Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:16-23

1Co 3:16  Know you not that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

Know you not that you are the temple of God? This is a return to the image of ver. 9: “Ye are God’s building,” and therefore not a heathen temple, but the temple of God, in which by faith, grace, charity, and His gifts He dwells. So Anselm and others. For a fuller exposition if this, see the notes to 2 Cor 6:16.

How the soul may be dedicated as a temple to God is declared at length by S. Bernard (Serm. 1 de Dedic. Eccl.). He says that there are five things observed in a dedication: the sprinkling, the marking with the cross, the anointing, the illumination, and the benediction; and all these take place also in the dedication of the soul.

Observe that up to the present S. Paul has been dealing with those teachers and those of the faithful who build up the holy edifice of the Church. He now turns to those who undermine it.

1Co 3:17  But if any man violate the temple of God, him shall God destroy. For the temple of God is holy, which you are.

If any one, through the fatal pride that is born of human wisdom, through novel, erroneous, and pestilential teaching, or through schisms such as are found among you, O Corinthians, says Anselm; or if any one in any other way corrupt the Church, or any individual soul in it—him shall God destroy. The Apostle is speaking mainly of the corruption that comes through the teaching of false doctrine, through pride, through envy, or the fomenting of schism. For as he began, so does he finish this chapter with warnings to false teachers. It appears, too, from the next words where he says that any such defiler shall not be saved, so as by fire, but shall be consumed in everlasting fire.

1Co 3:18  Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seem to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.

If any man among you seem to be wise in this world. If any man is proud if his worldly wisdom and eloquence, his earthly knowledge and so come to look down on others, let him become filled with humility and faith, and with the folly of the Cross, so as to be a fool in the eyes of the world. Cf. notes on 1:26. This with God is the only true wisdom. Since the world’s wisdom is folly with God, and God’s wisdom foolishness to the world, it follows that we cannot be wise unless according to the world we are fools—unless, in spite of our greatness and wisdom before the world, we submit ourselves like children, nay, like fools, to the faith, doctrine, cross, and obedience of Christ. “So,” says S. Bernard (Serm. 2 de Epiph.), “did the three Magi worship the Child in the manger and become fools, so as to learn wisdom; and so the spirit taught them what was afterwards preached by Apostles: ‘He who wishes to be wise let him become a fool, that he may be wise.’ They enter the stable, they find a child wrapped in swaddling clothes: they think no scorn of the stable, stumble not at the swaddling clothes, nor find offence in the Infant at the breast: they fall down, they worship Him as King, they adore Him as God. Surely, He who led thither their steps also opened the eyes of their mind. He who guided them from without by a star, also taught them in the deepest recesses of the heart.” S. Basil asks (Reg. brevoir. 274): “How is any one made a fool in this world?” And he replies, “If he fears the judgment of God, who says. ‘Woe to them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight;’ and if he imitates Him who said, ‘I became even as a beast before Thee;’ if he throw away all empty belief in his own wisdom, reverse all his former judgments, and confess that not even from the beginning has he ever thought aright till he was taught by the command of God what was pleasing to Him in thought, word, and deed.”

1Co 3:19  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written: I will catch the wise in their own craftiness.

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. God has rejected the wisdom of the world as worthless, (1.) because it has nothing in it that is wholesome and Divine, and does nothing towards salvation; (2.) He would not use it in the preaching of the Apostles, but employed instead unlettered Apostles; (3.) It is often contrary to the faith, not only in speculative matters (as, e.g., all who are merely worldly-wise reject the mystery of the Holy Trinity, of the Incarnation and death of the Son of God as being impossible and incredible), but also in matters of practice and morals. For Christ bids us love our enemies; the wisdom of the world bids us hate them: Christ bids us overcome evil with good, the world says, “Return evil for evil;” Christ calls blessed the poor, the meek, them that mourn, that hunger, that suffer persecution, but the world says that it is the rich, those that are in high station, that laugh, feast, and rule, that are happy.

For it is written, I will catch the wise in their own craftiness. This is from Job 5:13. They are the words, not of Job, but of Eliphaz, who wished to show that Job had deserved his calamities through his sins. He was reproved by God (Job 42:7), and therefore these words of Eliphaz have not the authority os Holy Scripture, but only that of a wise man. For S. Paul approves of this saying of Eliphaz as being true, and wisely said by a wise man.

God takes the wise in their craftiness when He fulfils His will by the very means by which they thought to reverse it. When the brothers of Joseph, wishing to stultify his dreams about his future leadership, threw him into a pit and sold him into Egypt, God through their action, exalted him, and made him ruler over Egypt, and forced his brothers to do him reverence. In like manner God overruled the wisdom of Pharaoh at the Red Sea, of Saul and Achithophel on their attempts to destroy David, of Haman at the gallows, where he thought to slay Mordecai. So S. Thomas.

1Co 3:20  And again: The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.

And again, the Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are but vain. Ps 94:11. By all these quotations and reasons S. Paul impresses on the Corinthians that the worldly wisdom and eloquence of which they boasted themselves, and through which they put Apollos before himself, were but vain. He declares that the true wisdom is the faith and teaching of Christ, which he had preached them—on simple words, indeed, but yet with burning and efficacious zeal.

S. Jerome, moralising on Ps 94, says: “Do you wish to know how it is that the thoughts of men are vain? A father and mother bring up a child, they promise themselves happiness in him, they send him to be educated; he comes to manhood, they enter him as a soldier, and when through thirty years they have thought of everything for him, a slight attack of fever comes and carries away the fruit of all their thought. O anxiety of man! how vain is it in human affairs! One thought alone brings happiness—the thought of God.”

1Co 3:21  Let no man therefore glory in men.
1Co 3:22  For all things are yours, whether it be Paul or Apollo or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come. For all are yours.

Let no man therefore glory in men . . . all things are yours. Glory not in Paul or in Apollos (see 1 Cor 1:10-17; 3:5-9), for they and all others, nay, all creatures are common to each one of you; they all alike concur in procuring your salvation.

It should be remarked that S. Paul, when he says that all are yours, does not teach a community of goods such as there was in paradise, and as Huss, Wyclif, and others fondly dream of. He means that by way of final cause and use, not by way of possession, all things have been intended to help forward their salvation. So say Anselm, Ambrose, Theodoret, S. Thomas, Chrysostom. They have been given to be used either objectively or subjectively, which latter consists in acknowledging and praising the Creator in all His creatures; and this is what is meant by the common saying, “The whole world swells the wealth of the faithful.” Cf. Theodoret (Serm. 10 de. Provid.). Hence S. Chrysostom says: “We are Christ’s in one way; Christ is God’s in another; the world is ours in another. For we are Christ’s as His work; Christ is God’s as His most dearly–beloved Son; the world is ours, not as being our work, but because it was made on our account.” The world then is ours, because all creatures in the world serve our body and soul; life is ours, that we may lay up a store of merits; death is ours, because it is the gate through which we pass to everlasting life; or the death of martyrdom is ours; things present, whether adverse or prosperous, are ours that we may extract good from them; things to come are ours, that we may enjoy them: they are now ours in hope, they will be ours in fact in heaven. So S. Thomas and Anselm. Ours, too, are evil things, such as hell and the lost, that we may rule over them.

1Co 3:23  And you are Christ’s. And Christ is God’s.

You are Christ’s. You are the mystical members of Christ, your Head and Lord, and therefore you are His possession, having been bought by His Blood. Therefore you should glory in Christ, not in Paul or Apollos. So S. Thomas and Anselm.

And Christ is God’s. (1.) Because, as God, He is the Son of God. Ambrose says, “Christ is the Son of God, and does His will, that we too may do it.” So, too, Chrysostom, Theodoret, Anselm. (2.) Christ as man is God’s, as His Lord and Head, being His creature and His possession. So S. Thomas and Cajetan.

From what has been said it appears that all the faithful, and especially the elect, are the end for which God created all things. The end of all things is Christ as man. For this glory was the due of such a man, viz., that all things should serve Him, be ordained foe Him, and look to Him as their end. But Christ is for God and His glory, and therefore all glory is to be given, not to Paul or Apollos, but to God alone.

S. Chrysostom (Hom. 10 Moral.) says beautifully: “All that we are and all that we have comes from Christ: life and light, and spirit, and air and earth. If any of these be taken from us we perish, for we are but strangers and pilgrims. ‘Mine and thine’ are, when carefully considered, but empty words. Though you may speak of your house as being your own, you speak foolishly; for indeed the air, the earth, the material of which it is made, yourself who build it, and all other things are the property of the Creator. Even if the use of it is yours it is of uncertain duration, not only because of death, but also because of the uncertainty of all things before death. for we are God’s in two ways—by creation and re-creation; and if your soul is not your own, how can you say that your money is? Since, therefore, it is not your own, you should expend it upon your fellow-servants. Do not say, then, ‘I spend my own.’ It is not your own, it is another’s, nay, it is common to thee and thy fellow-servant, like as the sun and air and all things are.”

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One Response to Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:16-23

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

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