Bible Study on 1st Corinthians Session 4

Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians;

A Bible Study Based upon the Homilies of St John Chrysostom (SJC)

Study Guide – November 10, 2020 – 1st Corinthians 1.10-17 Session 4 – Homily 3

Prayer before reading of the Holy Scriptures: Shine within our hearts, loving Master, the pure light of Your divine knowledge, and open the eyes of our minds that we may comprehend the message of Your Gospel. Instill in us also reverence for Your blessed commandments so that, having conquered sinful desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, thinking and doing all those things which are pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give glory, together with Your Father who is without beginning and Your all holy, good and life giving Spirit, always now and forever and to the ages of ages.


Section [1]

  1. St Paul uses soft language to avoid further division in the Church SJC “in that, being about to enter upon a subject full of many dangers and enough to tear up the Church from her foundations he uses very mild language. His word is that he beseeches them, and beseeches them through Christ; as though not even he were sufficient alone to make this supplication, and to prevail.”
  2. Division is the end of unity…PERIOD! – SJC “For had they been entire Churches, there might be many of them; but if they were divisions, then that first One had gone. For that which is entire within itself not only does not become many by division into many parts, but even the original One is lost. Such is the nature of divisions.”

Section [2]

  1. The divisions were not faith-based but leadership-based. Both are needed for perfection. – SJC “For he that is united in one thing, but in another dissents, is no longer perfected, nor fitted in to complete accordance. There is also such a thing as harmony of opinions, where there is not yet harmony of sentiment; for instance, when having the same faith we are not joined together in love: for thus, in opinions we are one, (for we think the same things,) but in sentiment not so. And such was the case at that time; this person choosing one [leader], and that, another. For this reason he says it is necessary to agree both in mind and in judgment. For it was not from any difference in faith that the schisms arose, but from the division of their judgment through human contentiousness.”

Section [3]

  1. The Church depends upon reliable witnesses rather than mere accusations. – SJC “first he brought forward his charge; as one who put confidence in his informants. Because, had it not been so, he would not have found fault: for Paul was not a person to believe lightly.”
  2. The Church focuses upon fairness in accusations. – SJC “For he had an eye to the benefit not of the one side only, but of the other also. Wherefore he says not, It has been declared to me by certain, but he indicates also the household, lest they might suppose that he was inventing.”

Section [4]

  1. The division ran deep but St Paul disarms them by using himself and the other Apostles as examples rather than the actual dividers. – SJC “For if it were not right for them to call themselves by the name of Paul, and of Apollos, and of Cephas, much less of any others. If under the Teacher and the first of the Apostles, and one that had instructed so much people, it were not right to enroll themselves, much less under those who were nothing. By way of hyperbole then, seeking to withdraw them from their disease, he sets down these names.”
  2. St Paul always sets the example of humility by insisting he also did not deserve the honor. – SJC “For he who puts himself foremost to be rejected, does so not for love of honor, but for extreme contempt of this sort of reputation. He puts himself, you see, in the way of the whole attack, and then mentions Apollos, and then Cephas. Not therefore to magnify himself did he do this, but in speaking of wrong things he administers the requisite correction in his own person first.”

Section [5]

  1. The divisions that resulted were absurd, and St Paul makes clear his anger and disapproval. – SJC “Is Christ divided. What he says comes to this: You have cut in pieces Christ, and distributed His body. Here is anger! Here is chiding! Here are words full of indignation! For whenever instead of arguing he interrogates only, his doing so implies a confessed absurdity.”
  2. Since Christ is not divided, the divisions must end. – SJC “Then in what follows, he labors to overthrow this absurdity, saying, Was Paul crucified for you, or were ye baptized into the name of Paul? Observe his Christ-loving mind; how thenceforth he brings the whole matter to a point in his own name, showing, and more than showing, that this honor belongs to no one.”

Section [6]

  1. It doesn’t matter who does the baptizing, but that the Baptism is in the Name of Christ. – SJC “Thus saying, by a kind of divine art (οἰκονομικῶς) he does away with their swelling pride upon this point; not with the efficacy of the baptism, (God forbid,) but with the folly of those who were puffed up at having been baptizers: first, by showing that the Gift is not theirs; and, secondly, by thanking God therefore. For Baptism truly is a great thing: but its greatness is not the work of the person baptizing, but of Him who is invoked in the Baptism.”
  2. St Paul offers himself as an example as he downplays the baptisms he did. SJC “For by this he signifies that neither did he seek much to enjoy the honor accruing hereby from the multitude, nor did he set about this work for glory’s sake.

Section [7]

  1. Preaching the Word of God does not depend upon worldly wisdom, but the grace of God.SJC “But if it was ‘not by wisdom of speech,’ why did they send Apollos who was eloquent? It was not, he replies, through confidence in his power of speech, but because he was Acts 18:24-29 mighty in the Scriptures, and confuted the Jews.”

LIFE APPLICATION – Live by Grace rather than Worldly Wisdom

Section [8]

  1. Our leaders don’t have to be worldlySJC “Nor let anyone say, Paul was wise; but while we exalt those among them who were great in wisdom and admired for their excellency of speech, let us allow that all on our side were uneducated; for it will be no slight overthrow which they will sustain from us in that respect also: and so the victory will be brilliant indeed.”
  2. The untrained Apostles defeated the worldly masters – SJC “For these untrained, and rude, and illiterate men, as completely vanquished the wise, and powerful, and the tyrants, and those who flourished in wealth and glory and all outward good things, as though they had not been men at all: from whence it is manifest that great is the power of the Cross; and that these things were done by no human strength.”
  3. Simple fishermen were sufficient to take down the Roman Empire with God’s grace – SJC “And observe; the fisherman, the tentmaker, the publican, the ignorant, the unlettered, coming from the far distant country of Palestine, and having beaten off their own ground the philosophers, the masters of oratory, the skillful debaters, alone prevailed against them in a short space of time; in the midst of many perils; the opposition of peoples and kings, the striving of nature herself, length of time, the vehement resistance of inveterate custom, demons in arms, the devil in battle array and stirring up all, kings, rulers, peoples, nations, cities, barbarians, Greeks, philosophers, orators, sophists, historians, laws, tribunals, various kinds of punishments, deaths innumerable and of all sorts. But nevertheless all these were confuted and gave way when the fisherman spoke; just like the light dust which cannot bear the rush of violent winds.”

Section [9]

  1. Our power comes from actions, not words – SJC “Let this, I say, be our way of overpowering them, and of conducting our warfare against them; and let us astound them by our way of life rather than by words. For this is the main battle, this is the unanswerable argument, the argument from conduct.”
  2. People will judge us by our actions not our words – SJC “For it is not what is said that draws their attention, but their enquiry is, what we do; and they say, First obey your own words, and then admonish others. But if while you say, infinite are the blessings in the world to come, thou seem yourself nailed down to this world, just as if no such things existed, your works to me are more credible than your words.”
  3. We will catch souls by our way of life – SJC “Let us catch them then by our mode of life; and by these souls let us build up the Church, and of these let us amass our wealth. There is nothing to weigh against a soul, not even the whole world. So that although thou give countless treasure unto the poor, you will do no such work as he who converts one soul.”

SEND OFF – Save who you can

Section [9]SJC “Do not thou then, because you can not save the world, despise the few; nor through longing after great things, withdraw yourself from the lesser. If you can not an hundred, take thou charge of ten; if you can not ten, despise not even five; if you can not five, do not overlook one; and if you can not one, neither so despair, nor keep back what may be done by you.