First Corinthians, A Contemporary Commentary, by Gordon H. Clark, Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1975, Second Edition 1991, 349 pp.
This is, I believe, the longest of all of all the commentaries Gordon Clark wrote. Throughout the volume Clark regularly presents various interpretations of disputed verses and provides arguments for the views he believes are correct.
Topics commented on in this volume include head coverings (Chapter 11), functional subordination in the Trinity (p. 132), Calvin against mere permission of evil (p. 156-158), the purpose of heresies in God’s plan (p.180), and ethical egoism (p. 164). But the topics in which Clark dedicates the most space include baptism, cessationism, and eschatology.
Regarding 1st Corinthians 7:14 (“For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife by the husband; since otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.”) Clark concludes, “It could and more likely would mean that only holy children are baptized, and since the Corinthians baptized them, it is clear that they were already holy. That is to say, baptism makes no one holy; but is a sign that the person, child or adult, is already holy. Therefore, the Corinthian churches, with this knowledge, baptized those infants, and thus everyone knew they were holy.” (p. 107) And he writes, “Thus the correct interpretation is that the conversion of one marriage partner automatically dedicates the whole household to God, and the implication follows that the children should be baptized.” (p. 108)
Also, on 1st Corinthians 10:1-4, he writes the following on the mode of baptism:
“Also interesting is the fact that the Israelites were baptized. Of course, they were baptized into Moses, and not into the Trinity, but there must be some similarity in the two types of baptism. Some Baptists hold that the point of similarity is immersion. At a recent meeting of a theological society, one Baptist argued that the Greek preposition en was always locative and never instrumental. Of course, he was wrong. In this epistle, the instrumental en has already occurred a dozen times. However, consider the locative principle in this verse: they were baptized in the cloud and in the sea as one is immersed in a river or baptistry. This comparison is impossible because the Israelites were never in the cloud locally. The cloud went before them, or it rested over the ark. At night, the cloud went before them, or it rested over the ark. At night the cloud was fire, and this makes a poor comparison with water. Furthermore, the Israelites were never immersed in the seas, as Pharaoh’s soldiers were. The Israelites were never in the sea at all: they passed over dry land (Ex. 14:21-22). The similarity between Moses’s baptism and Christian baptism must be sought in their significance, or in part of it. In both cases, the baptism is a visible sign that the baptized persons are the disciples of him into whose name they are baptized.” (p. 152)
Cessationism is covered on p. 182, p. 200, and much of Chapters 13 and 14. Among this material is a critique of speaking in tongues. Clark’s emphasis is on intelligible propositions and their ability to edify the saints. He writes, “Could Paul have made it any plainer that nonsense does not edify? (p. 230)
Outside of Clark’s Systematic Theology, this commentary has more extensive comments on eschatology than any other of his writings. Chapter 15—corresponding with the 15th chapter of First Corinthians—is nearly all about eschatology. Someone more knowledgable on eschatology than I am could well put together a summary explanation and evaluation of Clark’s view—a limited form of premillennialism.
The 2nd edition cover is shown above. The original looked like this:
For the previous review in this series see here.
For the next review in this series see here.
9 thoughts on “GHC Review 23: First Corinthians, A Contemporary Commentary”
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Thanks for this review Doug! Who published the first edition of the commentary?
Presbyterian and Reformed
When it comes to eschatology GHC should have listened to his daddy, DSC👍😉…
It is interesting that Gordon disagreed with David both on apologetics/philosophy and eschatology. David was more clearly in the Princeton Theology camp.
His, DSC’s, commentary on Revelation is short and written for average Christians. I found it to be a very uplifting and informative commentary. Bought it and read it on my iPad Kindle app as a devotional.
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