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Such was the apostle's resolution, when he sent Timothy and Erastus away. But before he had time to put this resolution in execution, three persons arrived at Ephesus, whom the sincere part of the church had dispatched from Corinth with a letter to the apostle, wherein they expressed their attachment to him, and desired his directions concerning various matters, which had been the subject of much disputation, not only with the adherents of the false teachers, but among the sincere themselves.
The coming of these messengers, together with the extraordinary success which the apostle had about that time, in converting the Ephesians, occasioned an alteration in his resolution respecting his journey to Corinth. For instead of setting out directly, he determined to remain in Ephesus till the following Pentecost, 1 Cor. xvi. 8. And then, instead of sailing straightway to Corinth, he proposed to go first into Macedonia, 1 Cor. xvi. 5, 6.—In the mean time, to compensate the loss which the Corinthians sustained from the deferring of his intended visit, he wrote to them his first epistle, in which he reproved the false teacher and his adherents. for the divisions they had occasioned in the church. And because they ridiculed him as a person rude in speech, he informed them, that Christ had ordered him, in preaching the gospel, to avoid the enticing words of man's wisdom, lest the doctrine of salvation through the cross of Christ, should be rendered ineffectual. Then addressing the heads of the faction, he plainly told them, their luxurious manner of living was very different from the persecuted lot of the true ministers of Christ. And to put the obedience of the sincere part of the church to the trial, he ordered them, in a general public meeting called for the purpose, to excommunicate the incestuous person. After which, he sharply reproved those who had gone into the heathen courts of judicature with their law suits, and directed them to a better method of settling their claims on each other, respecting worldly
The Corinthians in their letter, having desired the apostle's advice concerning marriage, celibacy, and divorce; and concerning the eating of meats which had been sacrificed to idols, he treated of these subjects at great length in this epistle. Also because the faction had called his apostleship in question, he proved himself an apostle by various undeniable arguments, and
confuted the objection taken from his not demanding maintenance from the Corinthians. Then, in the exercise of his apostolical authority, he declared it to be sinful, on any pretext whatever, to sit down with the heathens in an idol's temple, to partake of the sacrifices which had been offered there. And with the same authority, he gave rules for the behaviour of both sexes in the public assemblies; rebuked the whole church for the indecent manner in which they had celebrated the Lord's Supper and the spiritual men, for the irregularities which many of the had been guilty of, in the exercise of their gifts; proved against the Greek philosophers and the Jewish Sadducees, the possibility and certainty of the resurrection of the dead; and exhorted the Corinthians, to make collections for the the saints in Judea, who were greatly distressed by the persecution which their unbelieving brethren had raised against them.
From this short account of Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians, it is evident, as Locke observes, that the apostle's chief design in writing it, was to support his own authority with the brethren at Corinth, and to vindicate himself from the calumnies of the party formed by the false teacher in opposition to him, and to lessen the credit of the leaders of that party, by shewing the gross errors and miscarriages into which they had fallen; and to put an end to their schism, by uniting them to the sin. cere part of the church, that all of them unanimously submitting to him as an apostle of Christ, might receive his doctrines and precepts as of divine authority; not those only which he had formerly delivered, but those also which he now taught, in his answers to the questions, which the sincere part of the church had proposed to him.
At the conclusion of this account of the epistle, it may not be improper to observe, that because the unteachableness of the Greeks, and their aversion to the doctrines of the gospel, proceeded from their extreme attachment to their own false philo, sophy and rhetoric, the apostle in different passages of this epistle, was at great pains to shew the vanity of both, together with their pernicious influence in matters of religion. His reasonings on these topics, no doubt, were particularly designed for confuting the pretensions of the Greeks; yet they are not uninteresting to us. They are still of great use in beating down those high ideas of the powers of the human mind, which some modern pretenders to philosophy are so industrious in propa
gating, for the purpose of persuading us, that divine revelation is unnecessary in matters of religion. They are of use likewise in shewing the falsehood of those philosophical principles, whereby deists have endeavoured to disprove the facts recorded in the Gospel history. Lastly, they prove, that a studied artificial rhetoric is not necessary, in communicating to the world the revelations of God.
Of the Time and Place of writing the First Epistle to the Corinthians.
Of the place where this epistle was written, there never has been any doubt. The mention that is made, chap. xvi. 8. of the apostle's purpose of remaining in Ephesus till Pentecost, and the salutation of the churches of Asia, ver. 19. shew, that this letter was written, not at Philippi, as the spurious postcript indicates, but at Ephesus, during the apostle's second abode in that city, of which we have the account, Acts xix. 1.-41.
It is not so generally agreed, at what particular time of the apostle's abode in Ephesus, this letter was written. Mill, in his Prolegomena, No. 9. says it was written after the riot of Demetrius, because the apostle's fighting with wild beasts at Ephesus, is mentioned in it, chap. xv. 32. which he thinks happened during that riot. But Paul did not then go into the theatre, being restrained by the disciples, and by some of the Asiarchs who were his friends, Acts xix. 30, 31. His fighting with wild beasts, therefore, at Ephesus, must have happened in some previous tumult, of which there is no mention in the history of the Acts.-That the First Epistle to the Corinthians was written a little while before the riot of Demetrius and the craftsmen, appears to me probable from two circumstances. The first is, the apostle told the Corinthians, chap. xvi. 8, 9. That he resolved to abide in Ephesus till Pentecost, on account of the great success with which he was then preaching the gospel. The second circumstance is, that Demetrius, in his speech to the craftsmen, mentioned the much people whom Paul had turned from the worship of idols, as a recent event; and by shewing that Paul's doctrine, concerning the gods who are made with the hands of men, effectually put an end to their occupation and wealth, he excited the craftsmen to make the riot. These two circumstances joined, lead us to conclude, that the First
Epistle to the Corinthians was written a little while before the riot. For if it had been written after the riot, the apostle could not have said, I will abide at Ephesus till Pentecost.
On supposition that the First Epistle to the Corinthians was written a little while before the riot of Demetrius, its date may be fixed to the end of the year 56, or the beginning of the year 57, in the following manner. The apostle, as has been shewn, sect. 1. came to Corinth the first time, about the beginning of summer in the year 51. On that occasion, he abode near two years, Acts xviii. 11. 18. then set out by sea for Syria, with an intention to celebrate the ensuing feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem, ver. 21. This was the Pentecost which happened in the year 53. Having celebrated that feast, he went immediately to Antioch; and after he had spent some time there, he departed, and went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, ver. 22, 23. and passing through the upper coasts, he came to Ephesus, Acts xix. 1. In this journey, I suppose he spent a year and four months. These, brought into the account after the feast of Pentecost in the year 53, will make the apostle's second arrival at Ephesus, to have happened in the autumn of 54. At Ephesus, he abode two years and three months; at the end of which the riot of Demetrius happened. These, added to the autumn of 54, bring us to the end of the year 56, or the beginning of the year 57, as the date of the riot and of the apostle's First Epistle to the Corinthians. Accordingly Pearson places it in the year 57. And Mill more particularly in the beginning of that year: because it is said, chap. v. 7. For Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us, 8. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, &c.
Farther, the apostle, a while before the riot of Demetrius, speaking of his going to Jerusalem with the collections, said, Acts xix. 21. After I have been there, I must also see Rome. From this Lightfoot very well conjectures, that Claudius was then dead, and that the news of his death, which happened October 13. A. C. 54. had reached Ephesus; because if he had been alive, and his edict in force, St. Paul would not have thought of going to Rome. I add, that before he took such a resolution, he must have known that Nero was well affected to the Jews, and that the Christians were re-established at Rome. But as some months must have passed before Nero discovered his sentiments respecting the Jews, and before the church was actually
re-established in the city, the apostle could not well be informed of these things, before the spring of the year 56, that is about 18 months after Claudius's death.
Of the Messengers by whom the First Epistle to the Corinthians was sent, and of the Success of that Epistle.
At the time the apostle wrote this letter, he was in great distress, (2 Cor. ii. 4.) being afraid that the faction would pay no regard to it. And therefore, instead of sending it by the messengers who had come from Corinth, he sent it by Titus, 2 Cor. vii. 7, 8. 13. 15. that his presence and exhortations might give it the more effect. And as it contained directions concerning the collections for the saints, chap. xvi. the apostle desired Titus to urge the sincere among the Corinthians, to begin that good work, 2 Cor. viii. 6. With Titus, the apostle sent another brother, (1 Cor. xii. 18.) probably an Ephesian, whose name is not mentioned, but who no doubt was a person of reputation; seeing he was appointed to assist Titus in healing the divisions which had rent the Corinthian church. And that they might have time to execute their commission, and return to the apostle at Ephesus, he resolved to remain there till the ensuing Pentecost. It seems he did not think it prudent to go himself to Corinth, till he knew the success of his letter, and how the Corinthians stood affected towards him, after they had read and considered it.
As this letter, of which Titus was the bearer, contained the apostle's answer to the one which the Corinthians had sent to him, we may believe the messengers by whom it was sent, namely, Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, 1 Cor. xvi. 17. would go along with Titus and the brethren. Be this, however, as it may, Titus and his companions, on their arrival at Corinth, had all the success in executing their commission, which they could desire. For on delivering the apostle's letter, the Corinthians received them with fear and trembling, (2 Cor. vii. 15.) expressed the deepest sorrow for their miscarriages, (ver. 9.-11.) and paid a ready obedience to all the apostle's orders, ver. 15, 16. But the news of this happy change in their temper, the apostle did not receive, till leaving Ephesus he came into Macedonia, where it seems he waited till Titus arrived, and brought him such an account of the greatest part of