Wednesday, December 09, 2020

WM 184: 1 Cor 3:23: From Paul to Arius to Calvin

Notes for WM 184:

I am currently preaching through Matthew on Sunday pm; the 1689 confession on Sunday pm; and teaching through 1 Cor on Wednesday evenings.

Last week we were looking at 1 Cor 3:18-23 and spent some time discussing 1 Cor 3:23: “And ye are Christ’s and Christ is God’s.”

We discussed how an Arian (follower of Arius, the fourth century heretical teacher from Alexandria might have misused this passage).

Arius taught that Son of God was an exalted creature incarnate in Jesus, but that he was subordinate to the Father.

The controversy over Arian’s teaching is what prompted the Council of Nicaea and the Nicene Creed that was affirmed in it.

What other passages would the Arians have appealed to?

1 Cor 11:3; John 14:26; Mark 13:32; 1 Cor 15:28.

See the letter of Arius to Eusebius of Nicomedia:

Orthodox responses to heterodox interpretations of 1 Cor 3:23:

When Paul says “And ye are Christ’s and Christ is God’s,” he could have been thinking of Christ’s work as the incarnate mediator. Cf. John 1:18: “No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”

Other key passage:

On the incarnation: Phil 2:5-11 (esp. vv. 5-6);

On Paul’s declaration that Jesus is Lord: Phil 2:11; Rom 10:9; 1 Cor 12:3; cf. 1 Tim 3:16.

The Gospel declarations that Jesus is equal in essence with God: Mark 2:5-7; John 10:30; John 20:28.

We need “all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).

See Calvin’s commentary on 1 Cor 3:23:

Calvin is keenly aware of how this passage might be misused.

He likely is looking back to the Arians, and perhaps also looking around at his own day and the revival of Arianism, or Unitarianism, in some circles. And he, no doubt, was also looking forward to dangers that might arise on the horizon.


Study of 1 Cor 3:23 demonstrates the need for care in rightly dividing the Word of God (2 Tim 2:15).


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