Bible Study on 1st Corinthians Session 13

Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians;

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

Study Guide – February 1, 2022 – 1st Corinthians 4.6-12  Session 13 – Homily 12

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 again shows humility and condescension to keep their willingness to listen SJC Now this was not hypocrisy, but condescension (συγκατάβασις) and tact (οἰκονομία). For if he had said openly, As for you, the men whom you are judging are saints, and worthy of all admiration; they might have taken it ill and (κἂν ἀπεπήδησαν) started back. But now in saying, But to me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you: and again, Who is Paul, and who is Apollos? he rendered his speech easy of reception.
  2. By turning the issue on himself, St Paul is hoping they will take the cure – SJC So also Paul, intending to censure them about certain other persons, of whom some, he thought, were injured, others honored above measure, did not set down the persons themselves, but conducted the argument in his own name and that of Apollos, in order that reverencing these they might receive his mode of cure.

Section [2]

  1. We are unit4d to God AND to each other – SJC For if we are one and are mutually bound together, it behooves us not to rise up against one another.
  2. Swelling up of our ego is sickness – SJC And he has well called it being puffed up. For when one particular member rises up over the rest, it is nothing else but inflammation and disease; since in no other way does one member become higher than another, except when a swelling takes place. (So in our language proud flesh.) And so in the body of the Church also; whoever is inflamed and puffed up, he must be the diseased one; for he is swollen above the proportion of the rest.
  3. Division leads to destruction and victory for the devil – SJC For not that we might array ourselves one against another were teachers given us, but that we might all be mutually united. For so the general to this end is set over the host, that of those who are separate he may make one body. But if he is to break up the army, he stands in the place of an enemy rather than of a general.

Section [3]

  1. EVERYTHING we possess was a gift from God, therefore we should avoid pride – SJC Nay, it ought to make you shrink back into yourself. For it is not yours, what has been given, but the giver’s. What if you received it? You received it of him. And if you received of him, it was not yours which you received, and if you but received what was not your own, why are you exalted as if you had something of your own? 

Section [4]

  1. It is foolishness to believe we ar so great. St Paul uses mockery to help us see our foolishness. – SJC Already you are filled. And well says he already; pointing out, from the time, the incredibility of their statements and their unreasonable notion of themselves. It was therefore in mockery that he said to them, So quickly have you come to the end; which thing was impossible in the time: for all the more perfect things wait long in futurity: but to be full with a little betokens a feeble soul; and from a little to imagine one’s self rich, a sick and miserable one. 

Section [5]

  1. St Paul shows how absurd it is to consider the Apostles as last of all, but that is exactly what the world expresses – SJC But you have already a kingdom and honors and great rewards in your fancy. And wishing to carry out their reasoning to still greater absurdity, and to exhibit it as incredible in the highest degree, he said not merely, We are ‘last,’ but, God made us last; nor was he satisfied with saying, last, but he added also, doomed to death: to the end that even one quite void of understanding might feel the statement to be quite incredible, and his words to be the words of one vexed and vehemently abashing them.

Section [6]

  1. The foolishness of the world is completely exposed. Even the angels are amazed at how the Apostles are treated so poorly – SJC It is possible to become a spectacle unto men, but not so unto angels, when the things done are ordinary. But our wrestlings are such as to be worthy even of angelic contemplation. Behold from the things by which he vilifies himself, how again he shows himself great; and from the things about which they are proud, how he displays their meanness. For since to be fools was accounted a meaner thing than to appear wise; to be weak, than to be made strong; and unhonored, than glorious and distinguished; and that he is about to cast on them the one set of epithets, while he himself accepted the other; he signifies that the latter are better than the former; if at least because of them he turned the throng I say not of men only, but also of the very angels unto the contemplation of themselves. 

LIFE APPLICATION: Stop working for praises of men!

Section [7]

  1. Even though we know God sees us and judges us, we still fear men more than God – SJC What but this has turned everything upside down? This puts the whole world into confusion, that we do all things with an eye to men, and even for our good things, we esteem it nothing to have God as an admirer, but seek the approbation which comes from our fellow-servants: and for the contrary things again, despising Him we fear men. And yet surely they shall stand with us before that tribunal, doing us no good. But God whom we despise now shall Himself pass the sentence upon us. But yet, though we know these things, we still gape after men, which is the first of sins.
  1. We obey man because we desire his approval, but because the act is good or bad – SJC When therefore we have thus subjected ourselves unto them and made them lords over us; there are many other things also which seem unto these our lords to be evil, not being such; these also we flee for our part in like manner. For instance; To live in poverty, many account disgraceful: and we flee poverty, not because it is disgraceful nor because we are so persuaded, but because our masters count it disgraceful; and we fear them. Again, to be unhonored and contemptible, and void of all authority seems likewise unto the most part a matter of great shame and vileness. This again we flee; not condemning the thing itself, but because of the sentence of our masters.
  2. The only way to stop fearing man more than God, is to see just how ridiculous man is – SJC By getting a mind greater than their’s; by looking into the nature of things; by condemning the voice of the multitude; before all, by training himself in things really disgraceful to fear not men, but the unsleeping Eye; and again, in all good things, to seek the crowns which come from Him. … Why then, neglecting to have so admirable (θαυμαστόν) an approver, betake we ourselves unto man, who is nothing, all rashness, all at random? Does he call you wicked and polluted when you are not so? So much the more do thou pity him, and weep because he is corrupt; and despise his opinion, because the eyes of his understanding are darkened. For even the Apostles were thus evil reported of; and they laughed to scorn their calumniators.
  3. Men exult sinfulness and animalistic behavior – SJC They collect crowds to fill theatres, and there they introduce choirs of harlots and prostituted children, yea such as trample on nature herself; and they make the whole people sit on high, and so they captivate their city; so they crown these mighty kings whom they are perpetually admiring for their trophies and victories. And yet, what can be more insipid than this honor? What more undelightful than this delight? From among these then do you seek judges to applaud your deeds?
  4. Men corrupt even blessed behaviors – SJC Thus marriage is accounted an honorable thing Hebrews 13:4 both by us and by those without: and it is honorable. But when marriages are solemnized, such ridiculous things take place as you shall hear of immediately: because the most part, possessed and beguiled by custom, are not even aware of their absurdity, but need others to teach them. For dancing, and cymbals, and flutes, and shameful words, and songs, and drunkenness, and revellings, and all the Devil’s great heap (πολὺς ὁ τοῦ διαβόλου φορυτός) of garbage is then introduced.
  5. Even if it is customary evil should be avoided every time – SJC And tell me not of the custom: for if it be an evil thing, let it not be done even once: but if good, let it be done constantly. For tell me, is not committing fornication evil? Shall we then allow just once this to be done? By no means. Why? Because though it be done only once, it is evil all the same. So also that the bride be entertained in this way, if it be evil, let it not be done even once; but if it be not evil, let it even be done always.
  6. We do evil because we do not want to insult man – SJC Yet though the evils are so great, the omission of these proceedings is called an insult, by certain who are no better than brute beasts, and they are indignant that the woman is not exhibited to a multitude, that she is not set forth as a stage spectacle, common to all beholders: whereas most assuredly they should rather count it insult when these things do take place; and a laughing stock, and a farce. For even now I know that men will condemn me of much folly and make me a laughing stock: but the derision I can bear when any gain accrues from it.
  1. Being a custom is not an excuse, but rather a greater sin – SJC But, says one, the thing is customary. Nay, for this very reason we ought most to bewail it, because the devil has hedged in the thing with custom. In fact, since marriage is a solemn thing and that which recruits our race and the cause of numerous blessings; that evil one, inwardly pining and knowing that it was ordained as a barrier against uncleanness, by a new device introduces into it all kinds of uncleanness.
  2. Nobody is exempt from doing good and avoiding evil – SJC But if you say, Female servants do these things; neither so do I acquit you of my charge: for neither to these ought such things to have been permitted. For hence all these evils have their origin, that of our household we make no account. But it is enough in the way of contempt to say, He is a slave, and, They are handmaids. And yet, day after day we hear, Galatians 3:28 In Christ Jesus there is neither bond nor free. Again, were it a horse or an ass, thou dost not overlook it but takest all pains not to have it of an inferior kind; and your slaves who have souls like your own do you neglect?
  3. The power of the Cross is enough. STOP THE MAGIC – SJC What shall we say about the amulets and the bells which are hung upon the hand, and the scarlet woof, and the other things full of such extreme folly; when they ought to invest the child with nothing else save the protection of the Cross. But now that is despised which has converted the whole world and given the sore wound to the devil and overthrown all his power: while the thread, and the woof, and the other amulets of that kind are entrusted with the child’s safety.
  4. How dare we, who have received Christ, trust in magic – SJC Now that among Greeks such things should be done is no wonder: but among the worshippers of the Cross, (τὸν σταυρὸν προσκυνοῦσι) and partakers in unspeakable mysteries, and professors of such high morality, (τοσαῦτα φιλοσοφοῦσιν) that such unseemliness should prevail, this is especially to be deplored again and again. God has honored you with spiritual anointing; and do you defile your child with mud? God has honored you, and do you dishonor yourself? And when you should inscribe on his forehead the Cross which affords invincible security; do you forego this, and cast yourself into the madness of Satan?

SEND OFF! The world is filled with ridiculous men, why do we still fear men more than God?

Are these then, I beseech you, the persons whose good opinion you follow after? And what can it be but the extreme of folly to seek earnestly the praise of men, so corrupt in their ideas, men whose conduct is all at random? When we ought always to resort to the unsleeping Eye, and look to His sentence in all that we do and speak? For these, even if they approve, will have no power to profit us. But He, should He accept our doings, will both here make us glorious, and in the future day will impart to us of the unspeakable good things: which may it be the lot of us all to obtain, through the grace and loving-kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ; with Whom to the Father and the Holy Spirit be glory, power, honor, now and always, and unto everlasting ages. Amen.