Verse 24. "My love be with you all in Christ Jesus." - It appears exceedingly strange that the apostle should say, My love be with you; as he said, The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. We can easily conceive what the latter means: the grace of Christ is an active, powerful, saving principle; it is essential to the existence of the Christian Church that this grace should be ever with it: and without this grace no individual can be saved. But what could the love of the apostle do with them? Has it any meaning? I confess I can see none, unless it be intended to say, I love you; or, I continue to love you. The pronoun mou, my, is wanting in the Codex Alexandrinus, and in 73, an excellent MS. in the Vatican, written about the eleventh century. This will help us to a better sense, for it either says, May love prevail among you! or supplying the word qeou GOD, as in 2 Cor. xiii. 14, The love of God be with you! This gives a sound sense; for the love of God is as much a principle of light, life, and salvation, as the grace of Christ. And probably mou, my, is a corruption for qeou, of GOD. And this is the more likely, because he uses this very form in the conclusion of his second epistle to this Church, as we have seen above. I conclude, therefore, that the reading of the two MSS. above is the true reading; or else that mou is a corruption for qeou, and that the verse should be read thus: The love of GOD be with you all, in (or by) Christ Jesus.
"Amen" - So be it: but this word is wanting in most MSS. of repute, and certainly was not written by the apostle.
1. THE subscription to this epistle in our common English Bibles, and in the common editions of the Greek text, is palpably absurd. That it was not written from Philippi, but from Ephesus, see the notes on ver. 5, 8, 10, 19; and that it could not be written by Silvanus, and Fortunatus, and Achaicus, and Timotheus," needs no proof. But this subscription is wanting in all the best MSS. and versions, either in whole or in part. In some it is simply said, The first to the Corinthians; in others, The first to the Corinth is finished; written from Ephesus-from Asia-from Ephesus of Asia-from Philippi of Macedonia-from Philippi of Macedonia, and sent by the hands of Timothy; so the SYRIAC. Written from Ephesus, by Stephanas and Fortunatus; COPTIC. Written from Philippi by Stephanas, and Fortunatus, and Achaicus; SLAVONIC. Written, &c., by Paul and Sosthenes. Written from the city of Philippi, and sent by Stephanas, and Fortunatus, and Achaicus, and Timotheus; ARABIC. There are other variations, which need not be set down. Those only appear to be correct that state the epistle to have been sent from Ephesus, of which there can be no reasonable doubt.
2. In closing my observations on this epistle, I feel it necessary once more to call the reader's attention to the many difficulties contained in it as an excuse for any thing he may find handled in an unsatisfactory manner.
Perhaps it will be of little consequence for him to know that this epistle has cost me more labour and difficulty than any portion of the same quantity which I have yet passed over either in the Old or New Testament.
3. It has been already noticed that the Church at Corinth had written to the apostle for advice, direction, and information on a variety of points; and that this epistle is, in the main, an answer to the epistle from Corinth. Had we that epistle, all difficulty would vanish in this; but, as the apostle only refers to their questions by mere catch words from their letter, it is impossible to know, in all cases, what the questions contained. To them the answers would be clear, because they knew on what they had consulted him; to us the answers must be, as they really are in some cases, necessarily obscure, because we know not the whole bearing and circumstances of the questions. Indeed the epistle contains more local matter, and more matter of private application, than any other in the New Testament; and there is in it, on the whole, less matter for general use than in most other parts of the sacred writings. Yet it is both very curious and useful; it gives insight into several customs, and not a few forms of speech, and matters relative to the discipline of the primitive Church, which we can find nowhere else: and it reads a very awful lesson to those who disturb the peace of society, make schisms in the Church of Christ, and endeavour to set up one preacher at the expense of another.
4. It shows us also how many improper things may, in a state of ignorance or Christian infancy, be consistent with a sincere belief in the Gospel of Christ, and a conscientious and zealous attachment to it.
5. In different parts of the epistle we find the apostle speaking very highly of the knowledge of this Church; and its various gifts and endowments.
How then can we say that its blemishes arose from ignorance? I answer, that certainly only a few of the people at Corinth could possess those eminent spiritual qualifications; because the things that are attributed to this Church in other places are utterly inconsistent with that state of grace for which the apostle, in other places, appears to give them credit. The solution of the difficulty is this: There were in the Church at Corinth many highly gifted and very gracious people; there were also there many more, who, though they might have been partakers of some extraordinary gifts, had very little of that religion which the apostle describes in the thirteenth chapter of this epistle.
6. Besides, we must not suppose that eminent endowments necessarily imply gracious dispositions. A man may have much light and little love; he may be very wise in secular matters, and know but little of himself, and less of his God. There is as truly a learned ignorance, as there is a refined and useful learning. One of our old writers said, "Knowledge that is not applying, is only like a candle which a man holds to light himself to hell." The Corinthians abounded in knowledge, and science, and eloquence, and various extraordinary gifts; but in many cases, distinctly enough marked in this epistle, they were grossly ignorant of the genius and design of the Gospel. Many, since their time, have put words and observances in place of the weightier matters of the LAW, and the spirit of the GOSPEL. The apostle has taken great pains to correct these abuses among the Corinthians, and to insist on that great, unchangeable, and eternal truth, that love to God and man, filling the heart, hallowing the passions, regulating the affections, and producing universal benevolence and beneficence, is the fulfilling of all law; and that all professions, knowledge, gifts, &c., without this, are absolutely useless. And did this epistle contain no more than what is found in the 13th chapter, yet that would be an unparalleled monument of the apostle's deep acquaintance with God; and an invaluable record of the sum and substance of the Gospel, left by God's mercy to the Church, as a touchstone for the trial of creeds, confessions of faith, and ritual observances, to the end of the world.
7. I have often had occasion to note that the whole epistle refers so much to Jewish affairs, customs, forms of speech, ceremonies, &c., that it necessarily supposes the people to have been well acquainted with them: from this I infer that a great majority of the Christian Church at Corinth was composed of converted JEWS; and it is likely that this was the case in all the Churches of Asia Minor and Greece. Many Gentiles were undoubtedly brought to the knowledge of the truth; but the chief converts were from among the Hellenistic Jews. In many respects Jewish phraseology prevails more in this epistle than even in that to the Romans.
Without attention to this it would be impossible to make any consistent sense out of the 15th chapter, where the apostle treats so largely on the doctrine of the resurrection, as almost every form and turn of expression is JEWISH; and we must know what ideas they attached to such words and forms of speech, in order to enter into the spirit of the apostle's meaning.
His ignorance of this caused a late eminent writer and philosopher to charge the apostle with "inconsistent reasoning." Had he understood the apostle's language, he would not have said so; and as he did not understand it, he should have said nothing. A man may be qualified to make great and useful discoveries in the doctrine of gases or factitious airs, who may be ill qualified to elucidate the meaning of the Holy Spirit.
8. Before I finish my concluding observations on this epistle, I must beg leave to call the reader's attention once more to the concluding words of the apostle: If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema, maran-atha. These words have been as often misunderstood, and perhaps as dangerously applied, as another passage in this epistle, He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, &c. Though I am ready to grant that the bad Christian, i.e. the man who professes Christianity, and yet lives under the power of sin, is in a very dangerous state; and that he who, while he credits Christianity, is undecided as to the public part he should take in its profession and practice, is putting his eternal interests to the most awful hazard; yet I must also grant that the meaning generally put on the words in question is not correct. The words apply to the gainsaying and blasphemous Jews; to those who were calling Christ anathema, or accursed; and cannot be applied to any person who respects his name, or confides in him for his salvation; much less do they apply to him who finds through the yet prevalence of evil in his heart, and the power of temptation, that he has little, and, to his own apprehension, no love to the Lord Jesus. The anathema of the apostle is denounced against him only who gives the anathema to Christ: of this, not one of my readers is capable. It is the duty of all to love him with an undivided heart: if any be not yet able to do it, let him not be discouraged: if the Lord cometh to execute judgment on him who calleth Jesus accursed, he cometh also to fulfill the desire of them who fear him; to make them partake of the Divine nature, and so cleanse their hearts by the inspiration of his Holy Spirit, that they shall perfectly love him, and worthily magnify his name.