Bible Study on 1st Corinthians Session 37

Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians

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

Study Guide – April 9, 2024 – 1st Corinthians 14.20-33  Session 37 – Homily 36

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. We must be both childlike and wise SJC For he that is a babe in wickedness ought also to be wise. Since as wisdom with wickedness would not be wisdom, so also simplicity with folly would not be simplicity, it being requisite both in simplicity to avoid folly, and in wisdom wickedness. For as neither bitter nor sweet medicines in excess do good, so neither does simplicity by itself, nor wisdom.
  2. “The Law” refers to the entire Old Testament – SJC Yet surely it is no where written in the Law, but as I said before, he calls always the whole of the Old Testament, the Law: both the prophets and the historical books.

Section [2]

  1. Tongues and prophecy both help the Church but not equally – SJC If you will accurately examine, you will understand what is said. For he said not, prophecy is not useful to them unbelieving, but, is not for a sign, as the tongue, i.e., a mere sign without profit: nor is the tongue any way useful to believers; for its only work is to astonish and to confound.

Section [3]

  1. Draw others away from pleasure by showing them it is really the opposite – SJC And do thou accordingly likewise: if you would lead men away from pleasure, show that the thing is bitter: if you would withdraw them from vain-glory, show that the thing is full of dishonor: thus also was Paul used to do.
  2. Saint Paul shows that the gift of tongues was likely to seen as madnessSJC So also here, because they were wild about this gift of tongues, through their love of glory, he signifies that this on the other hand more than anything brings shame upon them, not only depriving them of glory, but also involving them in a suspicion of madness.
  3. Prophecy has no risk of hurting the Church – SJC But prophecy, on the contrary, is both free from reproach among the unbelievers, and has very great credit and usefulness. For none will say in regard to prophesying, they are mad; nor will any one deride them that prophesy; but, on the contrary, will be astonished at and admire them.

Section [4]

  1. Don’t use your gifts unless you can benefit others – SJC For if you come not to edify your brother, why do you come here at all? In fact, I do not make much account of the difference of the gifts. One thing concerns me, one thing is my desire, to do all things unto edifying.

Section [5]

  1. If you cannot benefit others, then keep it to yourself – SJC If he endure not to be silent, says he, but is so ambitious and vain-glorious, let him speak by himself.  And thus, by the very fact of so permitting, he greatly checked and put them to shame. 

Section [6]

  1. Prophets are subject to the Church’s assessment – SJC For of this also at the beginning he bade them beware, when he introduced a distinction between divination and prophecy, and now he bids them discriminate and spy out the matter, so that no Satanic teacher might privily enter.
  2. It is not good to jump between topics in Church – SJC For if him that speaks with tongues he altogether forbid to speak, when he has not an interpreter, because of the unprofitableness; reasonably also he bids restrain prophecy, if it have not this quality, but creates confusion and disturbance and unseasonable tumult.

LIFE APPLICATION: It is time to restore sacredness to the Church

Section [7]

  1. The Church has changed – SJC For in truth the Church was a heaven then, the Spirit governing all things, and moving each one of the rulers and making him inspired. But now we retain only the symbols of those gifts. For now also we speak two or three, and in turn, and when one is silent, another begins. But these are only signs and memorials of those things.
  2. The ancient Church had a stronger faith – SJC They all met together in old time and sang psalms in common. This we do also now: but then among all was there one soul and one heart: but now not in one single soul can one see that unanimity, rather great is the warfare every where. Peace, even now, to all, he that presides in the Church prays for, entering as it were into his Father’s house: but of this peace the name is frequent, but the reality no where.

Section [8]

  1. The Church has lost its sense of sacred – SJC For the church is no barber’s or perfumer’s shop, nor any other merchant’s warehouse in the market-place, but a place of angels, a place of archangels, a palace of God, heaven itself.

Section [9]

  1. The Church is not a place for secular matters – SJC Or if any wish to say or to hear any scandal, you will find that this too is to be had here more than in the forum without. And if you wish to hear anything of political matters, or the affairs of private families, or the camp, go not to the judgment-hall, nor sit in the apothecary’s shop; for here, here I say are those who report all these things more accurately; and our assemblies are anything rather than a church.

Section [10]

  1. Unity in heart and voice is a must in the Church – SJC For in truth there ought to be but one voice in the church always, even as there is but one body. Therefore both he that reads utters his voice alone, and the Bishop himself is content to sit in silence; and he who chants chants alone; and though all utter the response, the voice is wafted as from one mouth. And he that pronounces a homily pronounces it alone. But when there are many conversing on many and diverse subjects, why do we disturb you for no good? Since surely unless ye thought that we are but disturbing you for no good, you would not in the midst of our speech on such high matters, discourse on things of no consequence.
  1. If the secular is brought into the Church, we have no hope of winning the battle against the passions – SJC And ye gape after superfluities, and leaving the truth pursue all sorts of shadows and dreams. Are not all present things a shadow and dreams, and worse than a shadow? For both before they appear, they fly away; and before they are flown, the trouble they give is much, and more than the pleasure. Let one acquire in this world and bury in the earth ever such abundance of wealth, yet when the night is past, naked he shall depart hence, and no wonder.

SEND OFF! Exchange the secular for the sacred

In order therefore that we may be delivered both from the dreams and from the evils that are not in dreams, instead of covetousness let us choose almsgiving, instead of rapine, mercy to mankind. For thus we shall obtain the good things both present and to come, through the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.