A Study Of First Corinthians -- By: J. Bouton Lawrence

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 057:228 (Oct 1900)
Article: A Study Of First Corinthians
Author: J. Bouton Lawrence


A Study Of First Corinthians

J. Bouton Lawrence

South Norwalk, Conn.

Examination of some excellent Commentaries for the dominating thought and controlling motive of St. Paul’s First Corinthian Epistle is somewhat disappointing.

Several seem to hold, with Olshausen, “that the points treated by the apostle in his writing are extremely varied in their nature; nevertheless, a strong thread of connection is evident throughout.” Yet, with him, most fail to define satisfactorily this “strong thread,” and to treat the contents of the letter at all germinally. “This Epistle divides itself into two parts,” says Bishop Ellicott in his Handy Commentary. “The first section, extending to chap. 6:20, deals with the reports that had reached St. Paul as to the condition of the Corinthian church; and the second section, which occupies the remainder of the Epistle, is a reply to the letter received from Corinth.” But is the apostle here merely answering their six questions, or rebuking the three evils of the Greek church?

The Epistle does not begin in this style, nor with such a motive. Nor does the apostle pen a desultory letter about nine or ten important things for this church to know or to do. Did Paul ever write such a letter? While always embodying these practical issues, he invariably strung them on the “strong thread “of some radical truth, which gave them a temporary value, and which, too, lent perpetual significance to the particular problem of that early church.

The underlying truth always more than sufficed for the special cases named or treated. Our undertaking is, then, to discover, if possible, the motive, or theme, of the First Corinthian Epistle. The only and the sure way of doing this, is to traverse thoroughly the territory lying before us. This has been done; and, without requiring any tedious journeyings of the reader, he may be presented with a bird’s-eye view of the entire country.

After nine verses of greeting to the church at the Greek Isthmus, St. Paul very earnestly exhorts the membership to unity of mind and life. The nature of their divisions is noted, and the basis of their union—the false and the true—are distinctly and emphatically named. It is not Paul, nor Apollos, nor Peter; it is not world-wisdom; but it is the gospel of the Cross, the wisdom and power of God: Jesus Christ is the real bond of union.

Now for three chapters on (2–4), the writer tells of the nature of his personal union with those to whom he is writing. He is united with them, not, as some h...

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