Book Reviews

A Study Commentary on 1 Corinthians

Peter Naylor Webster, NY 2004-08-01

Naylor recognizes that 1 Corinthians is both disciplinary and didactical. Writing to rebuke the problems of divisions, impurity, divorce, and Christian liberty, Paul was seeking to correct a number of important problems and questions: divisiveness (1 Cor. 1:10–13; 3:3–4), pseudo-intellectualism (1:18–2:16), arrogance and boasting as a “badge of honor” (3:18–23; 4:18–21), a critical and judgmental spirit (4:1–5), tolerance of sexual immorality (5:1–13), pettiness and vengeance (6:1–8), promiscuity (6:13–20), divorce and troubled marriages (7:1–40), idolatry, greed, and gluttony (8:1–13; 10:6–7), self-centeredness (9:1–27; 10:24), drunkenness even at the Lord’s Supper (11:21), preoccupation with and pride over spiritual gifts (12:1–14:35), disorderliness in worship services (14:26–40), doctrinal error especially regarding the resurrection of Christ and the saints (15:12–57), harshness and vindictiveness (2 Cor. 2:5–11), compromise and compliance with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14–7:1), and more. Naylor deals with each of these in a forthright and direct manner, offering explanations and applications that are supported both exegetically and expositionally.

The heart of 1 Corinthians is a call for the church to unite in doctrine and in selfless love. Christ’s work is hindered so long as division exists based on pride and self-love.

Regarding 1 Corinthians 5:5 Naylor says that delivering the immoral man over to Satan meant that he should be subjected to “some form of physical suffering preceding repentance and restoration” (p. 128).

In discussing 6:12–20, which refers to some Corinthian believers who were trying to use Christian freedom to justify their sins, Naylor comments, “The apostle knew that Christians sometimes seek room for maneuver when truth is hard to accept. . . . No relationship should be contemplated simply because it might be a source of gratification, but in the light of its inherent rightness or wrongness” (p. 149).

On 10:23–11:1 Naylor says Paul accommodated his lifestyle to “weak brothers,” but he did not compromise his Christian morality. The accommodation was for the sake of winning others to Christ.

Naylor offers a refreshing interpretation of “the perfect” in 13:10. He argues convincingly that “the perfect [thing]” can be “recognized as our New Testament, a collection of books supplementing the Old Testament and concluding the whole body of sacred Scripture. [It is not] unreasonable to believe that Paul was aware of such a development” (p. 348). Recognizing that his stance is not the popular view, he asks the following questions rhetorically. “Does Paul affirm in 13:10 that Christ will return as ‘the perfect thing’ at the end of this world, and that a species of perfection (cf. 13:12) will then supervene? No. Had he wished to indicate this he might have written ‘the perfect man’ . . . instead of ‘the perfect thing’ . . . which our Lord is not” (p. 354, italics added).

Regarding “baptism for the dead” in 15:29, Naylor writes, “If these baptisms were unorthodox, the thrust is unmistakable: to be baptized with reference to dead believers is a nonsense” (p. 444).

Naylor writes as both a scholar and a pastor. He includes his own translation of the Greek text, and his commentary is an invaluable tool for ministers, theologians, and serious students of the Scriptures. At the end of each section he includes useful points of application. This commentary is both readable and user-friendly in addition to being scholarly.

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