Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1:1-9


Summary of 1:1-9~In his own name and in that of Sosthenes St Paul, while asserting his Apostolic authority, greets the faithful of Corinth and of all Achaia with the wish that they may enjoy all heavenly grace and peace.  He gives thanks to God for the many divine favors conferred upon them, and expresses the hope that, through the goodness of the Eternal Father and their union with Christ, these blessings may abide with them throughout life.

1:1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God, and Sosthenes a brother.

1:1 Paul, called to be an apostle, etc. See on Romans 1:1.  Although St Paul was called immediately by Christ to be an Apostle (Acts 11:3 ff; 20:7 ff; 26:13 ff), the reference here is perhaps not so much to the manner as to the fact of his divine vocation.

Jesus Christ.  There is about equal authority in the MSS. for the reading, “Christ Jesus.”

By the will of God, i.e., not by his own, or by any other human choice did St Paul become an Apostle, but only by the call of God.  He was therefore not free to refuse the Apostolate.  See on Gal 1:15-16.

Sosthenes a brother. Literally, the brother, i.e., a fellow-Christian.  All we know of this person is that he must have been an intimate associate of St Paul’s and well known to the Corinthians.  Le Camus and others identify him with the ruler of the synagogue spoken of in Acts 18:17, who, by this time, had become a fervent Christian and follower of St Paul.  Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. 1. 12) says he was one of the seventy-two disciples of out Lord (see Luke 10:1-12).

Sosthenes was not a joint-composer of this letter (Findlay), but a witness of it.  Some think he was the Apostle’s secretary, who wrote it down; but it is not St Paul’s custom to mention the name of his secretary (cf. Rom 16:22).

1:2 To the church of God that is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that invoke the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, in every place theirs and ours.

Church.  See on Gal 1:2.  Of God. This is added by St Paul to show both the divine origin and the unity of the true Church; “the name of the Church is not one of separation, but of unity and concord” (St John Chrysostom).

To them that are sanctified, i.e., to those who, through Baptism, have been cleansed from sin and consecrated in Christ Jesus to God.  The words  in Christ Jesus indicate the meritorious cause of our sanctification.  The use of the perfect participle, ηγιασμενοις, have been sanctified, shows that the holy state of the regenerated is supposed to continue.

Called to be saints.  Literally, “called saints,” i.e., saints through their call.  The Corinthians, like all Christians, are called to sanctify; and this call is due, not to themselves or their own merits, but solely to the gratuitous grace of God.  We are not to infer from the phrase here that the faithful of Corinth were called directly and immediately by God; their vocation was through the preaching and labors of St Paul and his co-workers.

With all that invoke, etc. These words are not addressed to all the Churches of the whole world.  They may be connected with the beginning of the verse; or, less probably, with the phrase “called to be saints.”  In the first case the meaning is that the Apostle salutes not only the Corinthians, but all the faithful of the Roman Province of Achaia.  In this interpretation the following words of the verse, in every place, etc., refer to all the places that have Corinth for their capital, and that have been evangelized by Paul and his companions.

If we connect the above passage with “called to be saints,” the sense is that the Apostle salutes only the faithful of Corinth, whose call to sanctity is the same as that of all who invoke the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place.  According to this interpretation the final words, of theirs and ours, are connected with name of our Lord, etc., and mean, “of their Lord and ours.”

1:3 Grace to you, and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

See on Rom. 1:7.  Cf. 1 Thess 1:1 and 3:11, where the Father and the Son stand together as subjects of a verb in the singular, showing the perfect unity of their nature.

1:4 I give thanks to my God always for you, for the grace of God that is given you in Christ Jesus,

1:4 See on Rom 1:8.  The Apostle here speaks in the singular, in his own name, as sole author of this Epistle.  He thanks God for the graces given to the Corinthians at the time of their conversion, without saying whether that happy condition has persisted.

Always, i.e., as often as he prayed he actually thanked God for them.

In Christ Jesus, i.e., through Christ, as the medium of their graces, or as united to Christ.

1:5 that in all things you are made rich in him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;

That in all things, etc.  Better, “Because in all things (εν  παντι, in a distributive sense) you have been,” etc., i.e., in all things conducive to salvation.  Two of the graces received by the Corinthians at their Baptism are now mentioned.

In all utterance, and in all knowledge, i.e., in the Gospel truths that had been preached to them, and in their understanding of those truths (St Thomas, Cornely, etc).  Since knowledge is prior to expression, “utterance” does not seem the proper word for λογω here; neither is the reference to the gift of tongues, but rather, as we have said, to the teaching the Corinthians had heard preached by St Paul and his companions.

knowledge means such an understanding of the doctrine they had received as would enable them to explain it and give their reasons for holding it (St Thomas).  The Corinthian Church as a body had heard and understood all the teachings that were necessary for salvation.

1:6 as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you,

The abundance of doctrine and understanding which the Corinthians enjoyed is explained by the way in which the Gospel was preached among them; for the testimony of Christ, i.e., the preaching of the Apostles (Acts 1:8; 26:16; 2 Tim 1:8) was confirmed, i.e., was firmly established by means both of the external miracles which the Corinthians witnessed, and of the internal gifts and graces that they experienced.

1:7. So that nothing is wanting to you in any grace, waiting for the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The greatness of the divine gifts enjoyed by the faithful of Corinth is seen in this, that nothing is wanting to you, etc., i.e., they are not inferior in grace to any other Churches or any other Christians.  That the term χαρισματι (translated above as “grace”) here does not mean only gratiae gratis datae (1 Cor 12), but also gratia sanctificans is evident from the fact that it enabled the soul to look forward with faith and confidence to the manifestation, i.e., to the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ as judge.

Here again the Apostle is speaking of the Corinthians as a body.  We shall see later (3:1 ff) that there were among them some who were far from perfect.

1:8. Who also will confirm you unto the end without crime, in the day of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

After thanking God for the gifts already conferred on the Corinthians the Apostle proceeds to give thanks for those benefits which he trusts the heavenly Father is yet to grant them; or, according to others, he passes from an act of thanksgiving for gifts received to an act of petition for new benefits (cf. Cornely, h. 1).  God who has given the first blessings (verse 4) will also confirm you, etc., i.e., He will continue to keep you firm in faith and in the practice of Christian virtue.  Who, therefore, refers more probably to God (verse 4) than to Jesus Christ of verse 7, otherwise the rest of this verse should read: “in the day of his coming” (Estius).

Unto the end, i.e., to the end of your life, or to the end of the world, so that you may be found without crime, i.e., free from sin, when Christ comes to judge you.  In the Last Judgment the just will be free from all sin, venial as well as mortal.

Of the coming (Vulgate, adventus) is not represented in the Greek.

1:9. God is faithful : by whom you are called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

The fidelity of God is the ground of the Apostle’s confidence and hope.  He who began the good work of calling the Corinthians to the faith will also by His gace continue to help them to complete their salvation and to arrive at the judgment free from offence.  He will give them the helps necessary to work out their salvation, and to perfect their adoption through grace as His sons and as brothers of Christ.

By whom you are called, etc.  Better, “Through whom you have been called,” etc.

Fellowship of Christ is the natural consequence of the Christian’s adoption, through grace, as the son of God (Gal 4:5-6).

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One Response to Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1:1-9

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A | stjoeofoblog

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