Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians
A Bible Study Based upon the Homilies of St John Chrysostom (SJC)
Study Guide – February 27, 2024 – 1st Corinthians 12.27-13.3 Session 33 – Homily 32
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 Corinthians 12.27
- Each person combines to make the the Body of Christ and that includes each parish – SJC the Church among you is a part of the Church existing every where and of the body which is made up of all the Churches: so that not only with yourselves alone, but also with the whole Church throughout the world, you ought to be at peace, if at least ye be members of the whole body.
Section  1 Corinthians 12.28
- Not every position in the Church is of equal honor – SJC Thus what I spoke of before, this also he now does. Because they thought highly of themselves in respect of the tongues he sets it last every where. For the terms, first and secondly, are not used by him here at random, but in order by enumeration to point out the more honorable and the inferior.
- There is a difference between power and healing – SJC Do you see how he again divides the healings from the power, which also he did before. For the power is more than the healing: since he that has power both punishes and heals, but he that has the gift of healings does cures only.
- There is a difference between teaching and doing – SJC Because it is not the same thing to declare the word of preaching and sow piety in the hearts of the hearers, as it is to work miracles: since these are done merely for the sake of that. When therefore any one teaches both by word and life, he is greater than all. For those he calls emphatically teachers, who both teach by deeds and instruct in word.
Section  1 Corinthians 12.9-30
- It isn’t good to always praise nor always chastise – SJC For, as I said, it behooves us neither always to exhort people nor always to silence them.
- Lesser honor does not mean lesser value and vice-versa – SJC His signifying that even the lesser gifts are contended for equally with the greater, from the circumstance that not even these were given absolutely to all? For why, says he, do you grieve that you have not gifts of healing? Consider that what you have, even though it be less, is oftentimes not possessed by him that has the greater.
Section  1 Corinthians 12.31
- NO matter what gift you received, desire the way of love – SJC For when he says, desire earnestly, he demands from them all diligence and desire for spiritual things. And he said not, the greater gifts, but the better, i.e., the more useful, those which would profit. And what he means is this: continue to desire gifts; and I point out to you a fountain of gifts. For neither did he say, a gift, but a way, that he might the more extol that which he intends to mention. As if he said, It is not one, or two, or three gifts that I point out to you, but one way which leads to all these : and not merely a way, but both a more excellent way and one that is open in common to all. For not as the gifts are vouchsafed, to some these, to others those, but not all to all; so also in this case: but it is an universal gift. Wherefore also he invites all to it. Desire earnestly, says he, the better gifts and yet show I unto you a more excellent way; meaning love towards our neighbor.
- Genuine love unites – SJC So that in this respect also it might justly appear great, if the gifts not only brought them not together, but divided them even when united: but this, when many were so divided, would reunite them by virtue of its own and make them one body.
Section  1 Corinthians 13.1
- The greatest gifts make me totally useless if done without love – SJC Do you see to what point he first exalted the gift, and to what afterwards he lowered and cast it down? For neither did he simply say, I am nothing, but, I have become sounding brass, a thing senseless and inanimate. But how sounding brass? Emitting a sound indeed, but at random and in vain, and for no good end.
Section  1 Corinthians 13.2-3
- Even those with gifts are punished if they have a life without Christ – SJC At any rate, many have displayed gifts, and yet on becoming vicious have been punished: as those who prophesied in His name, and cast out many demons, and wrought many mighty works; as Judas the traitor: while others, exhibiting as believers a pure life, have needed nothing else in order to their salvation.
- Saint Paul uses extremes to make the point that nothing is above love – SJC but to signify that he meant to carry the matter as far as possible, he set down even that which could never by any means happen.
- We are united to those whom we serve – SJC For therefore also has almsgiving been enacted by God: since God might have nourished the poor as well without this, but that he might bind us together unto charity and that we might be thoroughly fervent toward each other, he commanded them to be nourished by us.
LIFE APPLICATION: Extreme Love
- We are called to have intense love even unto our death – SJC And the love which He requires is intense; wherefore He stopped not even at this, but added, even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many; pointing out that we ought so to love as even to be slain for our beloved. For this above all is to love Him.
- If we loved properly there would be no need for laws – SJC since in deeds we see it no where appearing; and let us consider, if it were every where in abundance, how great benefits would ensue: how there were no need then of laws, or tribunals or punishments, or avenging, or any other such things since if all loved and were beloved, no man would injure another.
- If we loved properly even evil would cease – SJC Yea, and if this were duly observed, there would be neither slave nor free, neither ruler nor ruled, neither rich nor poor, neither small nor great; nor would any devil then ever have been known: I say not, Satan only, but whatever other such spirit there be, nay, rather were there a hundred or ten thousand such, they would have no power, while love existed. For sooner would grass endure the application of fire than the devil the flame of love.
- Love changes how we experience the world – SJC Though any one be a slave, it renders slavery sweeter that liberty. For he who loves rejoices not so much in commanding, as in being commanded, although to command is sweet: but love changes the nature of things and presents herself with all blessings in her hands, gentler than any mother, wealthier than any queen, and makes difficulties light and easy, causing our virtues to be facile, but vice very bitter to us.
- True love reveals Christ – SJC For as where there are vests and sandals of gold, we require also some other garments whereby to distinguish the king: but if we see the purple and the diadem, we require not to see any other sign of his royalty: just so here likewise, when the diadem of love is upon our head, it is enough to point out the genuine disciple of Christ, not to ourselves only, but also to the unbelievers.
SEND OFF! Love like Saint Paul, who loved like Christ
Of what then must we be worthy compared with him, who neither condemn wealth for our own sake, nor give up the superfluities of our goods? But not so Paul; rather both soul and body did he use to give up, that they who stoned and beat him with rods, might obtain the kingdom. For thus, says he, has Christ taught me to love; who left behind Him the new commandment concerning love, which also Himself fulfilled in deed. For being Lord of all, and of that Blessed Nature; from men, whom He created out of nothing and on whom He had bestowed innumerable benefits, from these, insulting and spitting on Him, He turned not away, but even became man for their sakes, and conversed with harlots and publicans, and healed the demoniacs, and promised heaven. And after all these things they apprehended and beat him with rods, bound, scourged, mocked, and at last crucified Him. And not even so did He turn away, but even when He was on high upon the cross, He says, Father, forgive them their sin. But the thief who before this reviled Him, He translated into very paradise; and made the persecutor Paul, an Apostle; and gave up His own disciples, who were His intimates and wholly devoted to Him, unto death for the Jews’ sake who crucified Him. Recollecting therefore in our minds all these things, both those of God and of men, let us emulate these high deeds, and possess ourselves of the love which is above all gifts, that we may obtain both the present and the future blessings.