Bible Study on 1st Corinthians Session 36

Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians

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

Study Guide – April 2, 2024 – 1st Corinthians 14.1-19  Session 36 – Homily 35

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.

Audio Version


Section [1]

  1. Pursue love until you possess it, never give up SJC Wherefore also he said, Follow after: for he that is in chase beholds that only which is chased, and towards that he strains himself, and leaves not off until he lay hold of it.
  2. The gift of tongues is lower in honor than the gift of prophecy – SJC At this point he makes a comparison between the gifts, and lowers that of the tongues, showing it to be neither altogether useless, nor very profitable by itself. 
  3. All gifts are valuable if they edify others – SJC how every where he gives the higher honor to that which tends to the profit of the many?

Section [2]

  1. The gift of tongues is honored but prophecy is honored more – SJC But rather and greater, do not mark opposition, but superiority. So that hence also it is evident that he is not disparaging the gift, but leading them to better things, displaying both his carefulness on their behalf, and a spirit free from all envy.
  2. Saint Paul’s only priority is the benefit of the Church – SJC And these things he says to signify that he is seeking their profit, not bearing any grudge against them that have the gift; since not even in his own person does he shrink from pointing out its unprofitableness. 
  3. Saint Paul expresses humility in acknowledging that he has no value if the people do not benefit – SJC And what he means is, if I say not somewhat that can be made intelligible to you and that may be clear, but merely make display of my having the gift of tongues;— tongues which you do not understand, you will go away with no sort of profit. For how should you profit by a voice which you understand not?

Section [3]

  1. If inanimate objects required order to be of value, how could we expect less of living human beings? – SJC Now if from things without life we require so much distinctness, and harmony, and appropriateness, and into those inarticulate sounds we strive and contend to infuse so much meaning, much more in men indued with life and reason, and in spiritual gifts, ought one to make significancy an object.
  2. Anything that does not help our salvation is useless – SJC Which is just what he means, and the mischief of it what he is manifesting, when he says, who shall prepare himself for war? So then, if it have not this quality, it is the ruin of all. And what is this to us, says one? 

Section [4]

  1. The gift of tongues is meant to draw people together – SJC Wherefore he every where points out its imperfection, that so he may bind them together. Any how, he that accounts it to be sufficient for itself, does not so much commend it as disparage it, not suffering it to shine brightly by the interpretation. For excellent indeed and necessary is the gift, but it is so when it has one to explain what is spoken.
  2. When a gift is kept private we remain foreigners to each other – SJC But do thou, I pray, consider, how every where he has given diligence to free the gift from censure, and to bring round the charge to the receivers of it. For he said not, I shall be a barbarian, but, unto him that speaks, a barbarian. And again, he did not say, he that speaks shall be a barbarian, but he that speaks shall be a barbarian unto me. 

Section [5]

  1. Saint Paul wants us to possess gifts so much but only if the Church benefits – SJC Thus, so far am I from wishing you not to possess them, that I even wish you to abound in them, only so that you handle them with a view to the common advantage. 

Section [6]

  1. If others cannot understand your prayer it only helps you – SJC And what he says is this: if you shall bless in a barbarian tongue, not knowing what you say, nor able to interpret, the layman cannot respond the Amen. For not hearing the words, ‘forever and ever,’ which are at the end , he does not say the Amen. Then again, comforting him concerning this, that he might not seem to hold the gift too cheap; the same kind of remark as he made above, that he speaks mysteries, and speaks unto God, and edifies himself, and prays with the spirit, intending no little comfort from these things.

Section [7]

  1. Saint Paul never puts himself above others – SJC Further, because he had run down the possessors of this gift, as though they had no such great thing; that he might not seem to hold them cheap, as being himself destitute of it, see what he says: I thank God, speaking with tongues more than ye all. And this he does also in another place intending, namely, to take away the advantages of Judaism.
  2. Vainglory is the problem – SJC Wherefore neither did he employ it; not because he had it not, but because he always sought the more profitable things: being as he was free from all vain-glory, and considering one thing only, how he might render the hearers better.

LIFE APPLICATION: Vainglory is your enemy

Section [8]

  1. Vainglory blinds you to sin – SJC And here is the reason of the faculty he had of looking to the expedient both to himself and to others: viz. because he was free from vain-glory. Since he assuredly that is enslaved by it, so far from discerning what is good to others, will not even know his own.

Section [9]

  1. Fake humility is still vainglory – SJC Not like him of Sinope , who clothed in rags and living in a cask to no good end, astonished many, but profited none: whereas Paul did none of these things; (for neither had he an eye to ostentation;) but was both clothed in ordinary apparel with all decency, and lived in a house continually, and displayed all exactness in the practice of all other virtue; which the cynic despised, living impurely and publicly disgracing himself, and dragged away by his mad passion for glory.

Section [10]

  1. Imitate the saints to defeat vainglory – SJC By what means then may one find a remedy for this manifold distemper? By bringing forward those that have trodden it under foot, and with an eye to their image so ordering one’s own life. 

Section [11]

  1. Genuine humility is willingly rejecting glory – SJC Consider, I pray, this same Apostle who speaks these things, how he ever ascribes the whole to God, how of his sins he makes mention continually, but of his good deeds never, unless perchance it should be needful to correct the disciples; and even if he be compelled to do this, he calls the matter folly, and yields the first place to Peter, and is not ashamed to labor with Priscilla and Aquila, and every where he is eager to show himself lowly, not swaggering in the market place, nor carrying crowds with him, but setting himself down among the obscure.

Section [19]

  1. Being afraid of insults is also vainglory – SJC But the men of our time are overwhelmed by all things, not by desire of glory only, but also, on the other hand, by insult and fear of dishonor. Thus, should any one praise, it would puff you up, and if he blame, it would cast you down. 
  2. A balanced heart defeats vainglory – SJC Knowing therefore these things, let us not shun poverty, let us not admire riches: but prepare our soul to be sufficient for all estates.
  3. Be prepared for poverty and wealth – SJC Wherefore, letting alone these things, let us render our soul meet both for wealth and poverty. For although no calamity, such as man is subject to, befall, which is for the most part impossible, even thus, better is he that seeks not wealth, but knows how to bear all things easily than he that is always rich. 

Section [13]

  1. Wealth tortures us even in death – SJC Not even when dead is he freed from the villainy of the robbers, nor has death power to set him in safety, but the evil doers despoil him even when dead, so dangerous a thing is wealth. For not only do they dig into houses, but they even burst open tombs and coffins. What then can be more wretched than this man, since not even death can furnish him with this security, but that wretched body, even when deprived of life, is not freed from the evils of life, those that commit such wickedness hastening to war even with dust and ashes, and much more grievously than when it was alive? 

SEND OFF! Give your wealth away to defeat vainglory

Section [14] But let us make this beast tame. And it will be tame, if we do not shut it up, but give it into the hands of all who are in need. So shall we reap from this quarter the greatest blessings, both living in the present life with safety and a good hope, and in the day that is to come standing with boldness.