Bible Study on 1st Corinthians Session 15

Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians;

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

Study Guide – February 22, 2022 – 1st Corinthians 4.17-21  Session 15 – Homily 14

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 the anticipation of his arrival to change behavior SJC But as this was not possible for a time, he corrects them by the promise of his appearance; and not this only, but also by the sending of his disciple. For this, he says, I have sent unto you Timothy. For this cause: how is that? Because I care for you as for children, and as having begotten you.
  2. Surely they would listen if St Paul sent someone he loved so much – SJC If then he was his beloved child, consider how great was Paul’s love, in choosing to be separated from him for the Corinthians sake, And if faithful also, he will be unexceptionable in his ministering to their affairs.
  3. Timothy’s presence was to confirm St Pau’s teaching, not to be a new teaching – SJC For there was no envy among the Apostles, but they had an eye unto one thing, the edification of the Church. And if he that was employed was their inferior, they did as it were support (συνεκρότουν) him with all earnestness. Wherefore neither was he contented with saying, He shall put you in remembrance; but purposing to cut out their envy more completely — for Timothy was young — with this view, I say, he adds, my ways; not his, but mine; that is, his methods, (τὰς οἰκονομίας.) his dangers, his customs, his laws, his ordinances, his Apostolical Canons, and all the rest. 

Section [2]

  1. St Paul uses shame for those who need to change, but speaks more gently when speaking to general public – SJC For there he glances both at them and at certain others, casting down their high mindedness: since the love of preeminence is in fault, when men abuse the absence of their teacher for their own self-will. For when he addresses himself unto the people, observe how he does it by way of appeal to their sense of shame; when unto the originators of the mischief, his manner is more vehement.
  2. St Paul is a LION of Faith and ALL listen – SJC For as the presence of a lion makes all living creatures shrink away, so also does that of Paul the corrupters of the Church.

Section [3]

  1. Doers, not talkers, are victorious over sin – SJC As therefore in war success is not for those who talk much but those who effect much; so also in this case, not speakers, but doers have the victory.
  1. The Gospel is proved by POWER! – SJC For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. By signs, says he, not by fine speaking, we have prevailed: and that our teaching is divine and really announces the Kingdom of Heaven we give the greater proof, namely, our signs which we work by the power of the Spirit. If those who are now puffed up desire to be some great ones; as soon as I have come, let them show whether they have any such power. 

Section [4]

  1. Love is both meek and strict – SJC What then? To come with a rod, was it not an instance of love? Of love it was surely. But because through his great love he shrinks back in punishing, therefore he so expresses himself. Further; when he spoke about punishment, he said not, in a spirit of meekness, but, [simply,] with a rod: and yet of that too the Spirit was author. For there is a spirit of meekness, and a spirit of severity. 

LIFE APPLICATION: Heaven or Hell is a matter of choice

Section [5]

  1. Whether we enter heaven of hell is our choice – SJC For we too have depending on us both sides of the alternative; both falling into hell, and obtaining the kingdom: since God has so willed it. For, behold, says he, fire and water: whichever way you will, you may stretch forth your hand Sirach 15:16 And, If you be willing, and will hearken unto me, you shall eat the good of the land; Isaiah 1:19, but if you be not willing, the sword shall devour you. But perhaps one will say, I am willing; (and no one is so void of understanding as not to be willing;) but to will is not sufficient for me. Nay, but it is sufficient, if you be duly willing, and do the deeds of one that is willing. But as it is, you are not greatly willing.
  2. We do what is needed if we have desire – SJC Is it not then strange for men to show themselves so much in earnest about earthly things, but that when they are to make a venture for heaven, they should be content with wishing only? Rather I should say, not even in this do they show themselves properly in earnest. For he that wills a thing as he ought, puts also his hand unto the means which lead to the object of his desire. Thus, when hunger compels you to take nourishment, you wait not for the viands to come unto you of their own accord, but omittest nothing to gather victuals together. So in thirst, and cold and all other such things, you are industrious and duly prepared to take care of the body. Now do this in respect of God’s kingdom also, and surely you shall obtain it.

Section [6]

  1. We always choose the easy road – SJC For suppose there were two roads, the one leading to a furnace, and the other to a Paradise; and that the one unto the furnace were broad, the other unto Paradise, narrow; which road would you take in preference? For although you may now gainsay for contradiction’s sake, yet things which are plainly allowed on all hands, however shameless, you will not be able to gainsay. Now that that way is rather to be chosen which has its beginning difficult but not its end, I will endeavor to teach you from what is quite obvious.
  1. We need a guide to keep us on the right path – SJC But, say you, no one applies himself to an art without some one to compel him; for, you add, so long as the boy is his own master, he will choose rather to take his ease at first, and in the end to endure the evil, how great soever, than to live hardly at the outset, and afterwards reap the fruit of those labors. Well then, to make such a choice comes of a mind left to itself, (ὀρφανικῆς διανοίας) and of childish idleness: but the contrary choice, of sense and manliness. And so it is with us: were we not children in mind, we should not be like the child aforesaid, forsaken (ὀρφάνῳ) as he is and thoughtless, but like him that has a father. We must cast out then our own childish mind, and not find fault with the things themselves; and we must set a charioteer over our conscience, who will not allow us to indulge our appetite, but make us run and strive mightily.
  2. We still choose sin in spite of ourselves SJC But here, not for such fruitless and perishable things is our race, neither have we fears about the end; but greater and more secure is our hope after our departure hence. What pardon then can there be, what excuse for those who will not strip themselves for the evils to be endured for virtue’s sake?

Section [7]

  1. Since we will always choose the easier path, let’s really see which is easier: sin or virtue? SJC Whether again is it pleasanter, to see a good dream and to be punished in reality; or after having had a disagreeable dream to be really in enjoyment? Of course the latter. Tell me then, In what sense do you call virtue harsh? I grant, it is harsh, tried by comparison with our carelessness. However, that it is really easy and smooth, hear what Christ says, Matthew 11:30 My yoke is easy, and My burden is light. But if you perceive not the lightness, plainly it is for want of courageous zeal; since where that is, even heavy things are light; and by the same rule where it is not, even light things are heavy. 

Section [8]

  1. The more wealth we want, the more we suffer – SJC If he even get all men’s goods, his pain is but greater. And should he gain an hundred talents, he is vexed that he has not received a thousand: and if he received a thousand; he is stung to the quick that it is not ten thousand: and if he receive ten thousand, he utterly bemoans himself (κατακόπτεται) because it is not ten times as much. And the acquisition of more to him becomes so much more poverty; for the more he receives so much the more he desires.

Section [9]

  1. Being in constant want is hell – SJC But were we always to remain in such a state of desire, we should be as badly off as the rich man in the parable of Lazarus for the matter of punishment; for his punishment was just this that vehemently desiring one little drop, he obtained it not. And this very thing all covetous persons seem to me continually to suffer, and to resemble him where he begs that he may obtain that drop, and obtains it not. For their soul is more on fire than his.

SEND OFF! Virtue is Heaven!

Section [9]

Now we might have gone through all the other evils also whereby it is shown that there is no vice which has pleasure in it, had we not spoken before so much at large Wherefore knowing these things, let us choose virtue; to the end that we may both enjoy such pleasure as is here, and may attain unto the blessings which are to come, through the grace and loving-kindness, etc. etc.