The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Fr. MacRory’s Summary of 1 Corinthians Chapter 1 With Commentary on 1:1-3

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 30, 2021

Text in red indicates my additions.


In the introduction to the Epistle (1 Cor 1:1-9) the apostle begins with a salutation (1 Cor 1:1-3), to which succeeds a thanksgiving for past divine favours conferred upon the Corinthian Church (1 Cor 1:4-7), and the expression of a well-grounded hope for the continuance of such favours in the future (1 Cor 1:8-9). Then the body of the Epistle opens with a solemn appeal against divisions and in behalf of unity (1 Cor 1:10), followed by a brief account of the nature of these divisions as reported to him (1 Cor 1:11-12), a summary reprobation of them (1 Cor 1:13), and a thanksgiving to God that St. Paul himself had given no occasion for them (1 Cor 1:14-17). As one of the chief causes of these divisions was an undue importance attached by the Corinthian Christians to  worldly learning and eloquence in their teachers, the Apostle now  shows that it was by Christ’s authority and for the greater glory of  the Cross of Christ that he had preached as he did (1 Cor 1:17-18). Such  a Gospel had been foretold (1 Cor 1:19) ; and whether account be taken of the Christian preachers (1 Cor 1:20) or the doctrine they preached (1 Cor 1:21-25) or the converts they made (1 Cor 1:26-28), God has set the wisdom of the  world at nought, in order that the triumph of the Christian faith  may not be due to human means (1 Cor 1:29), but to God alone in Christ  Jesus (1 Cor 1:30-31). 

1 Cor 1:1-3.

1 Cor 1:1.  The Apostle begins by declaring his Apostolic dignity. Many have held that he does so because his authority had been already questioned at Corinth. This is possible, but it must be borne in mind that in other Epistles where there could be no such motive, he begins by asserting his Apostleship (1 Tim 1;1; 2 Tim. 1:1; Tit. 1:1). An opening reference to it was natural in order to lend weight to his words. 

 “Called to be an Apostle.” This rendering of κλητὸς ἀπόστολος (kletos  apostolos), which is that of the Rheims version, is adopted also by the Revised Version. The words, which occur elsewhere in combination only in Rom. 1:1, prove that St. Paul had a Divine call to the office of Apostle. They hardly prove, what we know otherwise to be the fact (Acts 9:15-16), that he was called immediately by Christ, for in the next verse here we have the phrase ” called to be saints ” applied to the Christians of Achaia or of Corinth itself, and it cannot be meant that they were called immediately by Christ without man’s intervention. It is not clear whether we ought to read “Jesus Christ” with manuscripts such as A L P, Syr., Copt., Arm., Aeth., or “Christ Jesus” with manuscripts B D E F G 17, Am. The point is not important, but has interest in connection with the Apostle’s general usage. 

“By the will of God.” It was God’s will, not his own desire nor man’s choice, that was the cause of St. Paul’s being raised to the dignity of the Apostleship. God’s will, then, which is equivalent to God’s command (1 Tim. 1;1), had imposed upon him not only the dignity but also the duties of an Apostle. “And Sosthenes the brother.” Sosthenes must have been well and favourably known to the Christians of Corinth, secing that St. Paul associates him with himself in this salutation. The only person of the name mentioned in Scripture was the Ruler of the Synagogue in Corinth on the occasion of the Apostle’s first visit to the city (Acts 18:17). Very probably it is he that is referred to here. If so, he had already embraced the Christian faith, and was now with St. Paul at Ephesus. Deissmann (Bible Studies, pp. 37, 142) shows that long before Christians employed it in this sense, ἀδελφός (adelphos = brother)  was used of a fellow member of a religious body.

1 Cor 1:2. “To the Church of God that is at Corinth.” ἐκκλησίᾳ (ekklesia = church) which the Latins borrowed, designated in classical Greek the plenary deliberative assembly of all the free citizens of a city. With St. Paul it means sometimes a local] assembly of the faithful (1 Cor 1:18); then, in a wider sense, as here, all the faithful of a city or district; then, in a still wider sense, all the faithful—the Church, as we say now (e.g., 1 Cor 10:32; 15:9; Gal. 1:13).

“To them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus.” Many good authorities read this clause immediately after “to the Church of God,” and before “ that is at Corinth.” Whichever reading be followed, the sense is that in Baptism the members of the Church have been cleansed from their sins and sanctified separated from the world and united in Christ Jesus to the God of sanctity. The plural ἡγιασμένοις () coming after the collective singular, is probably meant to give prominence to the individual responsibility of the sanctified ; while the perfect participle does not merely mean, as the aorist would, that they were once sanctified, but implies that their sanctity still does or ought to continue. 

  Called to be saints.” As remarked already, this cannot mean that the Corinthian Christians had been called immediately by Christ. They had been called by God, but through the immediate agency of St. Paul and his fellow-workers. It is very significant that St. Paul habitually speaks of all Christians as “saints” (1 Cor 6:1-2; 14:33; 16:1, 15; Rom. 1:7; 8:27; 15:25, 26, 31, etc.), implying thereby that all are sanctified in Baptism, and called to a life of holiness. 

“With all that invoke the name,” etc. If this clause is to be connected with the opening words of the verse, as seems more probable, then the sense is that the Apostle salutes not only the church of Corinth, but with it all the Christians of the Roman Province of Achaia, of which Corinth was the capital (cf. 2 Cor. 1;1). The words: “in every place of theirs and ours” will then mean: in all the places that have Corinth for their metropolis, and us for their Apostles, and the same people will thus be saluted as in 2 Cor. 1:1. Others prefer to connect the present clause with “ called to be saints,” and then the meaning is that the Apostle salutes the Corinthian Christians, who are called to be saints with the same call given to all who invoke the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place. In this view the last words of the verse: “of theirs and ours” are most naturally connected with ” the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” as though the Apostle wrote: Did 1 say of our Lord?! Rather I ought to say “of their Lord and ours.” In neither of these views is the salutation directed to all the churches of the world ; in the first it is directed to all the churches of Achaia, in the second to the church of Corinth alone ; and certainly no view of the verse can be correct which would extend the salutation to all Christians and make the Epistle “Catholic,” for such a view is opposed to the whole tenor of the Epistle, which attends throughout to the needs and circumstances of a particular church or at most of the churches of a particular locality. 

1 Cor 1:3.  In vers1 we have the senders of the greeting, in verse 2 the recipients, and here the greeting itself. This form of salutation, with very slight changes in a few instances, is used by St. Paul in the beginning of all his Epistles. By “ grace ” some understand with Eatius (on Rom. 1:7) all the gratuitous gifts of God that lead to salvation, and by “ peace ” the calm and undisturbed possession of them—that holy and happy calm which the world can neither give nor take away. This peace is indeed itself a grace, but it is the fruit of all the others and their crown, and perhaps for this reason is mentioned separately. Others understand by “grace” God’s favour or goodwill (Luke 1:30), and by “peace” all spiritual bleesings flowing from that goodwill as their cause. 

 “From God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” It follows from this that to St. Paul Jesus Christ was God, since He is regarded equally with the Father as the source of grace and peace. For the gratuitous gifts that lead to Heaven can have only God as their source. Christ, then, is the source of grace, nor can the words be fairly interpreted in any other sense. Grammatically, indeed, they could mean “ from God the Father of us and of our Lord Jesus Christ,” and in that case there would be no argument afforded by the present text for Christ’s Divinity, but that meaning is absolutely excluded by many parallel , where ἡμῶν (“our”) does not occur and where the formula is: “from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:3; Eph. 6:23; 2 Tim. 1:2; Tit. 1:6; 2 Cor. 13:3; Philem. 25). By “God our Father” is meant here tho First Divine Person. The Blessed Trinity could indeed be called “our Father,” as in the Lord’s Prayer, but the mention of the Second Divine Person here immediately after, shows that the First Person is meant. As Christ can be called Lord without excluding the Father from Lordship, so the Father is called God without excluding Christ from Divinity.

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