This post begins with Fr. MacEvilly’s analysis of chapter 1, followed by his notes on the reading. I’ve included (in purple text) his paraphrase of the text he is commenting on.
Analysis of 1 Corinthians Chapter 1
The Apostle commences the Epistle with the usual form of Apostolical salutation (1 Cor 1:1-3). In the next place, he congratulates the Corinthians upon the manifold spiritual blessings conferred on them, the glory of which is to be referred to God, their bountiful dispenser, who will also bring these gifts to a happy issue (1 Cor 1:4-9). He implores them to heal the schism, of the existence of which amongst them he had been informed (1 Cor 1:10-12). He shows the consequences of the notions from which these divisions sprang-divisions to which he himself had given no occasion whatever (1 Cor 1:13-16). He afterwards traces this schism to its very source, viz.: the undue value set by some of them on the eloquence of their respective teachers; and he justifies, from the very economy and plan of human redemption, the simplicity of his own style of preaching. He wished, by this simple style of preaching, to preserve for the cross of Christ its full efficacy; for, whatever unbelievers might think of it, the faithful know that this cross is the power of God (1 Cor 1:17-18). He shows, by a reference to the prophet Isaiah, that human wisdom was to be excluded in the work of redemption (1 Cor 1:19); and he points out the actual fulfilment of this prophecy, by referring to their own experience (1 Cor 1:20). He shows the congruity of this adorable economy of God, in excluding human wisdom (1 Cor 1:21).
Another reason why the style of preaching should be simple is, that it should be accommodated to the subject; and this subject propounded by the divinely commissioned Apostles, being no other than Christ crucified, though a scandal to the Jews, and folly to the Gentiles, is to the believer, the wisdom and power of God (1 Cor 1:22-25).
Resuming the argument from experience referred to (1 Cor 1:22), he points out to them, in the next place, the description of persons whom God first called to the faith, or made instrumental in its propagation. They were devoid of all earthly recommendations (1 Cor 1:26). But this economy God fixed upon, to remove all grounds on the part of men for glorying in themselves, and to have all the glory of this great masterpiece of his power and wisdom referred, as was meet, to himself alone (1 Cor 1:27-31).
1Co 1:10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing and that there be no schisms among you: but that you be perfect in the same mind and in the same judgment.
I beseech you, then, brethren, in the name of Jesus Christ to whom you are indebted for the blessings now enumerated, to have the same sentiments on matters of religion, and to have no divisions amongst you; but to become of one mind, and one determination of acting in concert and harmony.
After having gained their good will by his conciliatory preface, in which he congratulates them on their manifold spiritual advantages, the Apostle enters on the first object of the Epistle, which is, the correction of abuses. The first abuse was, the existence of divisions and schisms amongst them. He implores of them to have the same sentiments, “speak the same thing,” ἱνα το αυτο λεγητε, which is the same as το αυτο or το ἑν φρονητε, i.e., have perfect concord and unanimity; “be perfect in the same mind,” i.e., in the same opinions, and “in the same judgments,” i.e., in the determination to act in concert together. The Greek for “perfect,” κατηρτισμενοι, conveys a metaphorical allusion to the repairing a broken vessel, or a rent garment; or, according to others, to the setting of a fractured limb, which was very applicable to the schism of the Corinthians, who were, members, of Christ’s mystic body.
1Co 1:11 For it hath been signified unto me, my brethren, of you, by them that are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
It is not without reason that I urge this request; for, it has been intimated to me by the domestics of Chloe, that there are contentions amongst you.
“Chloe” was probably, some pious and respectable Christian female, whose domestics informed the Apostle of the divisions existing among the Corinthians.
1Co 1:12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith: I indeed am of Paul; and I am of Apollo; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
The contentions to which I refer, are owing to this: that some amongst you select Paul for their teacher; others, Apollo; others, Cephas; while others, acting with greater wisdom, attach themselves to Christ.
The Apostle, in this verse, explains the nature of the contentions to which he refers. It does not appear that these divisions affected the integrity of their faith they were, however, opposed to charity, and they had a tendency to terminate, and might actually terminate, unless seasonably corrected, in a shipwreck of the faith of the Corinthians. “This I say,” what I mean is this: “I am of Paul, and I of Apollo.” The reason for following these is obvious; the one planted the faith amongst them, the other was distinguished for his eloquence. “And I am of Cephas.” This refers to St. Peter. The class who selected St. Peter as head may have been the Judaizantes, who preferred him in consequence of having specially exercised his apostleship among the Jews. According to others, these words refer to a class who, unwilling to join in the particular preference of any party, said—that they would associate themselves only to the visible head of the Church. It is more probable, however, that they refer to a contentious class. “And I of Christ.” This last class are commended for their religious ideas and conduct. They had no connexion with the other parties, but proclaimed themselves as followers of Christ, of whom the different preachers were only the servants and ministers.
1Co 1:13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul then crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
Is Christ, therefore, divided? Are there to be many Christs to serve as heads for each of the contending parties? Was it Paul, or any of the others, that was crucified to redeem and save you? Or, was it into the name of Paul (or any of the others) that you have been baptized?
The Apostle points out the monstrously blasphemous consequences that would flow from their line of conduct. Their mode of acting would imply a division in Christ; for, as the different parties require him—each for head—there should be many Christs to serve as heads for so many parties. “Was Paul, then, crucified?” They ought to follow him alone who ransomed and redeemed them; which, of course, neither Paul, nor any of the others, to whom they attached themselves as leaders, could have done. “Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” In Greek, εἰς το ὀνομα, &c., “into the name,” &c.; which may either mean, by the authority of Paul, or, more probably (as in Paraphrase), into the name of Paul; so that, instead of being called Christian, from your baptism, you would be called Paulinians, Apollonians, &c., as would be implied in your saying, “I am of Paul,” &c. Of course, the questions here proposed, regarding Paul, equally apply to the leaders of the other parties, so that he could say, “Has Peter been crucified for you, or Apollo?” &c. He speaks of himself, however, because it was not complimentary.
1Co 1:17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not in wisdom of speech, lest the cross of Christ should be made void.
(This I do not say to depreciate the ministry of baptism, or charge myself with neglect); for, the principal end of my mission from God, was not the ministry of baptism, but of preaching the word, and that, in a simple and plain style, devoid of human eloquence and philosophic reasoning—a style such as was alone fitted to manifest the full power and due efficacy of the cross in the great work of man’s redemption.
The Apostle now traces the divisions, of which he has been treating, to their proper source. The real cause of these divisions was an undue value attached by the Corinthian converts to the eloquence and reasoning powers displayed by some of their teachers, while preaching the humility of the cross. Upon this important point, the Apostle dwells at full length in this and the following chapters; and he says here, that in discharging the ministry of preaching the gospel, for which he was principally sent by God, he avoided setting forth the truths of redemption in a high-flowing strain of human eloquence, or in the abstruse and profound reasonings of philosophy. “Not in the wisdom of speech,” because such a mode of preaching would only have the effect of stripping the cross of all its power; for, then, men would be apt to attribute their faith to human agencies, to the eloquence of the orator, or to the reasoning of the philosopher, rather than to its true cause, viz., the all-powerful grace of God purchased on the cross; and it was through the instrumentality of the cross that God wishes to convert our souls; for, it was by the same that they were redeemed.