also thou canst be free, which of course might occasionally be, rather use it (that is,
ἐλευθερίᾳ, understood from the preceding
ἐλεύθερος). The context is in no way decisive against this; for as abiding in the marriage state has the exceptional provision for separation enforced by the unbeliever, so for the slave there is the analogous provision for the use and even preference of freedom. Manifestly too if the unmarried have an advantage in being less divided in caring for the things of the Lord, a similar remark tells perhaps as much in favour of the freeman compared with the slave. (See vers. 32-85.) The objections urged are null. Thus
καί is in its right position here, not after
ἀλλ᾽ εἰ is required rather than
εἰ δέ as one may see by comparing 2 Corinthians 4:16, and Philippians 2:17. Nor is a demonstrative needed after
χρῆσαι more than before
μελέτω. The imputation of inconsistency with the general context and with verse 22 in particular has been already disposed of; the depreciation of the prevalent view of the apostolic precept as “worldly wisdom” is as unjust, as it seems important to rescue his teaching from the total absence of sobriety implied in the preference of slavery to freedom. Galatians 3:28, and 1 Corinthians 7:29-31, are quite consistent, and with one equally as the other. Nor is there any weight in the argument as to
χράομαι, the import of which suits the use of freedom as a new thing no less than slavery as an old. Besides, it was meant to express not the act of entrance on freedom, implied in
ἐλεύθερος γενέσθαι, but of using it when given. Indeed it is evident that, as the other view of slavery,
μ. χρῆσαι is a hard or vague phrase, and thus differently understood by Bengel, etc., of late, as compared with Chrysostom of old.
The apostle explains, “For the bondman that was called in [the] Lord is [the] Lord’s freedman.” Such is the correct force, “freedman” rather than freeman.
ἀπελεύθερος means one who was made free, not who was free-born. It is the accurate term here, and it is the more emphatic, because freeman or free-born
(ἐλεύθερος) follows immediately. “Likewise he that was called [being] free is Christ’s bondman.” Christ alone puts every one in his place and true light: emancipation by human means cannot effect or approach it. The christian slave is the Lord’s freeman; the christian freeman is Christ’s slave. The Lord’s authority breaks the fetters of the one to his faith; the grace of Christ reduces the other to slavery for his heart. “Ye were bought with a price.” Whether it be the freeman or the bondman, all were bought. The saints are the purchase of Christ’s blood: so indeed is all the world; but believers alone acknowledge it, and they are called to act on it. “Be [or become] not slaves of men:” an exhortation as incumbent on the free as on the slave. A single eye alone secures true service, and yet is perfect liberty. They were already serving the Lord Christ: only so can the Christian serve aright in any case.69 Strange to say, none are so prone to slip into human bondage as those who profess the Lord’s name: so the second Epistle to the Corinthians shows. But this was real forgetfulness of Christ and unfaithfulness to Him. Christianity in its true power brings into responsibility no less than into liberty, and as this is true in doctrine, so it is of all consequence to be remembered in practice. “Wherein each was called, brethren, in this let him abide with God.” “The calling” appears to mean a man’s providential condition when called of God, as here we see it applied to circumcision or uncircumcision, freedom or slavery, not earthly occupations, commonly supposed, some of which might involve not a little that would clash with God’s word and offend a Christian’s conscience. Here all pleas for continuance in evil, because one was converted by God’s grace spite of them, is effectually cut off, for the believer is called to abide “with God.” If one cannot continue with God, it is high time to ask His direction who assuredly never calls a saint to do evil but to cease from it at all cost.
The apostle had spoken of the married relation, Christians on both sides or mixed. Now he takes up the unmarried. “Now concerning virgins command of [the] Lord have I none, but I give an opinion as having received mercy of [the] Lord to be faithful. I think therefore that this is good because of the present necessity that [it is] good for a man to be so. Art thou bound to a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. But if even thou shouldest have married, thou didst not sin; and if the virgin should have married, she did not sin. But such shall have tribulation in the flesh; but I am sparing you.” (Vers. 25-28.)
In “virgins” or
οἱ παρθένοι we see an usage of the word not exactly unknown in classical Greek (see Jacob’s Index to the Anth. Gr.) but so unusual that most New Testament commentators seem indisposed to allow it. Of the ancients Theodore of Mopsuestia found no harshness in the language. “
Ὁτ᾽ ἂν οὖν εἴπη περὶ τῶν παρθένων, δῆλον ὅτι περὶ τῆς παρθενίας λέγει, τὰ ὅμοια καὶ ἐπὶ τούτου περί τε τῶν ἀνδρῶν καὶ τῶν γυναικῶν φθεγγόμενος. As to its contextual propriety there ought to be no doubt. That it should be rarely said of males in ordinary Greek authors no one acquainted with the morality of the heathen can be surprised at. If therefore it were absolutely strange among their productions, I should not consider this a valid objection to its extension in christian or apostolic hands. What believer would limit
ἀγάπη to its sense in classic Greek? We shall find a further use of the word, lower down, natural indeed yet uncommon, the admission of which appears to be essential to a due understanding of the closing verses, where it is used for a man’s own state, not of his daughter; but of this more in its own place.
It is the general question of entering on the married relation by brother or sister; and this too the apostle solves, not on the Lord’s authority as commanding, but by giving a judgment of his own grounded on the opposition of the age to Christianity. It is not the instant but the present necessity which makes it best to remain as one is: such is the force of the word everywhere else in the New Testament as in other writings. It was then existing, not impending merely; nor is there any reason that I know to think that it does not exist still, as it will till the Lord come. Men habitually deny, as Christians are too apt to forget, it; but the apostle had it ever before him and sets it before us. He never conceives of a truth, especially one so solemn, without a corresponding effect on practice. Till the day of the Lord the earth is a scene of wickedness, confusion, and misery: why act as one who likes a settled life there, if indeed you are a pilgrim and stranger? It is not the special time of tribulation or of apostasy before the Lord comes in judgment that he has before him, but that the gospel necessarily encounters enmity where in its purity the world discovers its own doom as unbelieving and already judged.
Yet the apostle guards the abuse of his commending a single life to the Christian ordinarily. The married should not seek its dissolution, any more than the single seek to be so bound; and again he would keep the conscience free for such as might marry. Neither man nor woman sins in being married, whatever may be its inexpediency to the christian judgment. For trouble in the flesh is inevitable for such, and the apostle desired that they should be spared this.
Next he recurs to the topic of faith’s estimate of present things, not more constantly before him than needed by the Christian. “But this I say, brethren:70 the season is straitened: henceforth71 that both those that have wives be as having none, and those that weep as weeping not, and those that rejoice as rejoicing not, and those that buy as possessing not, and those that use the world72 as not using [it] for themselves; for the fashion of the world passeth away.” (Vers. 29-81.) It is no common-place on the brevity of time, but the solemn affirmation that the time is shortened henceforth (that is, as I suppose, since Christ’s death and the call of the church) in order that the believer should hold all but Christ with a loose hand — all things in which men might rejoice, however sorrowful their lot may be. But the Saviour has changed all for the Christian, who looks on the earth as His place of rejection and follows Him in spirit into the heavens now opened, whence he in peace awaits Him with joy unspeakable and full of glory. This world has really no more permanence than the shifting scenes of a theatre.
The construction here given of the opening clause seems to me the true one; others involve us in harshness and break the connection.
“But I would have you to be without care. The unmarried cares for the things of the Lord, how he shall please the Lord; but he that hath married careth for the things of the world how he shall please his wife. Divided also73 is both the wife and the virgin: the unmarried careth for the things of the Lord that she may be holy both74 in body and in spirit; but she that hath married careth for the things of the world how she shall please her husband. But this I say for your own profit, not that I may cast a snare [lit. a noose] over you, but for what [is] seemly and waiting on; the Lord undistractedly.” (Vers. 32-35.) Here the apostle urges the greater exemption from earthly anxiety for serving and pleasing the Lord, which the single man or woman enjoys as compared with the married. There is less weight in the race and less distraction from the goal. Yet even here the apostle speaks with caution and delicacy. He would not entangle any, he sought their welfare with a view to seemliness and undistracted attendance on the Lord.
εὐπάρεδρον all the most ancient uncials and many cursives, etc.
Here however I must take the opportunity of protesting against the remarks of a late commentator. “Since he [the apostle] wrote, the unfolding of God’s providence has taught us more of the interval before the coming of the Lord than it was given even to an inspired apostle to see. And as it would be perfectly reasonable and proper to urge on an apparently dying man the duty of abstaining from contracting new worldly obligations — but both unreasonable and improper should the same person recover his health, to insist on his abstinence any longer: so now, when God has manifested His will that nations should rise up and live and decay, and long centuries elapse, before the day of the coming of Christ, it would be manifestly unreasonable to urge — except in so far as every man’s
συνεσταλμένος, and similar arguments are applicable — the considerations here enforced.” This may sound plausible to men in Christendom who have let slip the view scripture gives of the total ruin of man and the world, and the imminence of that judgment of the quick on which all the inspired writings insist, just as truly as those of Paul. To my mind it is a lamentable pandering to unbelief and worldliness, as it springs from the lowest conception of the authority of God’s word. Doubtless the truth was so revealed that none beforehand could know that God would lengthen out the interval which severs from us the coming of the Lord. But the moral grounds are increasingly strong, not weaker. The apparently dying man is now only a great deal nearer more evidently the moment of dissolution instead of his having recovered health and strength so as fittingly to enter on new obligations. The deepening darkness of Jew and Gentile, and not of Mahometanism only but of professing Christendom, warns every eye which can see that a crisis from God is at hand; while the bright hope of the Christian, independent though it be itself of all circumstances, and essentially of heaven with Christ, shines out but the more if possible as he sees the day approaching.
It is in the next section that we have
ἡ παρθένος employed as equivalent to
ἡ παρθενία. For there is no question here of a man’s daughter but of his own state. The Lord deserves to have us wholly devoted to Himself. This is true christian reckoning. “But if any one thinketh that he is behaving unseemly to his virginity, if he be past his prime, and so it ought to be, let him do what he will: he is not sinning: let them marry. But he who standeth firm in his heart, having no necessity, and hath authority over his own will, and hath judged this in his own75 heart to keep his own virginity shall do† well. So that he that marrieth‡ [his own virginity] doeth76 well, and he that marrieth77 not shall do better.” (Vers. 86-38.) Apparently this, the plain key to the passage, was not seen before the well-known Locke observed it, and produced excellent reasons drawn from the context, which commend themselves to any dispassionate mind. The great emphasis given to the heart’s purpose (for instance, “one’s own will” and “one’s own heart”) suits perfectly if it be a question of one’s own virginity, but how a daughter’s? There they sound beyond measure arbitrary and inconsiderate. If it mean one’s persevering unmarried himself, it is easy to see the force of all; as to a daughter or ward, it seems out of the way. The wonder is that Whitby should be among the few who follow Locke’s interpretation. The phrase is no doubt peculiar; but the apostle may have been influenced by the Hebrew idiom which uses the plural for the abstract idea. The singular seems more suited to the Greek tongue, which allows sometimes of a secondary sense, as e.g.
βίος life, and means of life.
“A wife is bound78 as long as her husband liveth; but should the husband79 have fallen asleep, she is free to be married to whom she will, only in [the] Lord. But she is happier if she so remain according to my opinion, and I also think that I have God’s Spirit.” (Vers. 39, 40.)
The close of the chapter takes up widows especially and is a remarkable instance of opposition between the apostle’s mind and the church councils which dared to treat a widow’s marrying as so evil that the church had to refuse its sanction and prayers. The marriage tie of believers is for life. Death separates. Not only the widower but the widow becomes thus free to marry again. But the apostle gives his judgment against it: not on moral grounds, of which only superstition could raise a question, but as the happier state to abide in. Even here we have no such language as sprang up later when celibacy was cried up as the highest of christian virtues, and re-marriage was denounced as unchristian. On the contrary, even for the widow, the apostle qualifies her marrying again “only in the Lord:” a phrase which goes farther than the fact that both are Christians and demands that it be after a christian sort. Yet here again the apostle points out what he judged more expedient on spiritual grounds. Had others given a different opinion? He, if any man might, gives his judgment as one who thought he had God’s Spirit. He was inspired to put it thus, not as if he were of doubtful mind, but as avoiding an express command from the Lord, and rather as a matter of apostolic counsel.
1 Corinthians 8.
The apostle now turns to another subject which presented dangers to the saints in Corinth.
“But concerning the things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge: knowledge puffeth up, but love edifieth. If80 any one thinketh that he knoweth” anything, not yet81 knoweth82 he as he ought to know; but if any one loveth God, he is known by him. Concerning the eating, then, of the things sacrificed to idols, we know that [there is] no idol in [the] world, and that [there is] no83 God save one. For even if there are [so]-called gods, whether in heaven, or on earth, as there are gods many and lords many; yet to us [there is] one God the Father, of whom [are] all things, and we unto him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom [are] all things, and we by him. Howbeit not in all [is] the knowledge, but some with conscience of the idol until now eat as of a thing sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But meat shall84 not commend us to God ;85 neither if we eat have we the advantage, nor if we eat not do we come short. But see lest in anywise this your authority become a stumbling-block to the weak. For if any one see thee who hast knowledge sitting at table in an idol’s temple, shall not his conscience, as he is weak, be emboldened to eat the things sacrificed to idols? And he that is weak perisheth86 by87 thy knowledge, the brother for whom Christ died? But thus sinning against the brethren, and wounding their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore if meat stumble my brother, I will in nowise eat flesh for ever, that I may not stumble my brother.” (Chap. 8:1-18.)
ἐγνώκεναι A B D E F G P and several cursives, etc., but K L and most cursives
εἰδέναι: the former, objective knowledge, the latter, inward conscious knowledge, as remarked by another.
The construction of the opening sentence has led to some difference of judgment and arrangement. Griesbach and Scholz, among editors, insert marks of parenthesis from after “we know,” in verse 1, to the end of verse 8, which involves translating
ὅτι “for,” or “because.” This was the view of Luther, Bengel, Valcknaer, and others; but it is liable to the objection that in the resumed sentence “
ὅτι,” after the second
οἴδαμεν, certainly means “that.” I am therefore disposed to take it so in the former case. Mr. T. S. Green, etc., would begin the parenthesis with
πάντες which necessitates singular abruptness in the structure. According to that which most commends itself to me, the apostle does not dispute that we Christians as such have knowledge; but he soon proceeds to show how empty it is without that love which brings in the consideration of others, and, above all, God Himself. This leads him to compare knowledge, in which they boasted, with love, which they overlooked, or ignored. The one puffs up, the other builds up. Love is only known in God’s presence, where self is judged. Knowledge in one’s own opinion is not love, which is inseparable from the new nature. For he who is born of God loves, having the nature of Him who is love. The apostle however says not that he who loves God knows Him, but that he is known by Him. The turn may be unexpected, and has embarrassed the critics, but its propriety is unquestionable. Not that the believer does not know Him, as indeed it is eternal life (cf. John 17:3; 1 John 4:6-18), but that it was seasonable for the consciences of the Corinthians to weigh that he is known of Him — a serious but blessed and blessing consideration. There is no sufficient or right ground therefore for taking
ἔγνωσται in a Hophal sense — “hath been caused to know.” It is really the converse (see Gal. 4:9). Nor is there need to give it the sense of approval. The best meaning is its ordinary one.
It would seem also that the parallelism in the last clause of verse 4 favours our translating
οὐδὲν εἴδωλον ἐν κόρμῳ as “there is no idol,” rather than, “an idol is nothing in the world,” though in itself equally legitimate. It is quite true, as the prophets assert, that the idols of the Gentiles are vanities and impotence; but here the apostle appears to affirm that they had no existence in the world. There were no such beings as they associated with their idols. Later on he shows there were demons behind, as indeed the law intimated. (Deut. 32:17.)
The apostle, as all can see, refers not to the decrees of the apostles, though we know that he and his companions instructed the assemblies they visited to observe them. He meets the question on intrinsic grounds, according to the principle of his own apostleship, in no way as leading men to think that the apostolic decrees were not binding on the whole church. It is monstrous to infer the competency of Christians, even then, or at any time, to open and question a matter thus decided. Such an idea could only lead to lawlessness and presumption, especially in presence of the solemn claims of what seemed good to the Holy Spirit and the apostles. Their determination however was not at all impaired, but confirmed, by the apostle’s dealing with the question on its own merits, and settling it similarly. He allows then, that there was no such thing as the heathen conceived in an idol, and no God save one. He insists that, whatever the multiplicity of so-called gods and lords in heaven or on earth, to us there is but one God, the Father, source of the universe and object88 of our being and obedience, and one everything was absolutely indifferent and open. Love Lord, Jesus Christ, who has taken the place of administrator of all and mediator of redemption. But it would be rash and precarious to reason hence that takes account of things and beings as seen in the light of God; it seeks not its own things but the things of others — of Jesus Christ above all.
But conscientious men are apt to be slow in apprehension, often much more so than those who are less exercised. For them the apostle would have us feel. Howbeit knowledge, or that knowledge, is not in all: but some, with conscience of the idol until now, eat as of a thing sacrificed to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. They were not at all assured of the nonentity of these false gods. The Sinaitic, Vatican, Alexandrian, and Porphyrian uncials, four or five cursives, and several of the most ancient versions, etc., read
συνηθείᾳ, “through custom,” not conscience, that is, from their habituation; and so Lachmann and Tischendorf. Doubting thus, they were condemned when they ate; and Satan thus took advantage of them through guilty fears. The apostle admits that food will not commend us to God. Those who pleaded their title should see that its exercise did not stumble the weak. What if the weak one imitated it with a conscience not free and emboldened or edified the wrong way, and the brother for whom Christ died perished? For scripture characterizes an act according to its tendency, without palliating it by the resources of grace in arresting the issue. To sin thus against the brethren, to wound their weak conscience, is to sin against Christ. The apostle closes this part of his subject by a fervid declaration of his refusal of a thing otherwise open to him, if it were the occasion of stumbling to his brother. Such is love according to Christ.
45 A B C Dp.m. six cursives, Pesch. Syr. Copt. Aeth. Vulg. with ancient Greek and Latin fathers, omit
ὡς before “absent in body.”
46 The grammar seems a little harsh, but it is in order to give special prominence to the guilty person, who follows
47 A, etc., raise a question as to
48 The italics are the Dean’s. I quote his words in no way as authoritative, but as a just rebuke of an unholy principle and aim by one who might be thought rather disposed to palliate evil. Much more guilty are those who should know and do better.
49 The best MSS. ( p.m. A B C D E Fp.m. 17, 46, 93, vv. and father.) omit
καί, which T. R. puts with L P, etc., some vv. and ff.
καί in A B C Dp.m. F G P and some cursives, for
ἤ, as in T. R
ἤ Steph. several uncials and vv.
52 A B C F, etc. VV. omit kaiv.
κρίνει L and many more,
κρινεῖ Bc. P, etc.
καί here D3 L, contrary to A B C Dp.m. F G P, etc.
55 A B C Dp.m. F G P, at least ten cursives, etc., read
ἤ omitted in Tex, Rec. on the authority of two or three uncials and most cursives.
56 p m. Dp.m., several cursives, etc., omit
57 So it is,
τοῦτο, in A B C D E P, etc.;
ταῦτα in Tex. Rec., with L and most cursives, etc.
Χριστού is here read by B C D p.m. E P, some cursives, and almost all the ancient versions, etc.
ἤ is read by A B C F G P and other authorities.
σῶμα Ap.m. B C D E F G K P, etc,;
τὰ σώματα Ap.m. L, many cursives, etc.
61 The common reading
καὶ ἐν τῳ πνεύματι ὑμῆν, ἅτινά ἐστι τοῦ θεοῦ is absent from A B Cs.m. Dp.m. E F G, and many excellent witnesses.
62 The best MSS ( A B C K L Q, etc.) do not give
τῃ πιστῃ as in D E F G and some ancient versions
ἀδελφῳ is read by p m. A B a D p.m. E F G P, etc.,
ἀνδρί by the mass, and by almost all the ancient versions.
ἡ is omitted by p.m. F G P, etc.
65 p.m. A C K, etc, have
εἰ μή is in some cursives and ancient commentators changed into
ἢ μή and joined with the foregoing, evidently to escape a difficulty. It appears to be really an elliptic phrase to the effect that there is no more to say except that, etc.; which we turn briefly by “But,” or “Only”
67 In the first clause
ὁ κύριος A B C D E F G, many cursives, versions, etc.; in the second
ὁ θεός A B C D E F, and many cursives, versions, etc.
68 p.m. B read
μεμέρικεν “hath divided.”
69 Whitby’s idea is very poor: that the exhortation was to slaves who had been freed not to sell themselves into slavery again. Not only is it a word for all Christians bond or free, but it is a warning against a more subtle bondage into which the free might slip as much as the bond.
ὅτι D E F G, many cursives, and versions (and so the Elzevir T. R., not R. S.), but A B K L P, thirty cursives, etc., reject it.
71 F G and other authorities read
ἐστίν λοιπόν ἐστιν. R. S. has
τὸ λοιπόν ἐστιν. Elz and Griesbach without the colon.
τὸυ κ. p.m. A B, Arm. Cop. Basm., changed into
τῳ κ. τούτῳ in most uncials and cursives, and so in T. R. to accord with usual grammar. Alford is wrong however in denying the ace. in Xen.
Αγ. xi. x.,
Π. viii. i. 1.
καὶ μ. A B D P, many cursives and versions, omitted in T. R., following most authorities, as also before
ἡ γ. which has overwhelming weight. Lachmann and Reiche point thus:
γυναικί, καὶ μεμέρισται. καὶ ἡ γ.,., κ.τ.λ..
καὶ τῳ σ. B, F, G K L, etc.
αὐτοῦ supported by the best MSS is wanting in T. R. in the first case,
ἰδίᾳ, in the second.
76 The fut. A B., etc.; the pres. most MSS, etc.; and so in the end of verse 38.
γαμίζων in both places is sustained by the best witnesses, as is the addition of
τὴν ἑαυτοῦ παρθένον, though the order is not always the same, and it may have been inserted.
νόμῳ is added in Tex. Rec. with many excellent authorities, but the best omit it.
αὐτῆς is added in T. R. following many witnesses, but not the highest.
δέ in Text. Rec. is not in B P) several cursives, and ancient versions.
οὔπω A B P, six cursives, etc.,
οὐδέπω the mass. The best do not add
ἔγνω A B Dp.m. F G P, seven cursives, etc.
ἕτερος is not in p.m. A B D E F G P, many cursives, etc.
παραστήσει p.m. A B, several cursives, versions, etc., instead of
παρίστησι (“commendeth”) corr D E L P, and most cursives, Ital., Vulg., etc.
γάρ, added in Text. Rec., is not in A B) etc., several ancient versions, but in most MSS and versions. There is a difference of order also in the copies as to the clauses.
καὶ ἀπολεῖται Text. Rec.. with most of the witnesses. B and a few other authorities read
ἀπόλλυται γάρ many giving the present who read
ἐν A B D E F G P, etc.
ἐπί (“for”) Text. Rec. L and most cursives, etc.
88 The text of the English Bible “in” is quite wrong, as are many commentators, such as Calvin, etc.; the marginal correction “for” is right.