Site Meter
|The Thirsty Theologian| |Sola Gratia| |Sola Fide| |Solus Christus| |Sola Scriptura| |Soli Deo Gloria| |Semper Reformanda|
|The Thirsty Theologian| |Sola Gratia| |Sola Fide| |Solus Christus| |Sola Scriptura| |Soli Deo Gloria| |Semper Reformanda|

Calvin’s Commentaries: 1 Corinthians

(38 posts)

In Defense (sort of) of the Corinthians

Wednesday··2019·06·05
Compromise is not always born of antipathy or apathy toward truth. Often, it is the fruit of misguided or carnal motives. This (or so Calvin deduced) was the Corinthians’ failing. As to those worthless persons, however, who had disturbed the Corinthian Church, it is not without good ground that I conclude that they were not open enemies of the truth. We see that Paul nowhere else spares false doctrines. The Epistles to the Galatians, to the Colossians, to the Philippians, and to Timothy, are short; yet in all of them he does not merely censure the false apostles, but also points out at the same time in what respects they injured the Church. Nor is it without good reason; for believers must not merely be admonished as to the persons whom they ought to shun, they must also be shown the evil against which they should be on their guard. I cannot therefore believe that, in this comparatively long Epistle, he was prepared to pass over in silence what he carefully insists upon in others that are much shorter. In addition to this, he makes mention of many faults of the Corinthians, and even some that are apparently trivial, so that he appears to have had no intention of passing over any thing in them that was deserving of reproof. Besides, he must, in any other view, be regarded as wasting many words in disputing against those absurd teachers and prating orators. He censures their ambition; he reproves them for transforming the gospel into human philosophy; he shows that they are destitute of the efficacy of the Spirit, inasmuch as they are taken up with mere ornaments of speech, and seek after a mere dead letter; but not a word is there as to a single false doctrine. Hence I conclude that they were persons who did not openly take away any thing from the substance of the gospel, but, as they burned with a misdirected eagerness for distinction, I am of opinion that, with the view of making themselves admired, they contrived a new method of teaching, at variance with the simplicity of Christ. This must necessarily be the case with all that have not as yet thrown off self, that they may engage unreservedly in the Lord’s work. The first step towards serving Christ is to lose sight of ourselves, and think only of the Lord’s glory and the salvation of men. Farther, no one will ever be qualified for teaching that has not first himself tasted the influence of the gospel, so as to speak not so much with the mouth, as with the dispositions of the heart. Hence, those that are not regenerated by the Spirit of God—not having felt inwardly the influence of the gospel, and know not what is meant when it is said that we must become new creatures, (John iii. 7) have a dead preaching, whereas it ought to be lively and efficacious; and, with the view of playing off their part, they disfigure the gospel by painting it over, so as to make it a sort of worldly philosophy. —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 1:38–39 (emphasis added).

Ingenious Doctrine

Wednesday··2019·06·12
The corruption of preaching, as we see it today, is nothing new. It goes back all the way to the very first churches. As the Corinthians were desirous of doctrine that was ingenious, rather than useful, the gospel had no relish for them. As they were eager for new things, Christ had now become stale. Or if they had not as yet fallen into these vices, they were, nevertheless, already of their own accord predisposed to corruptions of that nature. Such were the facilities afforded to the false apostles for adulterating the doctrine of Christ among them; for adulterated it is, when its native simplicity is stained, and in a manner painted over, so as to differ nothing from worldly philosophy. Hence, to suit the taste of the Corinthians, they seasoned their preaching in such a way that the true savour of the gospel was destroyed. —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 1:40.

The Polluted Church

Thursday··2019·06·13
While you’re looking for that perfect church, consider Calvin’s commentary on the opening verses of 1st Corinthians: To the Church of God which is at Corinth. It may perhaps appear strange that he should give the name of a Church of God to a multitude of persons that were infested with so many distempers, that Satan might be said to reign among them rather than God. Certain it is, that he did not mean to flatter the Corinthians, for he speaks under the direction of the Spirit of God, who is not accustomed to flatter. But among so many pollutions, what appearance of a Church is any longer presented? I answer, the Lord having said to him, “Fear not: I have much people in this place” (Acts xviii. 9, 10;) keeping this promise in mind, he conferred upon a godly few so much honour as to recognize them as a Church amidst a vast multitude of ungodly persons. Farther, notwithstanding that many vices had crept in, and various corruptions both of doctrine and manners, there were, nevertheless, certain tokens still remaining of a true Church. This is a passage that ought to be carefully observed, that we may not require that the Church, while in this world, should be free from every wrinkle and stain, or forthwith pronounce unworthy of such a title every society in which everything is not as we would wish it. For it is a dangerous temptation to think that there is no Church at all where perfect purity is not to be seen. For the man that is prepossessed with this notion, must necessarily in the end withdraw from all others, and look upon himself as the only saint in the world, or set up a peculiar sect in company with a few hypocrites. What ground, then, had Paul for recognizing a Church at Corinth? It was this: that he saw among them the doctrine of the gospel, baptism, the Lord’s Supper—tokens by which a Church ought to be judged of. For although some had begun to have doubts as to the resurrection, the error not having spread over the entire body, the name of the Church and its reality are not thereby affected. Some faults had crept in among them in the administration of the Supper, discipline and propriety of conduct had very much declined: despising the simplicity of the gospel, they had given themselves up to show and pomp; and in consequence of the ambition of their ministers, they were split into various parties. Notwithstanding of this, however, inasmuch as they retained fundamental doctrine: as the one God was adored among them, and was invoked in the name of Christ: as they placed their dependence for salvation upon Christ, and, had a ministry not altogether corrupted: there was, on these accounts, a Church still existing among them. Accordingly, wherever the worship of God is preserved uninfringed, and that fundamental doctrine, of which I have spoken, remains, we must without hesitation conclude that in that case a Church exists. —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 1:50–52. This is not to say that we shouldn’t have hold our churches to biblical standards, but that we must not write them off as false churches simply because they contain impurities.

The Fountain of Holiness

Wednesday··2019·06·19
Commenting on 1 Corinthians 1:2, Calvin makes three observations on the position and condition of those who have been saved: All who have been born again (John 3) are sanctified, that is, separated from the world and joined to Christ. This sanctification is evidenced “by holiness of life.” This sanctification is accomplished by the election and calling of God, and wrought in us by the Holy Spirit, and also by Christ, not by our own efforts. Sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints. He makes mention of the blessings with which God had adorned them, as if by way of upbraiding them, at least in the event of their showing no gratitude in return. For what could be more base than to reject an Apostle through whose instrumentality they had been set apart as God’s peculiar portion. Meanwhile, by these two epithets, he points out what sort of persons ought to be reckoned among the true members of the Church, and who they are that belong of right to her communion. For if you do not by holiness of life show yourself to be a Christian, you may indeed be in the Church, and pass undetected, but of it you cannot be. Hence all must be sanctified in Christ who would be reckoned among the people of God. Now the term sanctification denotes separation. This takes place in us when we are regenerated by the Spirit to newness of life, that we may serve God and not the world. For while by nature we are unholy, the Spirit consecrates us to God. As, however, this is effected when we are engrafted into the body of Christ, apart from whom there is nothing but pollution, and as it is also by Christ, and not from any other source that the Spirit is conferred, it is with good reason that he says that we are sanctified in Christ, inasmuch as it is by Him that we cleave to God, and in Him become new creatures. What immediately follows—called to be saints—I understand to mean: As ye have been called unto holiness. It may, however, be taken in two senses. Either we may understand Paul to say, that the ground of sanctification is the call of God, inasmuch as God has chosen them; meaning, that this depends on his grace, not on the excellence of men; or we may understand him to mean, that, it accords with our profession that we be holy, this being the design of the doctrine of the gospel. The former interpretation appears to suit better with the context, but it is of no great consequence in which way you understand it, as there is an entire agreement between the two following positions—that our holiness flows from the fountain of divine election, and that it is the end of our calling. We must, therefore, carefully maintain, that it is not through our own efforts that we are holy, but by the call of God, because He alone sanctifies those who were by nature unclean. And certainly it appears to me probable, that, when Paul has pointed out as it were with his finger the fountain of holiness thrown wide open, he mounts up a step higher, to the good pleasure of God, in which also Christ’s mission to us originated. As, however, we are called by the gospel to harmlessness of life (Phil. ii. 15,) it is necessary that this be accomplished in us in reality, in order that our calling may be effectual. It will, however, be objected, that, there were not many such among the Corinthians. I answer, that the weak are not excluded from this number; for here God only begins his work in us, and by little and little carries it forward gradually and by successive steps. I answer farther, that Paul designedly looks rather to the grace of God in them than to their own defects, that he may put them to shame for their negligence, if they do not act a suitable part. —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 1:52–53.

Harmonious in Faith and Affection

Thursday··2019·06·20
From 1 Corinthians 1:10, Calvin describes the unity that God desires among his people. Unity in doctrine Unity in love for one another That ye all speak the same thing. In exhorting them to harmony, he employs three different forms of expression: for, in the first place, he requires such agreement among them that all shall have one voice; secondly, he takes away the evil by which unity is broken and torn asunder; and, thirdly, he unfolds the nature of true harmony, which is, that they be agreed among themselves in mind and will. What he has placed second is first in order,—that we beware of strifes. For from this a second thing will naturally follow,—that we be in harmony; and then at length a third thing will follow, which is here mentioned first,—that we all speak, as it were, with one mouth; a thing exceedingly desirable as a fruit of Christian harmony. Let us then observe, that nothing is more inconsistent on the part of Christians than to be at variance among themselves, for it is the main article of our religion that we be in harmony among ourselves; and farther, on such agreement the safety of the Church rests and is dependent. But let us see what he requires as to Christian unity. If any one is desirous of nice distinctions—he would have them first of all joined together in one mind; secondly, in one judgment; and, thirdly, he would have them declare in words that agreement. As, however, my rendering differs somewhat from that of Erasmus, I would, in passing, call my readers to observe, that Paul here makes use of a participle, which denotes things that are fitly and suitably joined together. For the verb καταρτιζεσθαι* itself (from which the participle καταρτισμένος comes) properly signifies, to be fitted and adjusted, just as the members of the human body are connected together by a most admirable symmetry. For sentential (judgment) Paul has γνώμην: but I understand it here as denoting the will, so that there is a complete division of the soul, and the first clause refers to faith, the second to love. Then only will there be Christian unity among us, when there is not merely a good agreement as to doctrine, but we are also in harmony in our affections and dispositions, and are thus in all respects of one mind. Thus Luke bears witness to believers in the primitive Church, (Acts ii. 46,) that they had “one heart and one soul.” And without doubt this will be found wherever the Spirit of Christ reigns. When, however, he exhorts them to speak the same thing, he intimates still more fully from the effect, how complete the agreement ought to be—so that no diversity may appear even in words. It is difficult, indeed, of attainment, but still it is necessary among Christians, from whom there is required not merely one faith, but also one confession. —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 1:62–63. * As usual, I include the Greek here only for the benefit of the few, knowing it has no value to most readers (it’s all Greek to me, too).

Perception Is Not Reality

Wednesday··2019·06·26
Calvin, on the “foolishness” and “weakness” of God (1 Corinthians 1:25): While the Lord deals with us in such a way as to seem to act foolishly, because he does not exhibit his wisdom, what appears foolishness surpasses in wisdom all the ingenuity of men. Farther, while God appears to act with weakness, in consequence of his concealing his power, that weakness, as it is reckoned, is stronger than any power of men. We must, however, always keep it in view, that there is a concession, as I have noticed a little ago. For no one can but perceive, that in strict propriety neither foolishness nor weakness can be ascribed to God, but it was necessary, by such ironical expressions, to beat down the mad presumption of the flesh, which does not scruple to rob God of all his glory. —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 1:88.

Claiming No Merit

Thursday··2019·06·27
But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” —1 Corinthians 1:30–31 Mark the end that God has in view in bestowing all things upon us in Christ—that we may not claim any merit to ourselves, but may give him all the praise. For God does not despoil with the view of leaving us bare, but forthwith clothes us with his glory—yet on this condition, that whenever we would glory we must go out of ourselves. In short, man, brought to nothing in his own estimation, and acknowledging that there is nothing good anywhere but in God alone, must renounce all desire for his own glory, and with all his might aspire and aim at the glory of God exclusively. This is also more clearly apparent from the context in the writings of the Prophet, from whom Paul has borrowed this testimony; for in that passage the Lord, after stripping all mankind of glory in respect of strength, wisdom, and riches, commands us to glory only in knowing him, (Jeremiah ix. 23, 24.) Now he would have us know him in such a way as to know that it is he that exercises judgment, righteousness, and mercy. For this knowledge produces in us at once confidence in him and fear of him. If therefore a man has his mind regulated in such a manner that, claiming no merit to himself, he desires that God alone be exalted; if he rests with satisfaction on his grace, and places his entire happiness in his fatherly love, and, in fine, is satisfied with God alone, that man truly “glories in the Lord.” I say truly, for even hypocrites on false grounds glory in him, as Paul declares, (Romans ii. 17,) when being either puffed up with his gifts, or elated with a base confidence in the flesh, or abusing his word, they nevertheless take his name upon them. —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 1:94–95.

Not in the Wisdom of Men

Wednesday··2019·07·10
and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. —1 Corinthians 2:4–5 [And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:] That your faith should not be in the wisdom of men. To be is used here as meaning to consist His meaning, then, is, that the Corinthians derived this advantage from his having preached Christ among them without dependence on human wisdom, and relying solely on the Spirit’s influence, that their faith was founded not on men but on God. If the Apostle’s preaching had rested exclusively on the power of eloquence, it might have been overthrown by superior eloquence, and besides, no one would pronounce that to be solid truth which rests on mere elegance of speech. It may indeed be helped by it, but it ought not to rest upon it. On the other hand, that must have been most powerful which could stand of itself without any foreign aid. Hence it forms a choice commendation of Paul’s preaching, that heavenly influence shone forth in it so clearly, that it surmounted so many hindrances, while deriving no assistance from the world. It follows, therefore, that they must not allow themselves to be moved away from his doctrine, which they acknowledge to rest on the authority of God. Paul, however, speaks here of the faith of the Corinthians in such a way as to bring forward this, as a general statement. Let it then be known by us that it is the property of faith to rest upon God alone, without depending on men; for it requires to have so much certainty to go upon, that it will not fail, even when assailed by all the machinations of hell, but will perseveringly endure and sustain every assault. This cannot be accomplished unless we are fully persuaded that God has spoken to us, and that what we have believed is no mere contrivance of men. While faith ought properly to be founded on the word of God alone, there is at the same time no impropriety in adding this second prop,—that believers recognize the word which they hear as having come forth from God, from the effect of its influence. —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 1:101.

Understanding God

Thursday··2019·07·11
For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. . . . But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ. —1 Corinthians 2:11, 14–15 Men understand each other because the can communicate to one another, and because they are flesh, and share commonalities in the flesh. Men cannot understand God even though he has communicated to them, because they share nothing in common with him. For what man knoweth? Two different things he intends to teach here: first, that the doctrine of the Gospel cannot be understood otherwise than by the testimony of the Holy Spirit; and secondly, that those who have a testimony of this nature from the Holy Spirit, have an assurance as firm and solid, as if they felt with their hands what they believe, for the Spirit is a faithful and indubitable witness. This he proves by a similitude drawn from our own spirit: for every one is conscious of his own thoughts, and on the other hand what lies hid in any man’s heart, is unknown to another. In the same way what is the counsel of God, and what his will, is hid from all mankind, for “who hath been his counselor?” (Rom. xi. 34.) It is, therefore, a secret recess, inaccessible to mankind; but, if the Spirit of God himself introduces us into it, or in other words, makes us acquainted with those things that are otherwise hid from our view, there will then be no more ground for hesitation, for nothing that is in God escapes the notice of the Spirit of God. This similitude, however, may seem to be not altogether very appropriate, for as the tongue bears an impress of the mind, mankind communicate their dispositions to each other, so that they become acquainted with each other’s thoughts. Why then may we not understand from the word of God what is his will? For while mankind by pretenses and falsehoods in many cases conceal their thoughts rather than discover them, this cannot happen with God, whose word is undoubted truth, and his genuine and lively image. We must, however, carefully observe how far Paul designed to extend this comparison. A man’s innermost thought, of which others are ignorant, is perceived by himself alone: if he afterwards makes it known to others, this does not hinder but that his spirit alone knows what is in him. For it may happen that he does not persuade: it may even happen that he does not properly express his own meaning; but even if he attains both objects, this statement is not at variance with the other—that his own spirit alone has the true knowledge of it. There is this difference, however, between God’s thoughts and those of men, that men mutually understand each other; but the word of God is a kind of hidden wisdom, the loftiness of which is not reached by the weakness of the human intellect. Thus the light shineth in darkness, (John i. 5,) aye and until the Spirit opens the eyes of the blind. The spirit of a man. Observe, that the spirit of a man is taken here for the soul, in which the intellectual faculty, as it is called, resides. For Paul would have expressed himself inaccurately if he had ascribed this knowledge to man’s intellect, or in other words, the faculty itself, and not to the soul, which is endued with the power of understanding. —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 1:111–112. Only those who have been born again (John 3), in whom the Spirit of God dwells, can understand God and his Word. But the animal man. By the animal man he does not mean (as is commonly thought) the man that is given up to gross lusts, or, as they say, to his own sensuality, but any man that is endowed with nothing more than the faculties of nature. This appears from the corresponding term, for he draws a comparison between the animal man and the spiritual As the latter denotes the man whose understanding is regulated by the illumination of the Spirit of God, there can be no doubt that the former denotes the man that is left in a purely natural condition, as they speak. For the soul belongs to nature, but the Spirit is of supernatural communication. He returns to what he had previously touched upon, for his object is to remove a stumblingblock which might stand in the way of the weak—that there were so many that despised the gospel. He shows that we ought to make no account of a contempt of such a nature as proceeds from ignorance, and that it ought, consequently, to be no hindrance in the way of our going forward in the race of faith, unless perhaps we choose to shut our eyes upon the brightness of the sun, because it is not seen by the blind. It would, however, argue great ingratitude in any individual, when God bestows upon him a special favor, to reject it, on the ground of its not being common to all, whereas, on the contrary, its very rareness ought to enhance its value. For they are foolishness to him, neither can he know them. “The doctrine of the gospel,” says he, “is insipid in the view of all that are wise merely in the view of man. But whence comes this? It is from their own blindness. In what respect, then, does this detract from the majesty of the gospel?” In short, while ignorant persons depreciate the gospel, because they measure its value by the estimation in which it is held by men, Paul derives an argument from this for extolling more highly its dignity. For he teaches that the reason why it is contemned is that it is unknown, and that the reason why it is unknown is that it is too profound and sublime to be apprehended by the understanding of man. What a superior wisdom this is, which so far transcends all human understanding, that man cannot have so much as a taste of it! While, however, Paul here tacitly imputes it to the pride of the flesh, that mankind dare to condemn as foolish what they do not comprehend, he at the same time shows how great is the weakness or rather bluntness of the human understanding, when he declares it to be incapable of spiritual apprehension. For he teaches, that it is not owing simply to the obstinacy of the human will, but to the impotency, also, of the understanding, that man does not attain to the things of the Spirit. Had he said that men are not willing to be wise, that indeed would have been true, but he states farther that they are not able. Hence we infer, that faith is not in one’s own power, but is divinely conferred. Because they are spiritually discerned. That is, the Spirit of God, from whom the doctrine of the gospel comes, is its only true interpreter, to open it up to us. Hence in judging of it, men’s minds must of necessity be in blindness until they are enlightened by the Spirit of God. Hence infer, that all mankind are by nature destitute of the Spirit of God: otherwise the argument would be inconclusive. It is from the Spirit of God, it is true, that we have that feeble spark of reason which we all enjoy; but at present we are speaking of that special discovery of heavenly wisdom which God vouchsafes to his sons alone. Hence the more insufferable the ignorance of those who imagine that the gospel is offered to mankind in common in such a way that all indiscriminately are free to embrace salvation by faith. —Ibid., 1:115–117.
What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. —1 Corinthians 3:5–7 Like tools in the hands of a craftsman, so are the means God chooses to accomplish his work—important, even necessary, but not the cause of anything. Neither is he that planteth anything. It appears, nevertheless, from what has been already said, that their labor is of some importance. We must observe, therefore, why it is that Paul thus depreciates it; and first of all, it is proper to notice that he is accustomed to speak in two different ways of ministers, as well as of sacraments. For in some cases he views a minister as one that has been set apart by the Lord for, in the first instance, regenerating souls, and, afterwards, nourishing them up unto eternal life, for remitting sins, (John xx. 23,) for renewing the minds of men, for raising up the kingdom of Christ, and destroying that of Satan. Viewed in that aspect he does not merely assign to him the duty of planting and watering, but furnishes him, besides, with the efficacy of the Holy Spirit, that his labor may not be in vain. Thus in another passage he calls himself a minister of the Spirit, and not of the letter, inasmuch as he writes the word of the Lord on men’s hearts. (2 Cor. iii. 6.) In other cases he views a minister as one that is a servant, not a master—an instrument, not the hand; and in short as man, not God. Viewed in that aspect, he leaves him nothing but his labor, and that, too, dead and powerless, if the Lord does not make it efficacious by his Spirit. The reason is, that when it is simply the ministry that is treated of, we must have an eye not merely to man, but also to God, working in him by the grace of the Spirit—not as though the grace of the Spirit were invariably tied to the word of man, but because Christ puts forth his power in the ministry which he has instituted, in such a manner that it is made evident, that it was not instituted in vain. In this manner he does not take away or diminish anything that belongs to Him, with the view of transferring it to man. For He is not separated from the minister, but on the contrary His power is declared to be efficacious in the minister. But as we sometimes, in so far as our judgment is depraved, take occasion improperly from this to extol men too highly, we require to distinguish for the purpose of correcting this fault, and we must set the Lord on the one side, and the minister on the other, and then it becomes manifest, how indigent man is in himself, and how utterly devoid of efficacy. Let it be known by us, therefore, that in this passage ministers are brought into comparison with the Lord, and the reason of this comparison is—that mankind, while estimating grudgingly the grace of God, are too lavish in their commendations of ministers, and in this manner they snatch away what is God’s, with the view of transferring it to themselves. At the same time he always observes a most becoming medium, for when he says, that God giveth the increase, he intimates by this, that the efforts of men themselves are not without success. . . . Hence, although our heavenly Father does not reject our labor in cultivating his field, and does not allow it to be unproductive, yet he will have its success depend exclusively upon his blessing, that he may have the entire praise. Accordingly, if we are desirous to make any progress in laboring, in striving, in pressing forward, let it be known by us, that we will make no progress, unless he prospers our labors, our strivings, and our assiduity, in order that we may commend ourselves, and everything we do to his grace. —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 1:128–129.

Christ, the Foundation; Paul, the Master Builder

Wednesday··2019·07·17
According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. —1 Corinthians 3:10–11 This is for those who would pit Paul against Jesus: For other foundation can no man lay. This statement consists of two parts; first, that Christ is the only foundation of the Church; and secondly, that the Corinthians had been rightly founded upon Christ through Paul’s preaching. For it was necessary that they should be brought back to Christ alone, inasmuch as their ears were tickled with a fondness for novelty. It was, too, of no small importance that Paul should be recognized as the principal, and, so to speak, fundamental master-builder, from whose doctrine they could not draw back, without forsaking Christ himself. The sum is this—that the Church must by all means be founded upon Christ alone, and that Paul had executed this department of duty so faithfully that nothing could be found to be wanting in his ministry. Hence, whoever may come after him, can in no other way serve the Lord with a good conscience, or be listened to as ministers of Christ, than by studying to make their doctrine correspond with his, and retain the foundation which he has laid. Hence we infer, that those are not faithful workmen for building up the Church, but on the contrary are scatterers of it, (Matt. xii. 30,) who succeed faithful ministers, but do not make it their aim to conform themselves to their doctrine, and carry forward what has been well commenced, so as to make it quite manifest manner of teaching to harass believers, who have been well instructed in pure doctrine, so that they stagger in uncertainty as to the true foundation. Now the fundamental doctrine, which it were unlawful to undermine, is, that we learn Christ, for Christ is the only foundation of the Church; but there are many who, while they make use of Christ’s name in pretense, tear up the whole truth of God by the roots. Let us observe, then, in what way the Church is rightly built upon Christ. It is when he alone is set forth for righteousness, redemption, sanctification, wisdom, satisfaction and cleansing; in short, for life and glory; or if you would have it stated more briefly, when he is proclaimed in such a manner that his office and influence are understood in accordance with what we found stated in the close of the first chapter. (1 Cor. i. 30.) If, on the other hand, Christ is only in some degree acknowledged, and is called a Redeemer only in name, while in the meantime recourse is had to some other quarter for righteousness, sanctification and salvation, he is driven off from the foundation, and spurious stones are substituted in his room. It is in this manner that Papists act, who rob him of almost all his ornaments, leaving him scarcely anything but the bare name. Such persons, then, are far from being founded on Christ. For as Christ is the foundation of the Church, because he is the only source of salvation and eternal life—because in him we come to know God the Father—because in him we have the source of every blessing; if he is not acknowledged as such he is no longer regarded as the foundation. —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 1:134–135.

Distrust Yourself

Wednesday··2019·07·24
Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless.” —1 Corinthians 3:18–20 Let no man deceive himself. Here he puts his finger upon the true sore, as the whole mischief originated in this—that they were wise in their own conceit. Hence he exhorts them not to deceive themselves with a false impression, by arrogating any wisdom to themselves—by which he means, that all are under a mistake, who depend upon their own judgment. Now, he addresses himself, in my opinion, to hearers as well as teachers. For the former discovered a partiality for those ambitious men, and lent an ear to them, because they had too fastidious a taste, so that the simplicity of the gospel was insipid to their taste; while the latter aimed at nothing but show, that they might be in some estimation. He accordingly admonishes both to this effect—“Let no one rest satisfied with his own wisdom, but let him who thinketh himself to be wise, become a fool in this world,” or, “Let him who is distinguished in this world by reputation for wisdom, of his own accord empty himself, and become a fool in his own estimation.” Farther, in these words the Apostle does not require, that we should altogether renounce the wisdom that is implanted in us by nature, or acquired by long practice; but simply, that we subject it to the service of God, so as to have no wisdom but through his word. For this is what is meant by becoming a fool in this world, or in our own estimation—when we are prepared to give way to God, and embrace with fear and reverence everything that he teaches us, rather than follow what may appear to us plausible. The meaning of the clause in this world, is as though he had said—“According to the judgment or opinion of the world.” For the wisdom of the world is this—if we reckon ourselves sufficient of ourselves for taking counsel as to all matters (Psalm xiii. 2) for governing ourselves, and for managing whatever we have to do—if we have no dependence on any other—if we feel no need of the guidance of another, but are competent to govern ourselves. He, therefore, on, the other hand, is a fool in this world, who, renouncing his own understanding, allows himself to be directed by the Lord, as if with his eyes shut—who, distrusting himself, leans wholly upon the Lord, places his whole wisdom in him, and yields himself up to God in docility and submission. It is necessary that our wisdom should in this way vanish, in order that the will of God may have authority over us, and that we be emptied of our own understanding, that we may be filled with the wisdom of God. —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 1:143–145.

Ignorant Judges

Thursday··2019·07·25
Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God. —1 Corinthians 4:5 Matthew 7:1 is a constant favorite passage of the world in general, and even of many professing Christians who can’t be bothered to learn the true intention of Jesus in saying “Judge not.” On the other hand, many of us are often tempted to judge things on which scripture (and common sense) commands restraint. Among these things are the hidden thoughts and motives of others. Humility requires us to admit that we often don’t know all we think we know, and should refrain from forming ignorant opinions and, even moreso, refrain from expressing them. Therefore judge nothing before the time. From this conclusion it is manifest, that Paul did not mean to reprove every kind of judgment without exception, but only what is hasty and rash, without examination of the case. For the Corinthians did not mark with unjaundiced eye the character of each individual, but, blinded by ambition, groundlessly extolled one and depreciated another, and took upon themselves to mark out the dignity of each individual beyond what is lawful for men. Let us know, then, how much is allowed us, what is now within the sphere of our knowledge, and what is deferred until the day of Christ, and let us not attempt to go beyond these limits. For there are some things that are now seen openly, while there are others that lie buried in obscurity until the day of Christ. Who will bring to light. If this is affirmed truly and properly respecting the day of Christ, it follows that matters are never so well regulated in this world but that many things are involved in darkness, and that there is never so much light, but that many things remain in obscurity. I speak of the life of men, and their actions. He explains in the second clause, what is the cause of the obscurity and confusion, so that all things are not now manifest. It is because there are wonderful recesses and deepest lurking-places in the hearts of men. Hence, until the thoughts of the hearts are brought to light, there will always be darkness. And then shall every one have praise. It is as though he had said, “You now, O Corinthians, as if you had the adjudging of the prizes, crown some, and send away others with disgrace, but this right and office belong exclusively to Christ. You do that before the time—before it has become manifest who is worthy to be crowned, but the Lord has appointed a day on which he will make it manifest.” This statement takes its rise from the assurance of a good conscience, which brings us also this advantage, that committing our praises into the hands of God, we disregard the empty breath of human applause. —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 1:156–157.

Gospel Power Is from the Spirit, not the Preacher

Wednesday··2019·07·31
For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power. —1 Corinthians 4:20 For the kingdom of God is not in word. As the Lord governs the Church by his word, as with a scepter, the administration of the gospel is often called the kingdom of God. Here, then, we are to understand by the kingdom of God whatever tends in this direction, and is appointed for this purpose—that God may reign among us. He says that this kingdom does not consist in word, for how small an affair is it for any one to have skill to prate eloquently, while he has nothing but empty tinkling. Let us know, then, a mere outward gracefulness and dexterity in teaching is like a body that is elegant and of a beautiful color, while the power of which Paul here speaks is like the soul. We have already seen that the preaching of the gospel is of such a nature, that it is inwardly replete with a kind of solid majesty. This majesty shows itself, when a minister strives by means of power rather than of speech—that is, when he does not place confidence in his own intellect, or eloquence, but, furnished with spiritual armor, consisting of zeal for maintaining the Lord’s honor—eagerness for the raising up of Christ’s kingdom—a desire to edify—the fear of the Lord—an invincible constancy—purity of conscience, and other necessary endowments, he applies himself diligently to the Lord’s work. Without this, preaching is dead, and has no strength, with whatever beauty it may be adorned. Hence in his second epistle, he says, that in Christ nothing avails but a new creature (2 Cor. v. 17)—a statement which is to the same purpose. For he would have us not rest in outward masks, but depend solely on the internal power of the Holy Spirit. —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 1:175–176.

Everyone’s Burden

Thursday··2019·08·01
It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst. For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present. In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. —1 Corinthians 5:1–5 Sin in the church is a matter of shame, not only to the guilty party, but to the entire body. The church that does not confront and discipline sin in it’s members is not displaying grace, but pride. The sin of one is grievous to all; one man’s sin is everyone’s burden. The church holds the power of excommunication. Moreover, those churches sin who neglect its proper use. And ye are puffed up. “Are ye not ashamed,” says he, “to glory in what affords so much occasion for humiliation?” He had observed previously, that even the highest excellence gives no just ground of glorying, inasmuch as mankind have nothing of their own, and it is only through the grace of God that they possess any excellence (1 Cor. iv. 7). Now, however, he attacks them from another quarter. “You are,” says he, “covered with disgrace: what ground have you, then, for pride or haughtiness? For there is an amazing blindness in glorying in the midst of disgrace, in spite, as it were of angels and men.” When he says, and have not rather mourned, he argues by way of contrast; for where there is grief there is no more glorying. It may be asked: “Why ought they to have mourned over another man’s sin?” I answer, for two reasons: first, in consequence of the communion that exists among the members of the Church, it was becoming that all should feel hurt at so deadly a fall on the part of one of their number; and secondly, when such an enormity is perpetrated in a particular Church, the perpetrator of it is all offender in such a way, that the whole society is in a manner polluted. For as God humbles the father of a family in the disgrace of his wife, or of his children, and a whole kindred in the disgrace of one of their number, so every Church ought to consider, that it contracts a stain of disgrace whenever any base crime is perpetrated in it. Nay, farther, we see how the anger of God was kindled against the whole nation of Israel on account of the sacrilege of one individual—Achan (Joshua vii. 1). It was not as though God had been so cruel as to take vengeance on the innocent for another man’s crime; but, as in every instance in which anything of this nature has occurred among a people, there is already some token of his anger, so by correcting a community for the fault of one individual, he distinctly intimates that the whole body is infected and polluted with the contagion of the offense. Hence we readily infer, that it is the duty of every Church to mourn over the faults of individual members, as domestic calamities belonging to the entire body. And assuredly a pious and dutiful correction takes its rise in our being inflamed with holy zeal through displeasure at the offense; for otherwise severity will be felt to be bitter. That he might be taken away from among you. He now brings out more distinctly what he finds fault with in the Corinthians—remissness, inasmuch as they connived at such an abomination. Hence, too, it appears that Churches are furnished with this power—that, whatever fault there is within them, they can correct or remove it by strictness of discipline, and that those are inexcusable that are not on the alert to have filth cleared away. For Paul here condemns the Corinthians. Why? Because they had been remiss in the punishment of one individual. Now he would have accused them unjustly, if they had not had this power. Hence the power of excommunication is established from this passage. On the other hand, as Churches have this mode of punishment put into their hands, those commit sin, as Paul shows here, that do not make use of it, when it is required; for otherwise he would act unfairly to the Corinthians in charging them with this fault. —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 1:180–182.

A Remedy to Tyranny

Thursday··2019·08·08
For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present. In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. —1 Corinthians 5:3–5 According to God’s design, the church is placed under the authority of elders, but, as human history has shown, power concentrated in the hands of one or few is bound to go wrong—even when those few are of the godliest character. As Calvin writes, not even Paul—an apostle, holding the highest position in the church under Christ—was entrusted with the power of excommunication. It is to be carefully observed, that Paul, though an Apostle, does not himself, as an individual, excommunicate according to his own pleasure, but consults with the Church, that the matter may be transacted by common authority. He, it is true, takes the lead, and shows the way, but, in taking others as his associates, he intimates with sufficient plainness, that this authority does not belong to any one individual. As, however, a multitude never accomplishes anything with moderation or seriousness, if not governed by counsel, there was appointed in the ancient Church a Presbytery, that is, an assembly of elders, who, by the consent of all, had the power of first judging in the case. From them the matter was brought before the people, but it was as a thing already judged of. Whatever the matter may be, it is quite contrary to the appointment of Christ and his Apostles—to the order of the Church, and even to equity itself, that this right should be put into the hands of any one man, of excommunicating at his pleasure any that he may choose. Let us take notice, then, that in excommunicating this limitation be observed—that this part of discipline be exercised by the common counsel of the elders, and with the consent of the people, and that this is a remedy in opposition to tyranny. For nothing is more at variance with the discipline of Christ than tyranny, for which you open a wide door, if you give one man the entire power. —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 1:182–183.

Neither Familiarity nor Contempt

Tuesday··2019·08·13
But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. —1 Corinthians 5:11 Calvin explains what it means—and does not mean—to shun an excommunicated brother. With such an one not even to take food. In the first place, we must ascertain whether he addresses here the whole Church, or merely individuals. I answer, that this is said, indeed, to individuals, but, at the same time, it is connected with their discipline in common; for the power of excommunicating is not allowed to any individual member, but to the entire body. When, therefore, the Church has excommunicated any one, no believer ought to receive him into terms of intimacy with him; otherwise the authority of the Church would be brought into contempt, if each individual were at liberty to admit to his table those who have been excluded from the table of the Lord. By partaking of food here, is meant either living together, or familiar association in meals. For if, on going into an inn, I see one who has been excommunicated sitting at table, there is nothing to hinder me from dining with him;* for I have not authority to exclude him. What Paul means is, that, in so far as it is in our power, we are to shun the society of those whom the Church has cut off from her communion. The Roman antichrist, not content with this severity, has burst forth into interdicts, prohibiting any one from helping one that has been excommunicated to food, or fuel, or drink, or any other of the supports of life. Now, that is not strictness of discipline, but tyrannical and barbarous cruelty, that is altogether at variance with Paul’s intention. For he means not that he should be counted as an enemy, but as a brother (2 Thes. iii. 15), for in putting this public mark of disgrace upon him, the intention is, that he may be filled with shame, and brought to repentance. —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 1:194–197. * The inn of which Calvin writes would most likely have a common table at which all guests would eat, rather than the private tables and booths to which we are accustomed.

Calvin on Lawsuits

Tuesday··2019·08·27
Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? —1 Corinthians 6:7 Are lawsuits ever allowed? Here is Calvin’s answer. Now indeed there is utterly a fault. Here we have the second part of the reproof, which contains a general doctrine; for he now reproves them, not on the ground of their exposing the gospel to derision and disgrace, but on the ground of their going to law with each other. This, he says, is a fault [NASB, defeat]. . . . What Paul, then, condemns in the Corinthians is this—that they harassed one another with law-suits. He states the reason of it—that they were not prepared to bear injuries patiently. And, assuredly, as the Lord commands us (Matt. v. 44; Rom. xii. 21) not to be overcome by evils, but on the contrary to overcome injuries by acts of kindness, it is certain, that those who cannot control themselves so as to suffer injuries patiently, commit sin by their impatience. . . . In this way, however, he seems to discard entirely judgments as to the affairs of individuals. “Those are altogether in the wrong who go to law. Hence it will not be allowable in any one to maintain his rights by having recourse to a magistrate.” There are some that answer this objection in this way—that the Apostle declares that where there are law-suits there is utterly a fault, because, of necessity, the one or the other has a bad cause. They do not, however, escape by this sophistry, because he says that they are in fault, not merely when they inflict injury, but also when they do not patiently endure it. For my own part, my answer is simply this—having a little before given permission to have recourse to arbiters, he has in this shown, with sufficient clearness, that, Christians are not prohibited from prosecuting their rights moderately, and without any breach of love. Hence we may very readily infer, that his being so severe was owing to his taking particularly into view the circumstances of the case. And, undoubtedly, wherever there is frequent recourse to law-suits, or where the parties contend with each other pertinaciously with rigor of law, it is in that case abundantly plain, that their minds are immoderately inflamed with wrong dispositions, and are not prepared for equity and endurance of wrongs, according to the commandment of Christ. To speak more plainly, the reason why Paul condemns law-suits is, that we ought to suffer injuries with patience. Let us now see whether any one can carry on a law-suit without impatience; for if it is so, to go to law will not be wrong in all cases, but only for the most part. I confess, however, that as men’s manners are corrupt, impatience, or lack of patience (as they speak) is an almost inseparable attendant on lawsuits. This, however, does not hinder your distinguishing between the thing itself and the improper accompaniment. Let us therefore bear in mind, that Paul does not condemn law-suits on the ground of its being a wrong thing in itself to maintain a good cause by having recourse to a magistrate, but because it is almost invariably accompanied with corrupt dispositions; as, for example, violence, desire of revenge, enmities, obstinacy, and the like. . . . I acknowledge, then, that a Christian man is altogether prohibited from revenge, so that he must not exercise it, either by himself, or by means of the magistrate, nor even desire it. If, therefore, a Christian man wishes to prosecute his rights at law, so as not to offend God, he must, above all things, take heed that he does not bring into court any desire of revenge, any corrupt affection of the mind, or anger, or, in fine, any other poison. In this matter love will be the best regulator. If it is objected, that it very rarely happens that any one carries on a law-suit entirely free and exempt from every corrupt affection, I acknowledge that it is so, and I say farther, that it is rare to find a single instance of an upright litigant; but it is useful for many reasons to show that the thing is not evil in itself, but is rendered corrupt by abuse: First, that it may not seem as if God had to no purpose appointed courts of justice; Secondly, that the pious may know how far their liberties extend, that they may not take anything in hand against the dictates of conscience. For it is owing to this that many rush on to open contempt of God, when they have once begun to transgress those limits; Thirdly, that they may be admonished, that they must always keep within bounds, so as not to pollute by their own misconduct the remedy which the Lord has permitted them to employ; Lastly, that the audacity of the wicked may be repressed by a pure and uncorrupted zeal, which could not be effected, if we were not allowed to subject them to legal punishments. —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 1:204–207.

Knowledge without Fear of God

Tuesday··2019·09·10
Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. —1 Corinthians 8:1 Knowledge puffeth up. He shows, from the effects, how frivolous a thing it is to boast of knowledge, when love is wanting. “Of what avail is knowledge, that is of such a kind as puffs us up and elates us, while it is the part of love to edify?” This passage, which otherwise is somewhat obscure, in consequence of its brevity, may easily be understood in this way—“Whatever is devoid of love is of no account in the sight of God; nay more, it is displeasing to him, and much more so what is openly at variance with love Now that, knowledge of which you boast, O ye Corinthians, is altogether opposed to love, for it puffs up men with pride, and leads to contempt of the brethren, while love is concerned for the welfare of brethren, and exhorts us to edify them. Accursed, then, be that knowledge which makes men proud, and is not regulated by a desire of edifying.” Paul, however, did not mean, that this is to be reckoned as a fault attributable to learning—that those who are learned are often self-complacent, and have admiration of themselves, accompanied with contempt of others. Nor did he understand this to be the natural tendency of learning—to produce arrogance, but simply meant to show what effect knowledge has in an individual, that has not the fear of God, and love of the brethren; for the wicked abuse all the gifts of God, so as to exalt themselves. Thus riches, honors, dignities, nobility, beauty, and other things of that nature, puff up; because men, elated through a mistaken confidence in these things, very frequently become insolent. Nor is it always so; for we see that many who are rich and beautiful, and abounding in honors, and distinguished for dignity and nobility, are, nevertheless, of a modest disposition, and not at all tainted with pride. And even when it does happen to be so, it is, nevertheless, not proper that we should put the blame upon what we know to be gifts of God; for in the first place that were unfair and unreasonable; and farther, by putting the blame upon things that are not blameworthy, we would exempt the persons themselves from blame, who alone are in fault. My meaning is this—“If riches naturally tend to make men proud, then a rich man, if proud, is free from blame, for the evil arises from riches.” We must, therefore, lay it down as a settled principle, that knowledge is good in itself; but as piety is its only foundation, it becomes empty and useless in wicked men: as love is its true seasoning, where that is wanting it is tasteless. And truly, where there is not that thorough knowledge of God which humbles us, and teaches us to do good to the brethren, it is not so much knowledge, as an empty notion of it, even in those that are reckoned the most learned. At the same time, knowledge is not by any means to be blamed for this, any more than a sword, if it falls into the hands of a madman. Let this be considered as said with a view to certain fanatics, who furiously declaim against all the liberal arts and sciences, as if their only use were to puff men up, and were not of the greatest advantage as helps in common life. Now those very persons, who defame them in this style, are ready to burst with pride, to such an extent as to verify the old proverb—“Nothing is so arrogant as ignorance.” —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 1:272–274.

The Something of Nothing

Wednesday··2019·09·11
Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? —1 Corinthians 9:1 There is an apparent contradiction between this verse and 1 Corinthians 3:7. Here, Paul claims credit for what he had formerly dismissed as nothing. As usual, context is key, as Calvin explains: Are not ye my work? . . . Now this is a great thing that Paul claims for himself, when he calls their conversion his work, for it is in a manner a new creation of the soul. But how will this correspond with what we had above—that he that planteth is nothing, and he that watereth is nothing? (1 Cor. iii. 7). I answer, that as God is the efficient cause, while man, with his preaching, is an instrument that can do nothing of itself, we must always speak of the efficacy of the ministry in such a manner that the entire praise of the work may be reserved for God alone. But in some cases, when the ministry is spoken of, man is compared with God, and then that statement holds good—He that planteth is nothing, and he that watereth is nothing; for what can be left to a man if he is brought into competition with God? Hence Scripture represents ministers as nothing in comparison with God; but when the ministry is simply treated of without any comparison with God, then, as in this passage, its efficacy is honorably made mention of, with signal encomiums. For, in that case, the question is not, what man can do of himself without God, but, on the contrary, God himself, who is the author, is conjoined with the instrument, and the Spirit’s influence with man’s labor. In other words, the question is not, what man himself accomplishes by his own power, but what God effects through his hands. —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 1:289.
For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.” Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. —1 Corinthians 10:1–12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth. The Apostle concludes from what goes before, that we must not glory in our beginnings or progress, so as to resign ourselves to carelessness and inactivity. For the Corinthians gloried in their condition in such a way, that, forgetting their weakness, they fell into many crimes. This was a false confidence of such a kind as the Prophets frequently reprove in the Israelitish people. As, however, Papists wrest this passage for the purpose of maintaining their impious doctrine respecting faith, as having constantly doubt connected with it, let us observe that there are two kinds of assurance. The one is that which rests on the promises of God, because a pious conscience feels assured that God will never be wanting to it; and, relying on this unconquerable persuasion, triumphs boldly and intrepidly over Satan and sin, and yet, nevertheless, keeping in mind its own infirmity, casts itself upon God, and with carefulness and anxiety commits itself to him. This kind of assurance is sacred, and is inseparable from faith, as appears from many passages of Scripture, and especially Romans viii. 33. The other arises from negligence, when men, puffed up with the gifts that they have, give themselves no concern, as if they were beyond the reach of danger, but rest satisfied with their condition. Hence it is that they are exposed to all the assaults of Satan. This is the kind of assurance which Paul would have the Corinthians to abandon, because he saw that they were satisfied with themselves under the influence of a silly conceit. He does not, however, exhort them to be always anxiously in doubt as to the will of God, or to tremble from uncertainty as to their salvation, as Papists dream. In short, let us bear in mind, that Paul is here addressing persons who were puffed up with a base confidence in the flesh, and represses that assurance which is grounded upon men—not upon God. For after commending the Colossians for the solidity or steadfastness of their faith (Col. ii. 5), he exhorts them to be rooted in Christ, to remain firm, and to be built up and confirmed in the faith (Col. ii. 7). —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 1:329–331.

God Is Faithful

Tuesday··2019·09·17
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. —1 Corinthians 10:13 But God is faithful. As he exhorted them to be of good courage as to the past, in order that he might stir them up to repentance, so he also comforts them as to the future with a sure hope, on the ground that God would not suffer them to be tempted beyond their strength. He exhorts them, however, to look to the Lord, because a temptation, however slight it may be, will straightway overcome us, and all will be over with us, if we rely upon our own strength. He speaks of the Lord, as faithful, not merely as being true to his promises, but as though he had said. The Lord is the sure guardian of his people, under whose protection you are safe, for he never leaves his people destitute. Accordingly, when he has received you under his protection, you have no cause to fear, provided you depend entirely upon him. For certainly this were a species of deception, if he were to withdraw his aid in the time of need, or if he were, on seeing us weak and ready to sink under the load, to lengthen out our trials still farther. Now God helps us in two ways, that we may not be overcome by the temptation; for he supplies us with strength, and he sets limits to the temptation. It is of the second of these ways that the Apostle here chiefly speaks. At the same time, he does not exclude the former—that God alleviates temptations, that they may not overpower us by their weight. For he knows the measure of our power, which he has himself conferred. According to that, he regulates our temptations. The term temptation I take here as denoting, in a general way, everything that allures us. —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 1:332–333.
Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. —1 Corinthians 11:1 A cult leader says, “Follow me.” A faithful shepherd of Christ’s church says, “Learn from me how to follow Jesus.” This is Paul’s example. Imitators of me. From this it appears, how absurdly chapters are divided, inasmuch as this sentence is disjoined from what goes before, with which it ought to have been connected, and is joined to what follows, with which it has no connection. Let us view this, then, as the close of the preceding chapter. Paul had there brought forward his own example in confirmation of his doctrine. Now, in order that the Corinthians may understand that this would be becoming in them, he exhorts them to imitate what he had done, even as he had imitated Christ. Here there are two things to be observed—first, that he prescribes nothing to others that he had not first practiced himself; and, secondly, that he directs himself and others to Christ as the only pattern of right acting. For while it is the part of a good teacher to enjoin nothing in words but what he is prepared to practice in action, he must not, at the same time, be so austere, as straightway to require from others everything that he does himself, as is the manner of the superstitious. For everything that they contract a liking for they impose also upon others, and would have their own example to be held absolutely as a rule. The world is also, of its own accord, inclined to a misdirected imitation, and, after the manner of apes, strive to copy whatever they see done by persons of great influence. We see, however how many evils have been introduced into the Church by this absurd desire of imitating all the actions of the saints, without exception. Let us, therefore, maintain so much the more carefully this doctrine of Paul—that we are to follow men, provided they take Christ as their grand model, that the examples of the saints may not tend to lead us away from Christ, but rather to direct us to him. —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 1:349–350.

Equality with Inequality

Wednesday··2019·09·25
But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. —1 Corinthians 11:3 He says, that as Christ is subject to God as his head, so is the man subject to Christ, and the woman to the man. . . . Let us, for the present, take notice of those four gradations which he points out. God, then, occupies the first place: Christ holds the second place. How so? Inasmuch as he has in our flesh made himself subject to the Father, for, apart from this, being of one essence with the Father, he is his equal. Let us, therefore, bear it in mind, that this is spoken of Christ as mediator. He is, I say, inferior to the Father, inasmuch as he assumed our nature, that he might be the first-born among many brethren. There is somewhat more of difficulty in what follows. Here the man is placed in an intermediate position between Christ and the woman, so that Christ is not the head of the woman. Yet the same Apostle teaches us elsewhere (Gal. iii. 28), that in Christ there is neither male nor female. Why then does he make a distinction here, which in that passage he does away with? I answer, that the solution of this depends on the connection in which the passages occur. When he says that there is no difference between the man and the woman, he is treating of Christ’s spiritual kingdom, in which individual distinctions are not regarded, or made any account of; for it has nothing to do with the body, and has nothing to do with the outward relationships of mankind, but has to do solely with the mind—on which account he declares that there is no difference, even between bond and free. In the meantime, however, he does not disturb civil order or honorary distinctions, which cannot be dispensed with in ordinary life. Here, on the other hand, he reasons respecting outward propriety and decorum—which is a part of ecclesiastical polity. Hence, as regards spiritual connection in the sight of God, and inwardly in the conscience, Christ is the head of the man and of the woman without any distinction, because, as to that, there is no regard paid to male or female; but as regards external arrangement and political decorum, the man follows Christ and the woman the man, so that they are not upon the same footing, but, on the contrary, this inequality exists. Should any one ask, what connection marriage has with Christ, I answer, that Paul speaks here of that sacred union of pious persons, of which Christ is the officiating priest, and He in whose name it is consecrated. —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 1:353–354.
Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. —1 Corinthians 11:27–28 It is a paradox of the Christian faith: Only those who see their unworthiness may come worthily. But let a man examine himself. An exhortation drawn from the foregoing threatening. “If those that eat unworthily are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, then let no man approach who is not properly and duly prepared. Let every one, therefore, take heed to himself, that he may not fall into this sacrilege through idleness or carelessness.” But now it is asked, what sort of examination, that ought to be to which Paul exhorts us. Papists make it consist in auricular confession. They order all that are to receive the Supper, to examine their life carefully and anxiously, that they may unburden all their sins in the ear of the priest. Such is their preparation! I maintain, however, that this holy examination of which Paul speaks, is widely different from torture. Those persons, after having tortured themselves with reflection for a few hours, and making the priest—such as he is—privy to their vileness, imagine that they have done their duty. It is an examination of another sort that Paul here requires—one of such a kind as may accord with the legitimate use of the sacred Supper. You see here a method that is most easily apprehended. If you would wish to use aright the benefit afforded by Christ, bring faith and repentance. As to these two things, therefore, the trial must be made, if you would come duly prepared. Under repentance I include love; for the man who has learned to renounce himself, that he may give himself up wholly to Christ and his service, will also, without doubt, carefully maintain that unity which Christ has enjoined. At the same time, it is not a perfect faith or repentance that is required, as some, by urging beyond due bounds, a perfection that can nowhere be found, would shut out for ever from the Supper every individual of mankind. If, however, thou aspirest after the righteousness of God with the earnest desire of thy mind, and, trembled under a view of thy misery, dost wholly lean upon Christ’s grace, and rest upon it, know that thou art a worthy guest to approach the table—worthy I mean in this respect, that the Lord does not exclude thee, though in another point of view there is something in thee that is not as it ought to be. For faith, when it is but begun, makes those worthy who were unworthy. —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 1:387–388.

Neither Envy nor Contempt

Tuesday··2019·10·08
And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. —1 Corinthians 12:26 A former United States President famously said, “I feel your pain.” That, of course, was mere political posturing. But for those of us who are members of the body of Christ, it ought to be a reality. In fact, we take it further yet: Your pain is my pain; how can I not care? Your gain is my gain; how can I be jealous? “Such a measure of fellow-feeling,” says he, “is to be seen in the human body, that, if any inconvenience is felt by any member, all the others grieve along with it, and, on the other hand, rejoice along with it, in its prosperity. Hence there is no room there for envy or contempt.” To be honoured, here, is taken in a large sense, as meaning, to be in prosperity and happiness. Nothing, however, is better fitted to promote harmony than this community of interest, when every one feels that, by the prosperity of others, he is proportionally enriched, and, by their penury, impoverished. —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 1:412.

Tongues of Angels

Wednesday··2019·10·09
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. —1 Corinthians 13:1 What language do angels speak? I wouldn’t even try to guess, but if I did, I’d say Hebrew. Hebrew, after all, is the first language through which God has revealed himself to us, and I think it’s safe to say (though not with complete confidence) that it was Adam’s language, which he learned from God, but even if that is so, it doesn’t prove that Hebrew is the language of heaven. That’s one discussion we could have over this verse. Or, if we’re a little loopy, we could claim it as proof that “tongues” in the New Testament aren’t limited to known languages. But none of that is remotely relevant. It simply is not the point. When he speaks of the tongues of angels, he uses a hyperbolical expression to denote what is singular, or distinguished. At the same time, I explain it rather as referring to the diversity of languages, which the Corinthians held in much esteem, measuring everything by ambition—not by fruit. “Make yourself master,” says he, “of all the languages, not of men merely, but even of Angels. You have, in that case, no reason to think that you are of higher estimation in the sight of God than a mere cymbal, if you have not love.” —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 1:419.

The Benefit of the Doubt

Thursday··2019·10·10
[Love] . . . believes all things . . . —1 Corinthians 13:7 Love is not ignorant or naïve, but when in doubt, it gives the benefit of that doubt. Furthermore, the one who loves would rather take the chance of being wronged than wrong another (1 Corinthians 6:7). Love believeth all things.—not that the Christian knowingly and willingly allows himself to be imposed upon—not that he divests himself of prudence and judgment, that he may be the more easily taken advantage of—not that he unlearns the way of distinguishing black from white. What then? He requires here, as I have already said, simplicity and kindness in judging of things; and he declares that these are the invariable accompaniments of love. The consequence will be, that a Christian man will reckon it better to be imposed upon by his own kindness and easy temper, than to wrong his brother by an unfriendly suspicion. —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 1:425.

An Index of the Mind

Tuesday··2019·12·17
If then I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be to the one who speaks a barbarian, and the one who speaks will be a barbarian to me. —1 Corinthians 14:11 The tongue ought to be an index of the mind—not merely in the sense of the proverb, but in the sense that is explained by Aristotle in the commencement of his book—“On Interpretation.” How foolish then it is and preposterous in a man, to utter in an assembly a voice of which the hearer understands nothing—in which he perceives no token from which he may learn what the person means! It is not without good reason, therefore, that Paul views it as the height of absurdity, that a man should be a barbarian to the hearers, by chattering in an unknown tongue, and at the same time he elegantly treats with derision the foolish ambition of the Corinthians, who were eager to obtain praise and fame by this means. “This reward,” says he, “you will earn—that you will be a barbarian.” For the term barbarian, whether it be an artificial one . .  . or derived from some other origin, is taken in a bad sense. Hence the Greeks, who looked upon themselves as the only persons who were good speakers, and had a polished language, gave to all others the name of barbarians, from their rude and rustic dialect. No language, however, is so cultivated as not to be reckoned barbarous, when it is not understood. “He that heareth,” says Paul, “will be unto me a barbarian, and I will be so to him in return.” By these words he intimates, that to speak in an unknown tongue, is not to hold fellowship with the Church, but rather to keep aloof from it, and that he who will act this part, will be deservedly despised by others, because he first despises them. —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 1:441–442.

Improper and Unseemly

Wednesday··2019·12·18
The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. —1 Corinthians 14:34 It appears that the Church of the Corinthians was infected with this fault too, that the talkativeness of women was allowed a place in the sacred assembly, or rather that the fullest liberty was given to it. Hence he forbids them to speak in public, either for the purpose of teaching or of prophesying. This, however, we must understand as referring to ordinary service, or where there is a Church in a regularly constituted state; for a necessity may occur of such a nature as to require that a woman should speak in public; but Paul has merely in view what is becoming in a duly regulated assembly. Let them be in subjection, as also saith the law. What connection has the object that he has in view with the subjection under which the law places women? “For what is there,” some one will say, “to hinder their being in subjection, and yet at the same time teaching?” I answer, that the office of teaching is a superiority in the Church, and is, consequently, inconsistent with subjection. For how unseemly a thing it were, that one who is under subjection to one of the members, should preside over the entire body! It is therefore an argument from things inconsistent—if the woman is under subjection, she is, consequently, prohibited from authority to teach in public. And unquestionably, wherever even natural propriety has been maintained, women have in all ages been excluded from the public management of affairs. It is the dictate of common sense, that female government is improper and unseemly. Nay more, while originally they had permission given to them at Rome to plead before a court, the effrontery of Caia Afrania led to their being interdicted, even from this. Paul’s reasoning, however, is simple—that authority to teach is not suitable to the station that a woman occupies, because, if she teaches, she presides over all the men, while it becomes her to be under subjection. —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 1:467–468.

Not Merely the Power

Friday··2020·01·03
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. —1 Corinthians 15:10 Those that set free-will in opposition to the grace of God, that whatever good we do may not be ascribed wholly to Him, wrest these words to suit their own interpretation—as if Paul boasted, that he had by his own industry taken care that God’s grace toward him had not been misdirected. Hence they infer, that God, indeed, offers his grace, but that the right use of it is in man’s own power, and that it is in his own power to prevent its being ineffectual. I maintain, however, that these words of Paul give no support to their error, for he does not here claim anything as his own, as if he had himself, independently of God, done anything praiseworthy. What then? That he might not seem to glory to no purpose in mere words, while devoid of reality, he says, that he affirms nothing that is not openly apparent. Farther, even admitting that these words intimate, that Paul did not abuse the grace of God, and did not render it ineffectual by his negligence, I maintain, nevertheless, that there is no reason on that account, why we should divide between him and God the praise, that ought to be ascribed wholly to God, inasmuch as he confers upon us not merely the power of doing well, but also the inclination and the accomplishment. —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 2:14–15.

If Christ Is Not Risen

Tuesday··2020·01·07
Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. —1 Corinthians 15:12–19 He now begins to prove the resurrection of all of us from that of Christ. For a mutual and reciprocal inference holds good on the one side and on the other, both affirmatively and negatively—from Christ to us in this way: If Christ is risen, then we will rise—If Christ is not risen, then we will not rise—from us to Christ on the other hand: If we rise, then Christ is risen—If we do not rise, then neither is Christ risen. The ground-work of the argument to be drawn from Christ to us in the former inference is this: “Christ did not die, or rise again for himself, but for us: hence his resurrection is the foundation of ours, and what was accomplished in him, must be fulfilled in us also.” In the negative form, on the other hand, it is thus: “Otherwise he would have risen again needlessly and to no purpose, because the fruit of it is to be sought, not in his own person, but in his members.” Observe the ground-work, on the other hand, of the former inference to be deduced from us to him; for the resurrection is not from nature, and comes from no other quarter than from Christ alone. For in Adam we die, and we recover life only in Christ; hence it follows that his resurrection is the foundation of ours, so that if that is taken away, it cannot stand The ground-work of the negative inference has been already stated; for as he could not have risen again but on our account, his resurrection would be null and void, if it were of no advantage to us. Then is our preaching vain—not simply as having some mixture of falsehood, but as being altogether an empty fallacy. For what remains if Christ has been swallowed up by death—if he has become extinct—if he has been overwhelmed by the curse of sin—if, in fine, he has been overcome by Satan? In short, if that fundamental article is subverted, all that remains will be of no moment. For the same reason he adds, that their faith will be vain, for what solidity of faith will there be, where no hope of life is to be seen? But in the death of Christ, considered in itself, there is seen nothing but ground of despair, for he cannot be the author of salvation to others, who has been altogether vanquished by death. Let us therefore bear in mind, that the entire gospel consists mainly in the death and resurrection of Christ, so that we must direct our chief attention to this, if we would desire, in a right and orderly manner, to make progress in the gospel—nay more, if we would not remain barren and unfruitful (2 Peter i. 8). We are also found to be false witnesses. The other disadvantages, it is true, which he has just now recounted, were more serious, as regards us—that faith was made vain—that the whole doctrine of the gospel was useless and worthless, and that we were bereft of all hope of salvation. Yet this also was no trivial absurdity—that the Apostles, who were ordained by God to be the heralds of his eternal truth, were detected as persons who had deceived the world with falsehoods; for this tends to God’s highest dishonor. . . . Ye are yet in your sins. For although Christ by his death atoned for our sins, that they might no more be imputed to us in the judgment of God, and has crucified our old man, that its lusts might no longer reign in us, (Romans i. 6, 12) and, in fine, has by death destroyed the power of death, and the devil himself, (Hebrews ii. 14) yet there would have been none of all these things, if he had not, by rising again, come off victorious. Hence, if the resurrection is overthrown, the dominion of sin is set up anew. Then they who are fallen asleep. Having it in view to prove, that if the resurrection of Christ is taken away, faith is useless, and Christianity is a mere deception, he had said that the living remain in their sins; but as there is a clearer illustration of this matter to be seen in the dead, he adduces them as an example. “Of what advantage were it to the dead that they once were Christians? Hence our brethren who are now dead, did to no purpose live in the faith of Christ.” —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 2:17–20.

The Last Enemy

Thursday··2020·01·09
The last enemy that will be abolished is death. —1 Corinthians 15:26 The last enemy—death. We see that there are still many enemies that resist Christ, and obstinately oppose his reign. But death will be the last enemy that will be destroyed. Hence Christ must still be the administrator of his Father’s kingdom. Let believers, therefore, be of good courage, and not give up hope, until everything that must precede the resurrection be accomplished. It is asked, however, in what sense he affirms that death shall be the last enemy that will be destroyed, when it has been already destroyed by Christ’s death, or at least, by his resurrection, which is the victory over death, and the attainment of life? I answer, that it was destroyed in such a way as to be no longer deadly to believers, but not in such a way as to occasion them no uneasiness. The Spirit of God, it is true, dwelling in us is life; but we still carry about with us a mortal body (1 Peter i. 24). The substance of death in us will one day be drained off, but it has not been so as yet. We are born again of incorruptible seed (1 Peter i. 23), but we have not yet arrived at perfection. Or to sum up the matter briefly in a similitude, the sword of death which could penetrate into our very hearts has been blunted. It wounds nevertheless still, but without any danger; for we die, but by dying we enter into life. In fine, as Paul teaches elsewhere as to sin (Rom. vi. 12), such must be our view as to death—that it dwells indeed in us, but it does not reign. —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 2:28–29.

We Will Not All Sleep

Wednesday··2020·01·15
Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed . . . —1 Corinthians 15:51 Hebrews 9:27 informs us that “it is appointed for men to die once.” How do we reconcile that with the statement above? Paul’s intention is to explain what he had said—that we will be conformed to Christ, because flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. A question presented itself, what then will become of those who will be still living at the day of the Lord? His answer is, that although all will not die, yet they will be renewed, that mortality and corruption may be done away. It is to be observed, however, that he speaks exclusively of believers; for although the resurrection of the wicked will also involve change, yet as there is no mention made of them here, we must consider everything that is said, as referring exclusively to the elect. We now see, how well this statement corresponds with the preceding one, for as he had said, that we shall bear the image of Christ, he now declares, that this will take place when we shall be changed, so that mortality may be swallowed up of life (2 Corinthians v. 4), and that this renovation is not inconsistent with the fact, that Christ’s advent will find some still alive. We must, however, unravel the difficulty—that it is appointed unto all men once to die; and certainly, it is not difficult to unravel it in this way—that as a change cannot take place without doing away with the previous system, that change is reckoned, with good reason, a kind of death; but, as it is not a separation of the soul from the body, it is not looked upon as an ordinary death. It will then be death, inasmuch as it will be the destruction of corruptible nature: it will not be a sleep, inasmuch as the soul will not quit the body; but there will be a sudden transition from corruptible nature into a blessed immortality. —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 2:58–59.

Swallowed Up in Victory

Friday··2020·01·17
But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory.” —1 Corinthians 15:54 Then shall be brought to pass the saying. This is not merely an amplification (ἐπεξεργασία), but a confirmation, too, of the preceding statement. For what was foretold by the Prophets must be fulfilled. Now this prediction will not be fulfilled, until our bodies, laying aside corruption, will put on incorruption Hence this last result, also, is necessary. To come to pass, is used here in the sense of being fully accomplished, for what Paul quotes is now begun in us, and is daily, too, receiving further accomplishment; but it will not have its complete fulfillment until the last day. . . . He afterwards adds, I will be thy destruction, O death! thy ruin, O grave! In these words God intimates, that he accomplishes the salvation of his people only when death and the grave are reduced to nothing. For no one will deny, that in that passage there is a description of completed salvation. As, therefore, we do not see such a destruction of death, it follows, that we do not yet enjoy that complete salvation, which God promises to his people, and that, consequently, it is delayed until that day. Then, accordingly, will death be swallowed up, that is, it will be reduced to nothing, that we may have manifestly, in every particular, and in every respect, (as they say,) a complete victory over it. —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 2:61–63.

The Sting of Death

Tuesday··2020·01·21
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law —1 Corinthians 15:56 The sting of death is sin. In other words, “Death has no dart with which to wound us except sin, since death proceeds from the anger of God. Now it is only with our sins that God is angry. Take away sin, therefore, and death will no more be able to harm us.” This agrees with what he said in Rom. vi. 23, that the wages of sin is death. Here, however, he makes use of another metaphor, for he compared sin to a sting, with which alone death is armed for inflicting upon us a deadly wound. Let that be taken away, and death is disarmed, so as to be no longer hurtful. Now with what view Paul says this will be explained by him ere long. The strength of sin is the law. It is the law of God that imparts to that sting its deadly power, because it does not merely discover our guilt, but even increases it. A clearer exposition of this statement may be found in Rom. vii. 9, where Paul teaches us that we are alive, so long as we are without the law, because in our own opinion it is well with us, and we do not feel our own misery, until the law summons us to the judgment of God, and wounds our conscience with an apprehension of eternal death. Farther, he teaches us that sin has been in a manner lulled asleep, but is kindled up by the law, so as to rage furiously. Meanwhile, however, he vindicates the law from calumnies, on the ground that it is holy, and good, and just, and is not of itself the parent of sin or the cause of death. Hence he concludes, that whatever there is of evil is to be reckoned to our own account, inasmuch as it manifestly proceeds from the depravity of our nature. Hence the law is but the occasion of injury. The true cause of ruin is in ourselves. Hence he speaks of the law here as the strength or power of sin, because it executes upon us the judgment of God. In the mean time he does not deny, that sin inflicts death even upon those that know not the law; but he speaks in this manner, because it exercises its tyranny upon them with less violence. For the law came that sin might abound (Rom. v. 20), or that it might become beyond measure sinful (Rom. vii. 13). —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 2:64–65.

Victory in Jesus

Wednesday··2020·01·22
but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. —1 Corinthians 15:57 But thanks be to God. From this it appears, why it it was that he made mention both of sin and of the law, when treating of death. Death has no sting with which to wound except sin, and the law imparts to this sting a deadly power. But Christ has conquered sin, and by conquering it has procured victory for us, and has redeemed us from the curse of the law (Gal. iii. 13). Hence it follows, that we are no longer lying under the power of death. Hence, although we have not as yet a full discovery of those benefits, yet we may already with confidence glory in them, because it is necessary that what has been accomplished in the Head should be accomplished, also, in the members. We may, therefore, triumph over death as subdued, because Christ’s victory is ours. When, therefore, he says, that victory has been given to us, you are to understand by this in the first place, that it is inasmuch as Christ has in his own person abolished sin, has satisfied the law, has endured the curse, has appeased the anger of God, and has procured life; and farther, because he has already begun to make us partakers of all those benefits. For though we still carry about with us the remains of sin, it, nevertheless, does not reign in us: though it still stings us, it does not do so fatally, because its edge is blunted, so that it does not penetrate into the vitals of the soul. Though the law still threatens, yet there is presented to us on the other hand, the liberty that was procured for us by Christ, which is an antidote to its terrors. Though the remains of sin still dwell in us, yet the Spirit who raised up Christ from the dead is life, because of righteousness (Rom. viii. 10). —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 2:65–66.

Hope in the Resurrection

Thursday··2020·01·23
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. —1 Corinthians 15:58 Wherefore, my brethren. Having satisfied himself that he had sufficiently proved the doctrine of the resurrection, he now closes his discussion with an exhortation; and this has much more force, than if he had made use of a simple conclusion with an affirmation. Since your labor, says he, is not in vain in the Lord, be steadfast, and abound in good works. Now he says that their labor is not in vain, for this reason, that there is a reward laid up for them with God. This is that exclusive hope which, in the first instance, encourages believers, and afterwards sustains them, so that they do not stop short in the race. Hence he exhorts them to remain steadfast, because they rest on a firm foundation, as they know that a better life is prepared for them in heaven. He adds abounding in the work of the Lord; for the hope of a resurrection makes us not be weary in well doing, as he teaches in Col. i. 10. For amidst so many occasions of offense as constantly present themselves to us, who is there that would not despond, or turn aside from the way, were it not that, by thinking of a better life he is by this means kept in the fear of God? Now, on the other hand, he intimates, that if the hope of a resurrection is taken away, then, the foundation (as it were) being rooted up, the whole structure of piety falls to the ground. Unquestionably, if the hope of reward is taken away and extinguished, alacrity in running will not merely grow cold, but will be altogether destroyed. —Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 2:66.

@TheThirstyTheo



Who Is Jesus?


The Gospel
What It Means to Be a Christian


Norma Normata
What I Believe


Westminster Bookstore


  Sick of lame Christian radio?
  Try RefNet 

Links