Chrysostom on 1Cor 1900
1900 it is good for a man not to touch a woman. But because of fornications, let each man have his own wife; and let each woman have her own husband. (1Co 7,1-40)
1901 Having corrected the three heaviest things laid to their charge, one, the distraction of the Church, another, about the fornicator, a third, about the covetous person, he thenceforth uses a milder sort of speech. And he interposes some exhortation and advice about marriage and virginity, giving the hearers some respite from more unpleasant subjects. But in the second Epistle he does the contrary; he begins from the milder topics, and ends with the more distressing. And here also, after he has finished his discourse about virginity, he again launches forth into matter more akin to reproof; not setting all down in regular order, but varying his discourse in either kind, as the occasion required and the exigency of the matters in hand.
Wherefore he says, “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me.” For they had written to him, “Whether it was right to abstain from one’s wife, or not:” and writing back in answer to this and giving rules about marriage, he introduces also the discourse concerning virginity: “It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” “For if,” says he, “thou enquire what is the excellent and greatly superior course, it is better not to have any connection whatever with a woman: but if you ask what is safe and helpful to thine own infirmity, be connected by marriage.”
But since it was likely, as also happens now, that the husband might be willing but the wife not, or perhaps the reverse, mark how he discusses each case. Some indeed say that this discourse was addressed by him to priests. But I, judging from what follows, could not affirm that it was so: since he would not have given his advice in general terms. For if he were writing these things only for the priests, he would have said, “It is good for the teacher not to touch a woman.” But now he has made it of universal application, saying, “It is good for a man;” not for priest only. And again, “Art thou loosed from a wife? Seek not a wife.” He said not, “You who are a priest and teacher,” but indefinitely. And the whole of his speech goes on entirely in the same tones And in saying, “Because of fornications, let every man have his own wife” by the very cause alleged for the concession he guides men to continence.
[2.] 1Co 7,3. “Let the husband pay the wife the honor due to her: in like manner the wife the husband.”
Now what is the meaning of “the due honor? The wife hath not power over her own body;” but is both the slave and the mistress of the husband. And if you decline the service which is due, you have offended God. But if thou wish to withdraw thyself, it must be with the husband’s permission, though it be but a for short time. For this is why he calls the matter a debt, to shew that no one is master of himself but that they are servants to each other.
When therefore thou seest an harlot tempting thee, say, “My body is not mine, but my wife’s.” The same also let the woman say to those who would undermine her chastity, “My body is not mine, but my husband’s.”
Now if neither husband nor wife hath power even over their own body, much less have they over their property. Hear ye, all that have husbands and all that have wives: that if you must not count your body your own, much less your money
Elsewhere I grant He gives to the husband abundant precedence, both in the New Testament, and the Old saying, (h apostrofh sou, LXX. Gn 3,16) “Thy turning shall be towards thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” Paul doth so too by making a distinction thus, and writing, (Ep 5,25 and Ep 5,33) “Husbands, love your wives; and let the wife see that she reverence her husband.” But in this place we hear no more of greater and less, but it is one and the same right. Now why is this? Because his speech was about chastity. “In all other things,” says he, “let the husband have the prerogative; but not so where the question is about chastity.” “The husband hath no power over his own body, neither the wife.” There is great equality of honor, and no prerogative).
[3.] 1Co 7,5. “Defraud ye not one the other, except it be by consent.”
What then can this mean? “Let not the wife,” says he, “exercise continence, if the husband be unwilling; nor yet the husband without the wife’s consent.” Why so? Because great evils spring from this sort of continence. For adulteries and fornications and the ruin of families have often arisen from hence. For if when men have their own wives they commit fornication, much more if yon defraud them of this consolation. And well says he, “Defraud not; fraud” here, and “debt” above, that he might shew the strictness of the right of dominion in question. For that one should practice continence against the will of the other is “defrauding;” but not so, with the other’s consent: any more than I count myself defrauded, if after persuading meyou take away any thing of mine. Since onlyhe defrauds who takes against another’s will and by force. A thing which many women do, working sin rather than righteousness, and thereby becoming accountable for the husband’s uncleanness, and rending all asunder. Whereas they should value concord above all things, since this is more important than all beside.
1902 We will, if you please, consider it with a view to actual cases. Thus, suppose a wife and husband, and let the wife be continent, withoutconsent of her husband; well then, if hereupon he commit fornication, or though abstaining from fornication fret and grow restless and be heated and quarrel and give all kind of trouble to his wife; where is all the gain of the fasting and the continence, a breach being made in love? There is none. For what strange reproaches, how much trouble, how great a war must of course arise! since when in an house man and wife are at variance, the house will be no better off than a ship in a storm when the master is upon ill terms with the man at the head. Wherefore he saith, “Defraud not one another, unless it be by consent for a season, that ye may give yourselves unto prayer.” It is prayer with unusual earnestness which he here means. For if he is forbidding those who have intercourse with one another to pray, how could “pray without ceasing” have any place? It is possible then to live with a wife and yet give heed unto prayer. But by continence prayer is made more perfect. For he did not say merely, “That ye may pray;” but, “That ye may give yourselves unto it;” as though what he speaks of might cause not uncleanness but much occupation.
“And may be together again, that Satan tempt you not.” Thus lest it should seem to be a matter of express enactment, he adds the reason. And what is it? “That Satan tempt you not.” And that you may understand that it is not the devil only who causeth this crime, I mean adultery, he adds, “because of your incontinency.”
“But this I say by way of permission, not of commandment. For I would that all men were even as I myself; in a state of continence.” This he doth in many places when he is advising about difficult matters; he brings forward himself, and says, “Be ye imitators of me.”
“Howbeit each man hath his own gift from God, one after this manner, and another after that.” Thus since he had heavily charged them saying, “for your incontinence,” he again comforteth them by the words, “each one hath his own gift of God;” not declaring that towards that virtue there is no need of zeal on our part, but, as I was saying before, to comfort them. For if it be a “gift,” and man contributes nothing thereunto, how sayest thou, “But (v. 8). I say to the unmarried and to widows, it is good for them if they abide even as 1: (v. 9). but if they have not continency let them marry?” Do you see the strong sense of Paul how he both signifies that continence is better, and yet puts no force on the person who cannot attain to it; fearing lest some offence arise?
“For it is better to marry than to burn.” He indicates how great is the tyranny of concupiscence. What he means is something like this: “If you have to endure much violence and burning desire, withdraw yourself from your pains and toils, lest haply you be subverted.”
[4.] 1Co 7,10. “But to the married I give charge, yet not I, but the Lord.”
Because it is a law expressly appointed by Christ which he is about to read to them about the “not putting away a wife without fornication; “(S. Mt 5,32, Mt 19,9; S. Mc 10,11; S. Lc 16,18) therefore he says, “Not I.” True it is what was before spoken though it were not expressly stated, yet it also is His decree. But this, you see, He had delivered in express words. So that the words “I and not I” have this difference of meaning. For that you might not imagine even his own words to be human, therefore he added, “For I think that I also have the Spirit of God.”
Now what is that which “to the married the Lord commanded? That the wife depart not from her husband: (v. 11). but if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled unto her husband.” Here, seeing that both on the score of continence and other pretexts, and because of infirmities of temper, (mikroyukia"). it fell out that separations took place: it were better, he says, that such things should not be at all; but however if they take place, let the wife remain with her husband, if not to cohabit with him, yet so as not to introduce any other to be her husband.
1Co 7,12. “But to the rest speak I, not the Lord. If any brother have a wife that believeth not, and she is content to dwell with him, let him not leave her. And if any woman hath an husband that believeth not, and he is content to dwell with her, let her not leave him.”
For as when discoursing about separating from fornicators, he made the matter easy by the correction which he applied to his words, saying, “Howbeit, not altogether with the fornicators of this world;” so also in this case he provideth for the abundant easiness of the duty, saying, “If any wife have a husband, or husband a wife, that believeth not, let him not leave her.” What sayest thou? “If he be an unbeliever, let him remain with the wife, but not if he be a fornicator? And yet fornication is a less sin than unbelief.” I grant, fornication is a less sin: but God spares thine infirmities extremely. And this is What He doth about the sacrifice, saying, (S. Mt 5,24) “Leave the sacrifice, and be reconciled to thy brother.” This also in the case of the man who owed ten thousand talents. For him too He did not punish for owing him ten thousand talents, but for demanding back a hundred pence from his fellow-servant He took vengeance on him.
Then lest the woman might fear, as though she became unclean because of intercourse with her husband, he says, “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified in the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified in the husband.” And yet, if “he that is joined to an harlot is one body,” it is quite clear that the woman also who is joined to an idolater is one body. Well: it is one body; nevertheless she becomes not unclean, but the cleanness of the wife overcomes the uncleanness of the husband; and again, the cleanness of the believing husband. overcomes the uncleanness of the unbelieving wife.
1903 How then in this case is the uncleanness overcome, and therefore the intercourse allowed; while in the woman who prostitutes herself, the husband is not condemned in casting her out? Because here there is hope that the lost member may be saved through the marriage; but in the other case the marriage has already been dissolved; and there again both are corrupted; but here the Fault is in one only of the two. I mean something like this: she that has been guilty of fornication is utterly abominable: if then “he that is joined to an harlot is one body,” he also becomes abominable by having connection with an harlot; wherefore all the purity flits away. But in the case before us it is not so. But how? The idolater is unclean but the woman is not unclean. For if indeed she were a partner with him in that wherein he is unclean, I mean his impiety, she herself would also become unclean. But now the idolater is unclean in one way, and the wife holds communion with him in another wherein he is not unclean. For marriage and mixture of bodies is that wherein the communion consists.
Again, there is a hope that this man may be reclaimed by his wife for she is made completely his own: but for the other it is not very easy. For how will she who dishonored him in former times and became another’s and destroyed the rights of marriage, have power to reclaim him whom she had wronged; him, moreover, who still remains to her as an alien?
Again in that case, after the fornication the husband is not a husband: but here, although the wife be an idolatress, the husband’s rights are not destroyed.
However, he doth not simply recommend cohabitation with the unbeliever, but with the qualification that he wills it. Wherefore he said, “And he himself be content to dwell with her.” For, tell me, what harm is there when the duties of piety remain unimpaired and there are good hopes about the unbeliever, that those already joined should so abide and not bring in occasions of unnecessary warfare? For the question now is not about those who have never yet come together, but about those who are already joined. He did not say, If any one wish to take an unbelieving wife, but, “If any one hath an unbelieving wife.” Which means, If any after marrying or being married have received the word of godliness, and then the other party which had continued in unbelief still yearn for them to dwell together, let not the marriage be broken off. “For,” saith he, “the unbelieving husband is sanctified in the wife.” So great is the superabundance of thy purity.
What then, is the Greek holy? Certainly not: for he said not, He is holy; but, “He is sanctified in his wife.” And this he said, not to signify that he is holy, but to deliver the woman as completely as possible from her fear and lead the man to desire the truth. For the uncleanness is not in the bodies wherein there is communion, but in the mind and the thoughts. And here follows the proof; namely, that if thou continuing unclean have offspring, the child, not being of thee alone, is of course unclean or half clean. But now it is not unclean. To which effect he adds, “else were your children unclean; but now are they holy;” that is, not unclean. But the Apostle calls them, “holy,”’ by the intensity of the expression again casting out the dread arising from that sort of suspicion.
1Co 7,15. “Yet if the unbelieving departeth, let him depart,” for in this case the matter is no longer fornication. But what is the meaning of, “if the unbelieving departeth?” For instance, if he bid thee sacrifice and take part in his ungodliness on account of thy marriage, or else part company; it were better the marriage were annulled, and no breach made in godliness. Wherefore he adds, “A brother is not under bondage, nor yet a sister, in such cases.” If day by day he buffet thee and keep up combats on this account, it is better to separate. For this is what he glances at, saying, “But God hath called us in peace.” For it is the other party who furnished the ground of separation, even as he did who committed uncleanness.
1Co 7,16. “For how knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thine husband?” This again refers to that expression, “let her not leave him.” That is, “if he makes no disturbance, remain,” saith he, “for there is even profit in this; remain and advise and give counsel and persuade.” For no teacher will have such power to prevail (Reg). Peisai. Bened). iskusai). as a wife. And neither, on one hand, doth he lay any necessity upon her and absolutely demand the point of her, that he may not again do what would be too painful; nor, on the other, doth he tell her to despair: but he leaves the matter in suspense through the uncertainty of the future, saying, “For how knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O husband whether thou shalt save thy wife?”
[5.] And again, 1Co 7,17. “Only as God hath distributed to each man, as the Lord hath called each, so let him walk. Was any one called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Was any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but the keeping of the commandments of God. Let each man abide in that calling wherein he was called. Wast thou called, being a slave? Care not for it.” These things contribute nothing unto faith, saith he. Be not then contentious neither be troubled; for the faith hath cast out all these things.
“Let each man abide in that calling wherein he was called. Hast thou been called, having an unbelieving wife? Continue to have her. Cast not out thy wife for the faith’s sake. Hast thou been called, being a slave? Care not for it. Continue to be a slave. Hast thou been called, being in uncircumcision? Remain uncircumcised. Being circumcised, didst thou become a believer? Continue circumcised. For this is the meaning of, “As God hath distributed unto each man.” For these are no hindrances to piety. Thou art called, being a slave; another, with an unbelieving wife; another, being circumcised.
1904 Astonishing! where has he put slavery? As circumcision profits not: and uncircumcision does no harm; so neither doth slavery, nor yet liberty. And that he might point out this with surpassing clearness, he says, “But even (All eikai dunasai) if thou canst become free, use it rather:” that is, rather continue a slave. Now Upon what possible ground does he tell the person who might be set free to remain a slave? He means to point out that slavery is no harm but rather an advantage.
Now we are not ignorant that some say, the words, “use it rather,” are spoken with regard to liberty: interpreting it, “if thou canst become free, become free.” But the expression would be very contrary to Paul’s manner if he intended this. For he would not, when consoling the slave and signifying that he was in no respect injured, have told him to get free. Since perhaps some one might say, “What then, if I am not able? I am an injured and degraded person.” This then is not what he says: but as I said, meaning to point out that a man gets nothing by being made free, he says, “Though thou hast it in thy power to be made free, remain rather in slavery.”
Next he adds also the cause; “For he that was called in the Lord being a bondservant, is the Lord’s free man: likewise he that was called, being free, is Christ’s bondservant.” “For,” saith he, “in the things that relate to Christ, both are equal: and like as thou art the slave of Christ, so also is thy master. How then is the slave a free man? Because He has freed thee not only from sin, but also from outward slavery while continuing a slave. For he suffers not the slave to be a slave, not even though he be a man abiding in slavery: and this is the great wonder.
But how is the slave a free man while continuing a slave? When he is freed from passions and the diseases of the mind: when he looks down upon riches and wrath and all other the like passions.
1Co 7,23. “Ye were bought with a price: become not bondservants of men.” This saying is addressed not to slaves only but also to free men. For it is possible for one who is a slave not to be a slave; and for one who is a freeman to be a slave. “And how can one be a slave and not a slave?” When he doeth all for God: when he feigns nothing, and doeth nothing out of eye-service towards men: that is how one that l is a slave to men can be free. Or again, how doth one that is free become a slave? When he serves men in any evil service, either for gluttony or desire of wealth or for office’ sake. For such an one, though he be free, is more of a slave than any man.
And consider both these points. Joseph was a slave but not a slave to men: wherefore even in slavery he was freer than all that are free. For instance, he yielded not to his mistress; yielded not to the purposes which she who possessed him desired. Again she was free; yet none ever so like a slave, courting and beseeching her own servant. But she prevailed not on him, who was free, to do what he would not. This then was not slavery; but it was liberty of the most exalted kind. For what impediment to virtue had he from his slavery? Let men hear, both slaves and free. Which was the slave? He that was entreated or she that did entreat? She that besought or he that despised her supplication?
In fact, there are limits set to slaves by God Himself; and up to what point one ought to keep them, has also been determined, and to transgress them is wrong. Namely, when your master commands nothing which is unpleasing to God, it is right to follow and to obey; but no farther. For thus the slave becomes free. But if you go further, even though you are free you are become a slave. At least he intimates this, saying, “Be not ye the servants of men.”
But if this be not the meaning, if he bade them forsake their masters and strive contentiously to become free, in what sense did he exhort them, saying, “Let each one remain in the calling in which he is called?” And in another place, (1Tm 6,1-2) “As many servants as are under the yoke, let them count their own masters worthy of all honor; and those that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren who partake of the benefit.” And writing to the Ephesians also and to the Colossians, he ordains and exacts the same rules. Whence it is plain that it is not this slavery which he annuls, but that which caused as it is by vice befalls free men also: and this is the worst kind of slavery, though he be a free man who is in bondage to it. For what profit had Joseph’s brethren of their freedom? Were they not more servile than all slaves; both speaking lies to their father, and to the merchants using false pretences, as well as to their brother? But not such was the free man: rather every where and in all things he was true. And nothing had power to enslave him, neither chain nor bondage nor the love of his mistress nor his being in a strange land. But he abode free every where. For this is liberty in the truest sense when even in bondage it shines through.
1905 [6.] Such a thing is Christianity; in slavery it bestows freedom. And as that which is by nature an invulnerable body then shews itself to be invulnerable when having received a dart it suffers no harm; so also he that is strictly free then shows himself, when even under masters he is not enslaved. For this cause his bidding is, “remain a slave.” But if it is impossible for one who is a slave to be a Christian such as he ought to be, the Greeks will condemn true religion of great weakness: whereas if they can be taught that slavery in no way impairs godliness, they will admire our doctrine. For if death hurt us not, nor scourges, nor chains, much less slavery. Fire and iron and tyrannies innumerable and diseases and poverty and wild beasts and countless things more dreadful than these, have not been able to injure the faithful; nay, they have made them even mightier. And how shall slavery be able to hurt? It is not slavery itself, beloved, that hurts; but the real slavery is that of sin. And if thou be not a slave in this sense, be bold and rejoice. No one shall have power to do thee any wrong, having the temper which cannot be enslaved. But if thou be a slave to sin, even though thou be ten thousand times free thou hast no good of thy freedom.
For, tell me, what profit is it when, though not in bondage to a man, thou liest down in subjection to thy passions? Since men indeed often know how to spare; but those masters are never satiated with thy destruction. Art thou in bondage to a man? Why, thy master also is slave to thee, in arranging about thy food, in taking care of thy health and in looking after thy shoes and all the other things. And thou dost not fear so much less thou shouldest offend thy master, as he fears lest any of those necessaries should fail thee. “But he sits down, while thou standest.” And what of that? Since this may be said of thee as well as of him. Often, at least, when thou art lying down and sleeping sweetly, he is not only standing, but undergoing endless discomforts in the market-place; and he lies awake more painfully than thou.
For instance; what did Joseph suffer from his mistress to be compared with what she suffered from her evil desire? For he indeed did not the things which she wished to put upon him; but she performed every thing which her mistress ordered her, I mean herspirit of unchastity: which left not off until ithad put her to open shame. What master commands such things? what savage tyrant? “Intreat thy slave,” that is the word: “flatter the person bought with thy money, supplicate the captive; even if he reject thee with disgust, again besiege him: even if thou speakest to him oftentimes, and he consent not, watch for his being alone, and force him, and become an object of derision.” What can be more dishonorable, what more shameful, than these words? “And if even by these means you make no progress, why, accuse him falsely and deceive your husband.” Mc how mean, how shameful are the commands, how unmerciful and savage and frantic. What command does the master ever lay on his slave, such as those which her wantonness then laid upon that royal woman? And yet she dare not disobey. But Joseph underwent nothing of this sort, but every thing on the contrary which brought glory and honor.
Would you like to see yet another man under severe orders from a hard mistress, and without spirit to disobey any of them? Consider Cain, what commands were laid on him by his envy. She ordered him to slay his brother, to lie unto God, to grieve his father, to cast off shame; and he did it all, and in nothing refused to obey. And why marvel that over a single person so great should be the power of this mistress? She hath often destroyed entire nations. For instance, the Midianitish women took the Jews, and all but bound them in captivity; their own beauty kindling desire, was the means of their vanquishing that whole nation. Paul then to cast out this sort of slavery, said, “Become not servants of men;” that is, “Obey not men commanding unreasonable things: nay, obey not yourselves.” Then having raised up their mind and made it mount on high, he says,
[7.] 1Co 7,25. “Now concerning virgins. I have no commandment of the Lord; but I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.”
Advancing on his way in regular order, he proceeds next to speak concerning virginity. For after that he had exercised and trained them, in his words concerning continence, he goes forth towards what is greater, saying, “I have no commandment, but I esteem it to be good.” For what reason? For the self-same reason as he had mentioned respecting continence.
1Co 7,27. “Art thou bound unto a wife? Seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? Seek not a wife.”
These words carry no contradiction to what. had been said before but rather the most entire agreement with them. For he says in that place also, “Except it be by consent:” as here he says, “Art thou bound unto a wife? Seek not separation.” This is no contradiction. For its being against consent makes a dissolution: but if with consent both live continently, it is no dissolution.
Then, lest this should seem to be laying down a law, he subjoins, (v. 28). “but if thou marry, thou hast not sinned.” He next alleges the existing state of things, “the present distress, the shortness of the time,” and “the affliction.” For marriage draws along with it many things, which indeed he hath glanced at, as well here as also in the discourse about continence: there, by saying, “the wife hath not power over herself;” and here, by the expression, “Thou art bound.”
“But if and thou marry, thou hast not sinned.” He is not speaking about her who hath made choice of virginity, for if it comes to that, she hath sinned. Since if the widows are condemned for having to do with second marriages after they have once chosen widowhood, much more the virgins.
“But such shall have trouble in the flesh.” “And pleasure too,” you will say: but observe how he curtails this by the shortness of the time, saying, (v. 28). “the time is shortened;” that is, “we are exhorted to depart now and go forth, but thou art running further in.” And yet even although marriage had no troubles, even so we ought to press on towards things to come. But when it hath affliction too, what need to draw on one’s self an additional burden. What occasion to take up such a load, when even after taking it you must use it as having it not? For “those even that have wives must be,” he saith, “as though they had none.”
1906 Then, having interposed something about the future, he brings back his speech to the present. For some of his topics are spiritual; as that, “the one careth about the things which be her husband’s, the other about those which be God’s.” Others relate to this present life; as, “I would have you to be free from cares.” But still with all this he leaves it to their own choice: inasmuch as he who after proving what is best goes back to compulsion, seems as if he did not trust his own statements. Wherefore he rather attracts them by concession, and checks them as follows:
1Co 7,35. “And this I say for your own profit, not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is seemly, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction. Let the virgins hear that not by that one point is virginity defined; for she that is careful about the things of the world cannot be a virgin, nor seemly. Thus, when he said, “There is difference between a wife and a virgin, “he added this as the difference, Abel that wherein they are distinguished from each other And laying down the definition of a virgin and her that is not a virgin, he names, not marriage nor continence but leisure from engagements and multiplicity of engagements. For the evil is not in the cohabitation, but in the impediment to the strictness of life.
1Co 7,36. “But if any man think that he behaveth himself unseemly toward his virgin.”
Here he seems to be talking about marriage; but all that he says relates to virginity; for he allows even a second marriage, saying, “only in the Lord.” Now what means, “in the Lord?” With chastity, with honor: for this is needed very where, and must be pursued l for else we cannot see God.
Now if we have passed lightly by what he says of virginity, let no one accuse us of negligence; for indeed an entire book hath been composed by us upon this topic and as we have there with all the accuracy which we could, gone through every branch of the subject, we considered it a waste of words to introduce it again here. Wherefore, referring the hearer to that work as concerns these things, we will say this one thing here: We must follow after continence. For, saith he, “follow after peace, and the sanctification without which no one shall see the Lord.” Therefore that we may be accounted worthy to see Him, whether we be in virginity or in the first marriage or the second, let us follow after this that we may obtain the kingdom of heaven, through the grace and loving-kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ; to Whom with the Father and the Holy Spirit, be glory, power, honor, now, henceforth, and for everlasting ages. Amen.
2000 we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but love edifieth. (1Co 8,1-13)
2001 IT is necessary first to say what the meaning of this passage is: for so shall we readily comprehend the Apostle’s discourse. For he that sees a charge brought against any one, except he first perceive the nature of the offence will not understand what is said. What then is it of which he was then accusing the Corinthians? A heavy charge and the cause of many evils. Well, what is it? Many among them, having learnt that (St. Mt 15,11) “not the things which enter in defile the man, but the things which proceed out,” and that idols of wood and stone, and demons, have no power to hurt or help, had made an immoderate use of their perfect knowledge of this to the harm both of others and of themselves. They had both gone in where idols were and had partaken of the tables there, and were producing thereby great and ruinous evil. For, on the one hand, those who still retained the fear of idols and knew not how to contemn them, took part in those meals, because they saw the more perfect sort doing this; and hence they got the greatest injury: since they did not touch what was set before them with the same mind as the others, but as things offered in sacrifice to idols; and the thing was becoming a way to idolatry. On the other hand, these very persons who pretended to be more perfect were injured in no common way, partaking in the tables of demons.
This then was the subject of complaint. Now this blessed man being about to correct it, did not immediately begin to speak vehemently; for that which was done came more of folly than of wickedness: wherefore in the first instance there was need rather of exhortation than of severe rebuke and wrath. Now herein observe his good sense, how he immediately begins to admonish.
“Now concerning things sacrificed to idols,we know that we all have knowledge.” Leaving alone the weak, which he always doth, he discourses with the strong first. And this is what he did also in the Epistle to the Romans, saying, (Rm 14,10) “But thou, why dost thou judge thy brother?” for this is the sort of person that is able to receive rebuke also with readiness. Exactly the same then he doth here also.
And first he makes void their conceit by declaring that this very thing which they considered as peculiar to themselves, the having perfect knowledge, was common to all. Thus, “we know,” saith he, “that we all have knowledge.” For if allowing them to have high thoughts, he had first pointed out how hurtful the thing was to others, he would not have done them so much good as harm. For the ambitious soul when it plumes itself upon any thing, even though the same do harm to others, yet strongly adheres to it because of the tyranny of vain-glory. Wherefore Paul first examines the matter itself by itself: just as he had done before in the case of the wisdom from without, demolishing it with a high hand. But in that case he did it as we might have expected: for the whole thing was altogether blameworthy and his task was very easy. Wherefore he signifies it to be not only useless, but even contrary to the Gospel. But in the present case it was not possible to do this. For what was done was of knowledge, and perfect knowledge. Nor was it safe to overthrow it, and yet in no other way was it possible to cast out the conceit which had resulted from it. What then doeth he? First, by signifying that it was common, he curbs that swelling pride of theirs. For they who possess something great and excellent are more elated, when they alone have it; but if it be made out that they possess it in common with others, they no longer have so much of this feeling. First then he makes it common property, because they considered it to belong to themselves alone.
Next, having made it common, he does not make himself singly a sharer in it with them; for in this way too he would have rather set them up; for as to be the only possessor elates, so to have one partner or two perhaps among leading persons has this effect just as much. For this reason he does not mention himself but all: he said not, “I too have knowledge,” but, “we know that we all have knowledge.”
[2.] This then is one way, and the first, by which he cast down their pride; the next hath greater force. What then is this? In that he shews that not even this thing itself was in all points complete, but imperfect, and extremely so. And not only imperfect, but also injurious, unless there were another thing joined together with it. For having said that” we have knowledge,” he added, “Knowledge puffeth up, but love edifieth:” so that when it is without love, it lifts men up to absolute arrogance.
“And yet not even love,” you will say, “without knowledge hath any advantage.” Well: this he did not say; but omitting it as a thing allowed by all, he signifies that knowledge stands in extreme need of love. For he who loves, inasmuch as he fulfils the commandment which is most absolute of all, even though he have some defects, will quickly be blest with knowledge because of his love; as Cornelius and many others. But he that hath knowledge but hath not love, not only shall gain nothing more, but shall also be cast out of that which he hath, in many cases falling into arrogance. It seems then that knowledge is not productive of love, but on the contrary debars from it him that is not on his guard, puffing him up and elating him. For arrogance is wont to causedivisions: but love both draws together andleads to knowledge. And to make this plain he saith, “But if any man loveth God, the same isknown of Him.” So that “I forbid not this,” saith he, “namely, your having perfect knowledge; but your having it with love, that I enjoin; else is it no gain, but rather loss.”
2002 Do you see how he already sounds the first note of his discourse concerning love? For since all these evils were springing from the following root, 1,e., not from perfect knowledge, but from their not greatly loving nor sparing their neighbors; whence ensued both their variance and their self-satisfaction, and all the rest which he had charged them with; both before this and after he is continually providing for love; so correcting the fountain of all good things. “Now why,” saith he, “are ye puffed up about knowledge? For if ye have not love, ye shall even be injured thereby. For what is worse than boasting? But if the other be added, the first also will be in safety. For although you may know something more than your neighbor, if you love him you will not set yourself up but lead him also to the same.” Wherefore also having said, “Knowledge puffeth up,” he added, “but love edifieth.” He did not say, “Behaveth itself modestly,” but what is much more, and more gainful. For their knowledge was not only puffing them up but also distracting them. On this account he opposes the one to the other.
[3.] And then he adds a third consideration, which was of force to set them down. What then is this? that although charity be joined with it, yet not even in that case is this our knowledge perfect. And therefore he adds,
1Co 8,2. “But if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.” This is a mortal blow. “I dwell not,” saith he, “on the knowledge being common to all. I say not that by hating your neighbor and by arrogance, you injure yourself most. But even though you have it by yourself alone, though you be modest, though you love your brother, even in this case you are imperfect in regard of knowledge. “For as yet thou knowest nothing as thou oughtest to know,” Now if we possess as yet exact knowledge of nothing, how is it that some have rushed on to such a pitch of frenzy as to say that they know God with all exactness? Whereas, though we had an exact knowledge of all other things, not even so were it possible to possess this knowledge to such an extent. For how far He is apart from all things, it is impossible even to say.
And mark how he pulls down their swelling pride: for he said not, “of the matters before us ye have not the proper knowledge,” but, “about every thing.” And he did not say, “ye,” but, “no one whatever,” be it Peter, be it Paul, be it any one else. For by this he both soothed them and carefully kept them under.
1Co 8,3. “But if any man love God, the same,” he doth not say, “knoweth Him,” but, “is known of Him.” For we have not known Him, but He hath known us. And therefore did Christ say, “Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you.” And Paul elsewhere, “Then shall I know fully, even as also I have been known.”
Observe now, I pray, by what means he brings down their high-mindedness. First, he points out that not they alone knew the things which they knew; for “we all,” he saith,” have knowledge.” Next, that the thing itself was hurtful so long as it was without love; for “knowledge,” saith he, “puffeth up.” Thirdly, that even joined with love it is not complete nor perfect. “For if any man thinketh that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing as yet as he ought to know,” so he speaks. In addition to this, that they have not even this from themselves, but by gift from God. For he said not, “hath known God,” but, “is known of Him.” Again, that this very thing comes of love which they have not as they ought. For, “if any man,” saith he, “love God, the same is known of Him.” Having then so much at large allayed their irritation, he begins to speak doctrinally, saying thus.
[4.] 1Co 8,4. “Concerning therefore the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that no idol is anything in the world, and that there is no God but one.” Look what a strait he hath fallen into! For indeed his mind is to prove both; that one ought to abstain from this kind of banquet, and that it hath no power to hurt those who partake of it: things which were not greatly in agreement with each other. For when they were told that they had no harm, in them, they would naturally run to them as indifferent things. But when forbidden to touch them, they would suspect, on the contrary, that their having power to do hurt occasioned the prohibition. Wherefore, you see, he puts down their opinion about idols, and then states as a first reason for their abstaining the scandals which they place in the way of their brethren; in these words: “Now concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that no idol is anything in the world.” Again he makes it common property and doth not allow this to be theirs alone, but extends the knowledge all over the world. For “not among you alone,” says he, “but every where on earth this doctrine prevails.” What then is it? “That no idol is anything in the world; that there is no God but one.” What then? are there no idols? no statues? Indeed there are; but they have no power: neither are they gods, but stones and demons. For he is now setting himself against both parties; both the grosser sort among them, and those who were accounted lovers of wisdom. Thus, seeing that the former know of no more than the mere stones, the others assert that certain powers reside in them, which they also call gods; to the former accordingly he says, that “no idol is anything in the world,” to the other, that “there is no God but one.”
2003 Do you mark how he writes these things, not simply as laying down doctrine, but in opposition to those without? A thing indeed which we must at all times narrowly observe, whether he says anything abstractedly, or whether he is opposing any persons. For this contributes in no ordinary way to the accuracy of our doctrinal views, and to the exact understanding of his expressions.
[5.] 1Co 8,5. “For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or on earth, as there are gods many and lords many; yet to us there is one God, the Father, of Whom are all things, and we unto Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom are all things, and we through Him.” Since he had said, that “an idol is nothing” and that “there is no other God;” and yet there were idols and there were those that were called gods; that he might not seem to be contradicting plain facts, he goes on to say, “For though there be that are called gods, as indeed there are;” not absolutely, “there are;” but, “called,” not in reality having this but in name: “be it in heaven or on earth:—in heaven,” meaning the sun and the moon and the remainder of the choir of stars; for these too the Greeks worshipped: but upon the earth demons, and all those who had been made gods of men:—“yet to us there is One God, the Father.” In the first instance having expressed it without the word “Father,” and said, “there is no God but one,” he now adds this also, when he had utterly cast out the others.
Next, he adduces what indeed is the greatest token of divinity; “of Whom are all things.” For this implies also that those others are not gods. For it is said (Jr 10,11), “Let the gods who made not the heaven and the earth perish.” Then he subjoins what is not less than this, “and we unto Him.” For when he saith, “of Whom are all things,” he means the creation and the bringing of things out of nothing into existence. But when he saith, “and we unto Him,” he speaks of the word of faith and mutual appropriation (oikeiwsew"), as also he said before (1Co 1,30), “but of Him are ye also in Christ Jesus.” In two ways we are of Him, by being made when we were not, and by being made believers. For this also is a creation: a thing which he also declares elsewhere; (Ep 2,15) “that He might create in Himself of the twain one new man.”
“And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through Whom are all things, and we through Him.” And in regard to Christ again, we must conceive of this in like manner. For through Him the race of men was both produced out of nothing into existence, and returned from error to truth. So that as to the phrase “of Whom,” it is not to be understood apart from Christ. For of Him, through Christ, were we created.
[6.] Nor yet, if you observe, hath he distributed the names as if belonging exclusively, assigning to the Son the name Lord, and to the Father, God. For the Scripture useth also often to interchange them; as when it saith, (Ps 110,1) “The Lord saith unto My Lord;” and again, (Ps 45,8) “Wherefore God Thy God hath appointed Thee;” and, (Rm 9,5) “Of Whom is Christ according to the flesh, Who is God over all.” And in many instances you may see these names changing their places. Besides, if they were allotted to each nature severally, and if the Son were not God, and God as the Father, yet continuing a Son: after saying, “but to us there is but One God,” it would have been superfluous, his adding the word “Father,” with a view to declare the Unbegotten. For the word of God was sufficient to explain this, if it were such as to denote Him only.
And this is not all, but there is another remark to make: that if you say, “Because it is said ‘One God,’ therefore the word God doth not apply to the Son;” observe that the same holds of the Son also. For the Son also is called “One Lord,” yet we do not maintain that therefore the term Lord applies to Him alone. So then, the same force which the expression “One” has, applied to the Son, it has also, applied to the Father. And as the Father is not thrust out from being the Lord, in the same sense as the Son is the Lord, because He, the Son, is spoken of as one Lord; so neither does it cast out the Son from being God, in the same sense as the Father is God, because the Father is styled One God.
[7.] Now if any were to say, “Why did he make no mention of the Spirit?” our answer might be this: His argument was with idolaters, and the contention was about “gods many and lords many.” And this is why, having called the Father, God, he calls the Son, Lord. If now he ventured not to call the Father Lord together with the Son, lest they might suspect him to be speaking of two Lords; nor yet the Son, God, with the Father, lest he might be supposed to speak of two Gods: why marvel at his not having mentioned the Spirit? His contest was, so far, with the Gentiles: his point, to signify that with us there is no plurality of Gods. Wherefore he keeps hold continually of this word, “One;” saying, “There is no God but One; and, to us there is One God, and One Lord.” From which it is plain, that to spare the weakness of the hearers he used this mode of explanation, and for this reason made no mention at all of the Spirit. For if it be not this, neither ought he to make mention of the Spirit elsewhere, nor to join Him with the Father and the Son. For if He be rejected from the Father and Son, much more ought He not to be put in the same rank with them in the matter of Baptism; where most especially the dignity of the Godhead appears and gifts are bestowed which pertain to God alone to afford.
2004 Thus then I have assigned the cause why in this place He is passed over in silence. Now do thou if this be not the true reason, tell me, why He is ranked with Them in Baptism? But thou canst not give any other reason but His being of equal honor. At any rate, when he has no such constraint upon him, he puts Him in the same rank, saying thus: (2Co 13,14) “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with you all:” and again, (2Co 12,4). “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit: and there are diversities of administrations, but the same Lord; and there are diversities of workings but the same God.” But because now his speech was with Greeks and the weaker sort of the converts from among Greeks, for this reason he husbands it (tamieuetai) so far. And this is what the prophets do in regard of the Son; no where making mention of Him plainly because of the infirmity of the hearers.
1Co 8,7. “But not in all is knowledge,” saith he. What knowledge doth be mean? about God, or about things offered in sacrifice to idols? For either he here glances at the Greeks who say that there are many gods and lords, and who know not Him that is truly God; or at the converts from among Greeks who were still rather infirm, such as did not yet know clearly that they ought not to fear idols and that “an idol is nothing in the world.” But in saying this, he gently soothes and encourages the latter. For there was no need of mentioning all he had to reprove, particularly as he intended to visit them again with more severity.
[8.] “But some being used to the idol eat as of a thing sacrificed to an idol, and their conscience being weak is defiled.” They still tremble at idols, he saith. For tell me not of the present establishment, and that you have received the true religion from your ancestors. But carry back your thoughts to those times, and consider when the Gospel was just set on foot, and impiety was still at its height, and altars burning, and sacrifices and libations offering up, and the greater part of men were Gentiles; think, I say, of those who from their ancestors had received impiety, and who were the descendants of fathers and grandfathers and great-grandfathers like themselves, and who had suffered great miseries from the demons. How must they have felt after their sudden change! How would they face and tremble at the assaults of the demons! For their sake also he employs some reserve, saying, “But some with conscience of the things sacrificed to an idol. “Thus he neither exposed them openly, not to strike them hard; nor doth he pass by them altogether: but makes mention of them in a vague manner, saying, “Now some with conscience of the idol even until now eat as of a thing sacrificed to an idol; that is, with the same thoughts as they did in former times: ‘and their conscience being weak is defiled;’“not yet being able to despise and once for all laugh them to scorn, but still in some doubt. Just as if a man were to think that by touching a dead body he should pollute himself according to the Jewish custom, and then seeing others touching it with a clear conscience, but not with the same mind touching it himself, would be polluted. This was their state of feeling at that time. “For some,” saith he, “with conscience of the idol do it even until now.” Not without cause did he add, “even until now;” but to signify that they gained no ground by their refusing to condescend. For this was not the way to bring them in, but in some other way persuading them by word and by teaching.
“And their conscience being weak is defiled.” No where as yet cloth he state his argument about the nature of the thing, but turns himself this way and that as concerning the conscience of the person partaking. For he was afraid lest in his wish to correct the weak person, he should inflict a heavy blow upon the strong one, and make him also weak. On which account he spares the one no less than the other. Nor doth he allow the thing itself to be thought of any consequence, but makes his argument very full to prevent any suspicion of the kind.
[9.] 1Co 8,8. “But meat doth not commend us to God. For neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we eat not are we the worse.” Do you see how again he takes down their high spirit? in that, after saying that “not only they but all of us have knowledge,” and that “no one knoweth any thing as he ought to know,” and that “knowledge puffeth up;” then having soothed them, and said that “this knowledge is not in all,” and that “weakness is the cause of these being defiled,” in order that they might not say, “And what is it to us, if knowledge be not in all? Why then has not such an one knowledge? Why is he weak?”—I say, in order that they might not rejoin in these terms, he did not proceed immediately to point out clearly that for fear of the other’s harm one ought to abstain: but having first made but a sort of: skirmish upon mention of him, he points out what is more than this. What then is this? That although no one were injured nor any perversion of another ensued, not even in this case were it right so to do. For the former topic by itself is laboring in vain. Since he that hears of another being hurt while himself has the gain, is not very apt to abstain; but then rather he doth so, when he finds out that he himself is no way advantaged by the thing. Wherefore he sets this down first, saying, “But meat commendeth us not to God.” See how cheap he holds that which was accounted to spring from perfect knowledge! “For neither if we eat are we the better,” (that is, stand higher in God’s estimation, as if we had done any thing good or great:) “nor if we eat not are we the worse,” that is, fall in anyway short of others. So far then he hath signified that the thing itself is superfluous, and as nothing. For that which being done profits not, and which being left undone injures not, must be superfluous.
2005 [10.] But as he goes on, he discloses all the harm which was likely to arise from the matter. For the present, however, that which befel the brethren is his subject.
1Co 8,9. “For take heed,” saith he, “lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling-block to the weak among the brethren.” (tpn agelfpn not in rec. text).
(He did not say, “Your liberty is become a stumbling-block,” nor did he positively affirm it that he might not make them more shameless; but how? “Take heed;” frightening them, and making them ashamed, and leading them to disavow any such conduct. And he said not, “This your knowledge,” which would have sounded more like praise; nor “this your perfectness;” but, “your liberty;” a thing which seemed to savor more of rashness and obstinacy and arrogance. Neither said he, “To the brethren,” but, “To those of the brethren who are weak;” enhancing his accusation from their not even sparing the weak, and those too their brethren. For let it be so that you correct them not, nor arouse them: yet why trip them up, and make them to stumble, when you ought to stretch out the hand? but for that you have no mind: well then, at least avoid casting them down. Since if one were wicked, he required punishment; if weak, healing: but now he is not only weak, but also a brother.
1Co 8,10. “For if a man see thee who hast knowledge, sitting at meat in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience if he is weak, be emboldened to eat things sacrificed to idols?”
After having said, “Take heed lest this your liberty become a stumbling-block,” he explains how and in what manner it becomes so: and he continually employs the term “weakness,” that the mischief may not be thought to arise from the nature of the thing, nor demons appear formidable. As thus: “At present,” saith he, “a man is on the point of withdrawing himself entirely from all idols; but when he sees you fond of loitering about them, he takes the circumstance for a recommendation and abides there himself also. So that not only his weakness, but also your ill-timed behavior, helps to further the plot against him; for it is you who make him weaker.”
1Co 8,11. “And through thy meat he that is weak perisheth, the brother for whose sake Christ died.”
For there are two things which deprive you of excuse in this mischief; one, that he is weak, the other, that he is thy brother: rather, I should say, there is a third also, and one more terrible than all. What then is this? That whereas Christ refused not even to die for him, thou canst not bear even to accommodate thyself to him. By these means, you see, he reminds the perfect man also, what he too was before, and that for him He died. And he said not, “For whom even to die was thy duty;” but what is much stronger, that even Christ died for his sake. “Did thy Lord then not refuse to die for him, and dost thou so make him of none account as not even to abstain from a polluted table for his sake? Yea, dost thou permit him to perish, after the salvation so wrought, and, what is still more grievous, ‘for a morsel of meat?’“For he said not, “for thy perfectness,” nor “for thy knowledge,” but “for thy meat.” So that the charges are four, and these extremely heavy: that it was a brother, that he was weak, and one of whom Christ made so much account as even to die for him, and that after all this for a “morsel of meat” he is destroyed.
1Co 8,12. “And thus sinning against the brethren, and wounding their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.”
Do you observe how quietly and gradually he hath brought their offence up to the very summit of iniquity? And again, he makes mention of the infirmity of the other sort: and so, the very thing which these considered to make for them, that he every where turns round upon their own head. And he said not, “Putting stumbling-blocks in their way,” but, “wounding;” so as by the force of his expression to indicate their cruelty. For what can be more savage than a man who wounds the sick? and yet no wound is so grievous as making a man to stumble. Often, in fact, is this also the cause of death.
But how do they “sin against Christ?” In one way, because He considers the concerns of His servants as His own; in another, because those who are wounded go to make up His Body and that which is part of Him: in a third way, because that work of His which He built up by His own blood, these are destroying for their ambition’s sake.
[11.] 1Co 8,13, “Wherefore, if meat make my brother to stumble, I will eat no flesh for ever.” This is like the best of teachers, to teach in his own person the things which he speaks. Nor did he say whether justly or unjustly; but in any case. “I say not,” (such is his tone,) “meat offered in sacrifice to an idol, which is already prohibited for another reason; but if any even of those things which are within license and are permitted causes stumbling, from these also will I abstain: and not one or two days, but all the time of my life.” For he saith, “I will eat no flesh for ever.” And he said not, “Lest I destroy my brother,” but simply, “That I make not my brother to stumble.” For indeed it comes of folly in the extreme that what things are greatly cared for by Christ, and such as He should have even chosen to die for them, these we should esteem so entirely beneath our notice as not even to abstain from meats on their account.
Now these things might be seasonably spoken not to them only, but also to us, apt as we are to esteem lightly the salvation of our neighbors and to utter those satanical words. I say, satanical: for the expression, “What care I, though such an one stumble, and such another perish?” savors of his cruelty and inhuman mind. And yet in that instance, the infirmity also of those who were offended had some share in the result: but in our case it is not so, sinning as we do in such a way as to offend even the strong. For when we smite, and raven, and overreach, and use the free as if they were slaves, whom is not this enough to offend? Tell me not of such a man’s being a shoemaker, another a dyer, another a brazier: but bear in mind that he is a believer and a brother. Why these are they whose disciples we are; the fishermen, the publicans, the tent-makers, of Him who was brought up in the house of a carpenter; and who deigned to have the carpenter’s betrothed wife for a mother; and who was laid, after His swaddling clothes, in a manger; and who had not where to lay His head;—of Him whose journeys were so long that His very journeying was enough to tire Him down; of Him who was supported by others.
2006 [12.] Think on these things, and esteem the pride of man to be nothing. But count the tent-maker as well as thy brother, as him that is borne upon a chariot and hath innumerable servants and struts in the market-place: nay, rather the former than the latter; since the term brother would more naturally be used where there is the greater resemblance. Which then resembles the fisherman? He who is supported by daily labor and hath neither servant nor dwelling, but is quite beset with privations; or that other who is surrounded with such vast pomp, and who acts contrary to the laws of God? Despise not then him that is more of the two thy brother, for he comes nearer to the Apostolic pattern.
“Not however,” say you, “of his own accord, but by compulsion; for he doeth not this of his own mind.” How comes this? Hast thou not heard, “Judge not, that ye be not judged?” But, to convince thyself that he doeth it not against his inclination, approach and give him ten thousand talents of gold, and thou shalt see him putting it away from him. And thus, even though he have received no wealth by inheritance from his ancestors, yet when it is in his power to take it, and he lets it not come near him neither adds to his goods, he exhibits a mighty proof of his contempt of wealth. For so Jn was the son of Zebedee that extremely poor man: yet I suppose we are not therefore to say that his poverty was forced upon him.
Whensoever then thou seest one driving nails, smiting with a hammer, covered with soot, do not therefore hold him cheap, but rather for that reason admire him. Since even Peter girded himself, and handled the dragnet, and went a fishing after the Resurrection of the Lord.
And why say I Peter? For this same Paul himself, after his incessant runnings to and fro and all those vast miracles, standing in a tent-maker’s shop, sewed hides together: while angels were reverencing him and demons trembling. And he was not ashamed to say, (Ac 20,34) “Unto my necessities, and to those who were with me, these hands ministered.” What say I, that he was not ashamed? Yea, he gloried in this very thing.
But you will say, “Who is there now to be compared with the virtue of Paul?” I too am aware that there is no one, yet not on this account are those who live now to be despised: for if for Christ’s sake thou give honor, though one be last of all, yet if he be a believer he shall justly be honored. For suppose a general and a common soldier both present themselves before you, being friends of the king, and you open your house to both: in which of their persons would you seem to pay most honor to the king? Plainly in that of a soldier. For there were in the general, beside his loyalty to the king, many other things apt to win such a mark of respect from you: but the soldier had nothing else but his loyalty to the king.
Wherefore God bade us call to our suppers and our feasts the lame, and the maimed, and those who cannot repay us; for these are most of all properly called good deeds which are done for God’s sake. Whereas if thou entertain some great and distinguished man, it is not such pure mercy, what thou doestbut some portion many times is assigned to thyself also, both by vain-glory, and by the return of the favor, and by thy rising in many men’s estimation on account of thy guest. At any rate, I think I could point out many who with this view pay court to the more distinguished among the saints, namely, that by their means they may enjoy a greater intimacy with rulers, and that they may find them thenceforth more useful in their own affairs and to their families. And many such favors do they ask in recompense from those saints; a thing which mars the repayment of their hospitality, they seeking it with such a mind.
And why need I say this about the saints? Since he who seeks, even from God, the reward of his labors in the present life and follows after virtue for this world’s good, is sure to diminish his recompense. But he that asks for all his crowns wholly there, is found far more admirable; like that Lazarus, who even now is “receiving” (St. Lc 16,25) there all “his good things;” like those Three Children, who when they were on the point of being thrown into the furnace said, (Da 3,17-18) “There is a God in heaven able to deliver us; and if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up:” like Abraham, who even offered his son and slew him; and this he did, not for any reward, but esteeming this one thing the greatest recompense, to obey the Lord.
Chrysostom on 1Cor 1900