THE entire period of Paul's labors in Ephesus covered about three years. During the latter part of this time he wrote the two epistles to the Corinthians. Indeed, he seems to have written them one letter earlier than this, but it has not been preserved.

Even while Apollos was preaching at Corinth, a party spirit had arisen; for some admired the eloquence and learning he displayed, and wanted to regard him as their leader instead of Paul, who had purposely made his preaching as plain and direct as possible. Others preferred Peter; while some, despising all human leadership, declared themselves to be of Christ.

Not only had dissensions and divisions sprung up among the Corinthian brethren, but some of them had been led away by the idolatry and licentiousness that prevailed in that wicked city. False teachers were trying to turn the disciples away from the doctrines and practices that Paul had taught them.

The sad state of the Corinthian church was made known to Paul by some of the household of Chloe, who had come from Corinth to Ephesus.

Deeming it imprudent, under the circumstances, to go to Corinth himself, Paul sent them Titus, and then set about the difficult task of writing the letter known as "Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians."

"After a tender greeting to the church, he refers to their experience under his ministry, by which they have been led to turn from idolatry to the service and worship of the true God. He reminds them of the gifts of the Holy Spirit which they have received, and presents before them their duty to make continual advancement in the Christian life, that they may attain to the purity and holiness of Christ."

Having thus prepared their minds, he begins to admonish them in regard to their errors, saying: "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same things, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them, which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.

Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?"

Paul thanks God that he baptized but few of them, probably fearing that he might be accused of baptizing in his own name. He says that Christ did not send him chiefly to baptize, but to preach the gospel, and that not with enticing or high-sounding words, lest men should be attracted by his eloquence, and not be willing to accept the cross of Christ. To them who reject it, such preaching appears like foolishness; but those who believe will find in it the power of God unto salvation. "The Jews," he says, "require a sign,"-probably the sign of circumcision; for the Judaizing teachers still contended for that rite;-" and the Greeks seek after wisdom,"-the vain" philosophy by which they sought to explain the creation and government of the world. Paul, in his speech at Athens, had shown that all this wisdom was mere foolishness; for after the Athenians had set up altars to gods innumerable, they were themselves unsatisfied, and set up one inscribed to the unknown god. By the very preaching which they called foolishness, Paul set forth the true character of that God whom their highest wisdom did not enable them to comprehend. Thus he proved that the foolishness of God is wiser than men.

In this way, Paul shows the Corinthians the priceless value of the gospel they had received; that it is a gift from God himself; that it is the same, whether preached by Peter, by Apollos, or by himself. It is light from heaven, and does not depend for its excellence upon the wisdom or eloquence of men. He calls attention to the fact that not many of the believers are from among the wise, the mighty, or the noble of this world.

In speaking of his own preaching, he says "And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. 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 stand it the wisdom of men, but in the power of God."









AFTER showing that the wisdom of men is foolishness with God, Paul speaks of a wisdom which none of the princes of this world can know,-even the wisdom of God, which has laid the plan of salvation, and prepared wonderful things for those who seek light and immortality through Christ the crucified. He tells them that, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him."

"But unto us," says he, " God hath revealed them by his Spirit; . . . . which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth.

But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him."

This heavenly wisdom, or mystery of God, cannot be spoken in full, except to those who are perfect, or full-grown in their experience.

It has to be revealed gradually, as the growth of grace in the heart fits the learner to comprehend it. So Paul says: "And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat; for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal; for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?"

Again he shows the folly of indulging in the party spirit, which they had cherished. Although he has planted, and Apollos watered, it is God that has given the increase. He that planteth, and he that watereth, are one; they are laborers together in building up the church, which is God's. As a wise master builder, Paul had laid the foundation of faith in Christ; others had built thereon. "But," says the apostle, "let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.

If any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man's work shall be made manifest; for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire."

"The precious stones represent the most perfect Christians, who have been refined and polished by the grace of God, and by affliction which they have endured with much prayer and patience. Their obedience and love resemble those of the great Pattern.

Their lives are beautified and ennobled by self-sacrifice. They will endure the test of the burning day, for they are living stones."

"From worldly policy, many endeavor, by their own efforts, to become as polished stones; but they cannot be living stones, because they are not built upon the true foundation. The day of God will reveal that they are, in reality, only wood, hay, and stubble."

"And the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide, which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire."

"The Christian teacher who faithfully presents the word of truth, leading his converts to holiness of heart and life, is bringing precious material to the foundation; and in the kingdom of God he will be honored as a wise builder. He who neglects to teach the truth in its purity, will gather converts who are not holy in heart and life. He is bringing material that will not stand the test. In the day of God he will suffer loss."

Of judging one another, Paul says, "Judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts."

In speaking of personal pride, he warns them against being puffed up, and asks: "Who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive?  Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it?"

Lest they should think their way hard, Paul contrasts their condition with his own and that of the other apostles. He says: "Ye are full, ye are rich, ye are honorable; but we are despised; we both hunger and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place; we labor, working with our own hands; being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it; being defamed, we intreat; we are made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things, unto this day." He says, "I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus have I begotten you through the gospel."

He then beseeches them to follow in the ways he has taught them, and promises to send Timothy, his beloved son in the gospel, to help them in so doing.

He speaks also of coming himself, shortly, when he will test the worth of them that are puffed up, judging them not by their words, but by their power in the things of God. Then he asks, "What will ye? Shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?"










IN the former part of his letter, Paul thanks God for the gifts bestowed upon his Corinthian brethren; admonishes them to put away their dissensions; contrasts the vain philosophy of men with the infinite wisdom of God, and speaks of the glorious things, which have been revealed by the Holy Spirit. He tells why he could teach them only the rudiments of the gospel; calls them God's building, reared upon Jesus Christ as a foundation; regards himself as a mere workman on that building, and God as the one to whom all honor and glory should be ascribed. He warns them against judging hastily, and against self-exaltation; contrasts their easy circumstances with the destitution and suffering of those from whom they had received the gospel; promises to send Timothy to them, and speaks of his intention of soon visiting them in person.

After this, he reproves them for going to law with one another before worldly magistrates. He says,

"Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?

Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? How much more things that pertain to this life? If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? No not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?  But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong?

Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to he defrauded?"  Paul then exhorts them to purity and chastity.

After instructing and admonishing them at some length, he breaks out with the following exclamation:

"What! Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." And again: "If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are." He also gives them counsel and various admonitions relative to marriage and connubial life, enjoining continence, fidelity, and patient forbearance.

He says, "Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God."

"Let every man abide in the calling wherein he was called. Art thou called being a servant care not for it; . . . for he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman; likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant."

In speaking of meat that had been offered unto idols, and afterward sold in the market, Paul tells them that to eat of such flesh is no sin, since there are really no gods but the one true God; yet he thinks it better to avoid such a practice, for the reason that some regard it as sanctioning the worship of the idol.

He says, "If meat maketh my brother to stumble, I will eat no flesh forevermore."

The apostle then shows how reasonable it is that those who spend their time in preaching the gospel, should have their support from those who are benefited by their preaching. He says, "If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? "The priests who served in the temple, partook of the offerings. "Even so hath the Lord ordained that they who preach the gospel should live of the gospel."  Yet although this support was due Paul, he had not taken it; but had labored with his own hands, and been chargeable to none of them.  All this he did for the gospel's sake, that he might win the more to Christ. For the same purpose, too, he tried, as far as was consistent with right principles, to adapt himself to the customs and peculiarities of whatever people he was among.

Paul also calls attention to the care and self-denial practiced by those who strove for the mastery in the public games. We ought certainly to take as much pains to win the incorruptible crown, which Christ has promised, as they to win a perishable crown of ever-greens. Of himself he says, "I keep my body under, and bring it into subjection; lest by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast-away."