1Corinthians 1 - Outline of 1Corinthians (MENU page)
     The apostle Paul first visited Corinth, near the end of his second missionary journey. The account of his ministry there, including the planting of the local church and his partnership, in business and ministry, with Acquila and Priscilla, is recorded in Acts 18:1-18.
     The city of Corinth was the "sin city" of its day, comparable to Las Vegas, and characterized by uninhibited indulgence in fleshly vices, including prostitution within the temple to the Greek goddess, Aphrodite (called Venus by the Romans).
     Following his departure from the city, Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers to encourage them to be faithful in their new way of life as followers of Christ (1Cor 5:9). The Corinthian church responded to Paul's letter with their own letter in which they presented several questions. (Neither of those letters have been preserved.)
     This first recorded epistle to the Corinthians is the apostles' answer. Paul wrote First Corinthians, in about 57 AD, during his third missionary journey, from Ephesus, where he was engaged in an extended and profitable period of ministry (1Cor 16:8,9).
I. Introduction (1:1-9)
1. Paul, called [to be] an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God,
and Sosthenes [our] brother,
2 Unto the church of God which is at Corinth,
to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called [to be] saints,
with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:
3 Grace [be] unto you, and peace,
from God our Father, and [from] the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul, called... an apostle of Jesus Christ.
Note that the words "to be" are in italics in most Bibles [or, bracketed in the text above], indicating that the translators supplied these words which are absent from the Greek text.
     Paul was called, according to the will of God. Paul did not appoint himself to the role of 'apostle'.
     An 'apostle' is 'one who is sent' to bear the message of his Master. The authority of the messenger rests upon the authority of the Master. Paul was a called apostle of "Christ Jesus." Here, and in the Greek text of most of Paul's epistles, the Lord's title ('Christ', ie., 'the Anointed One') is placed before His name as a son of man ('Jesus').
...and Sosthenes our brother.
During Paul's first visit to Corinth, "Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue" opposed the Gospel message (Acts 18:17). Apparently, God had subsequently convinced this man of the truth, turned him to Christ, and placed him as a leader in the fledgling church. Most likely, Sosthenes had carried the letter from the Corinthian church to Paul, and would return with the apostles' reply.
unto the church of God... at Corinth... in Christ Jesus.
The church {GK=ekklesia, the called out assembly}, of those who belong to God, includes many local assemblies which meet "at" various geographic locations. However, the true church consists of all those who are "in Christ," wherever they may reside or meet. (Observe the import of being "in" Christ, in Eph 1:3-14.) Are you in Him?
to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus... called... saints.
Again, in v.2, the words "to be" are not in the Greek text. Those who are "in Christ" are 'sanctified' {GK=hagiazo, set apart as belonging to God}. Because of that present reality, they are 'called saints' {GK=hagios, set apart ones}. Everyone who has placed his or her faith in Jesus Christ our Lord (the Anointed One, who is the son of man, who died and arose to become our Savior and Lord) is presently sanctified, by reason of our relationship to Him.
     There are multiple aspects to Sanctification:
  1. Positional: Believers are presently set apart to God, through the finished work of Christ (v.2).
  2. Progressive: Believers are becoming more like Christ, through the continuing work of the Holy Spirit (1Pet 1:2).
  3. Perfect: The process of sanctification will be complete when believers enter the Presence of God, at Christ's return (1The 5:23). Also see 1Joh 3:1-3), which includes all three aspects: (a.) 'now are we...'; (b.) 'purifieth himself'; (c.) 'we shall be like Him.'
Grace... and peace...
These or similar words, open all of Paul's epistles. The Grace of God as revealed in and wrought by our Savior (Titus 2:11; Rom 5:15) brings believers into Peace with God (Rom 5:1), and enables them to rest in the Peace of God (Php 4:6,7).
4 I thank my God always on your behalf,
for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;
5 That in every thing ye are enriched by him,
in all utterance, and [in] all knowledge;
6 Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:
7 So that ye come behind in no gift;
waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:
8 Who shall also confirm you unto the end,
[that ye may be] blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 God [is] faithful,
by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
I thank my God... for the grace {GK=charis} of God which is given you by Jesus Christ...
Paul was thankful, not only because the Corinthian believers had received the salvation provided by God's grace, but also because the continuing work of God's grace, in the lives of the believers, was confirmation of the reality of their faith in the Gospel of Christ, which the apostle had testified to them. v.6; Acts 18:5
ye are enriched by Him... ye come behind in no gift {GK=charisma}...
The Lord had equipped them with spiritual gifts, which enabled them to understand and proclaim doctrinal truth (eg., 1Cor 12:8; 2Cor 8:7). Later in this epistle (ch. 12-14), Paul warns against excess emphasis on spiritual gifts, and teaches concerning their intended purpose and proper use.
...waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ...
The believer's salvation, ministry, and future hope are all centered on the Lord Jesus Christ. Note that He is the focus of each of these opening verses of this epistle (appearing, by name, in nine of the first ten verses).
...who shall confirm you unto the end...
As the reality of their faith was confirmed by the Grace of God working within them (v.6), so, His work would continue to confirm them {ie., make them stedfast}.
...[that ye may be] blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The word 'blameless' {GK=anegkletos} does not refer to sinless perfection, but rather to being 'above reproach' or 'unaccusable.' Christ bore the reproach of our sin. Despite the hatred of Satan and ungodly men, nothing will change the standing of God's saints. v.2; Rom 8:33,34
     When Christ returns for His own, they will enter into His glorious presence with great joy (eg., 1The 2:19; 3:13; 5:23). In each of these references, from First Thessalonians, the GK word for 'coming' is 'parousia,' which emphasizes His being 'near' or 'present.' In v.7 (above), the word translated 'coming' is 'apokalupsis,' which refers to His 'revealing,' not only to His own, but also to His enemies. In that day, every knee shall bow before our Lord Jesus Christ (Php 2:10,11). When the world recognizes Him for who He is, His saints will be recognized as belonging to Him.
God is faithful...
The saints will be brought to that glorious future day, not by their own merits and abilities, but by God's unfailing grace.
...by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
Can there be any higher calling? The word 'fellowship' {GK=koinonia} refers to that which is held in common. The word is often translated as 'communion.' Because of our shared faith in Christ, believers have 'communion' with each other, around Him (1Cor 10:16,17). Therefore, we are to join with each other, in proclaiming the Gospel of Christ to the watching world (eg., Php 1:4,5).
     Yet, we are not called into a club about Christ, but into communion with the Son of God (1Joh 1:3,4). Every born-again believer has entered into a unique relationship with Christ, and knows Him as 'my Savior and my Lord.' But my individual communion with Him brings me into vital union with everyone who is "in Christ." Note that 'ye' is plural, in v.9 (and in every occurrence of 'ye' and 'you' throughout this chapter). Being in Christ, believers are in Him, together.
     Having clarified the meaning of communion with Christ, the apostle now applies it to the local church situation.
II. Divisions within the local church. (1:10- 4:21)
A. The Reality of Divisions. 1:10-17
10. Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that ye all speak the same thing,
and [that] there be no divisions
{GK=schisma, schisms} among you;
but [that] ye be perfectly joined together
in the same mind and in the same judgment.
11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren,
by them [which are of the house] of Chloe,
that there are contentions
{GK=eris, strife} among you.
I beseech {GK=parakaleo, call you near}, brethren {we who are in God's family},
by the name {ie., the authority and character} of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Where there are divisions in the church, there are brethren who are out of communion with the Lord, and unsubmissive to His authority.
...that ye all speak the same thing...
This is not a demand for precise conformity of opinion, but a call to brotherly agreement. Areas of disagreement are to be considered, first according to what is true, and then according to what will make peace between brothers (eg., Jam 3:13-18).
...perfectly joined together... in the same mind and in the same judgment {ie., purpose}.
Broken unity is restored, where brothers are ruled by the mind of the Lord, and live wholly for His glory. 1Cor 2:16; 10:31; cp. Eph 4:1-7
For it hath been declared to me... by... the house of Chloe...
Paul identified, by name, the source of his information about problems in the Corinthian church. He was wise to do so. In our day, pastors and churches are sometimes destroyed by rumors from nameless accusers. Anonymous accusations cannot be properly investigated or addressed, and prevent the vindication of an innocent party. Therefore, they should be dismissed as groundless, lest the body be poisoned by a root of bitterness (Heb 12:14,15).
     However, verifiable issues must be laid out and corrected (as Paul now begins to do).
12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith,
I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you?
or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
14. I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;
15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.
16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas:
besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.
17. For Christ sent me not to baptize,
but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words,
lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
...I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
This church was divided into factions who claimed loyalty to different leaders. It is likely, that these factions were followers of various local church leaders. But rather than accusing certain men of drawing followers after themselves (eg., Acts 20:28-30), Paul applied the names of non-locals to illustrate the local factions (see 1Cor 4:6).
  • Paul was the apostle who brought the Gospel to Corinth.
    But some did not like his preaching style (2Cor 10:10). Some denied that he met the qualifications of an apostle (Paul will begin to address this in 1Cor 9:1).
  • Apollos was an eloquent orator and a powerful evangelist.
    Some preferred his preaching to that of Paul.
  • Cephas (the apostle Peter) spoke simply but with great boldness.
    Hadn't the Lord given him the keys by which to open the hearing of the Gospel, first to the Jews and later, to the Gentiles (Mat 16:19). Some regarded Peter as prominent among the apostles.
  • Christ - A faction which claimed to follow Christ alone,
    would regard themselves as super-saints, who had no need for lesser ministers.
Such factions were signs of fleshly foolishness, as Paul will show.
Is Christ divided?
No. Every true believer is in Christ (v.2), and called into communion with Christ (v.9).
Was Paul crucified for you?
Of course not. Our salvation rests on the blood of Christ, not on the ministry, skills or credentials of any church leader.
Were you baptized into the name of Paul?
  • By water baptism, a believer declares his faith in, and identification with, Christ.
    (eg., Mat 28:19,20; Acts 8:36,37)
  • By spiritual baptism, the Holy Spirit places a new believer into the body of Christ (1Cor 12:12,13).
    Thereafter, the believer is forever "in Christ" as illustrated by the basic meaning of the word for 'baptize' {GK=baptizo, to immerse} (Gal 3:27,28).
  • Identification with Paul (or any other godly man) does not transfer any spiritual merit.
I thank God that I baptized none of you {with a few named exceptions}...
In case some might put value on being baptized by an actual apostle, Paul was thankful that he had baptized very few. Since he could barely recall their names, it is evident that he did not issue certificates of baptism (which might offer false assurance to their holders).
For Christ sent {GK=apostello} me not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel...
The power of God unto salvation is not received through baptism, but rather, through faith in the Gospel of Christ (Rom 1:16). Therefore, Paul's commission, as Christ's apostle, was to 'preach the Gospel' {GK=euaggelizo, proclaim the good news}. He was simply to deliver the message concerning the One who sent him (v.1).
...lest the cross of Christ should be 'made of none effect' {GK=kenoo, emptied, falsified}.
The sign of the cross, though prominently displayed, lacks the power to save, where people place their confidence in a church, its clergy or religious rituals. The faith that is effective unto salvation must be placed in the Person who died for our sins and arose victorious over death. There is salvation in none other (Acts 4:12).
II. Divisions within the local church. (1:10- 4:21)
A. The Reality of Divisions. 1:10-17
B. The Reasons for Divisions. 1:18- 2:16
18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness;
but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
{Isa 29:14}
20 Where [is] the wise? where [is] the scribe?
where [is] the disputer
{ie., sophist} of this world?
hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God,
it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:
For the preaching {GK=logos, word} of the cross...
The 'Word' {GK=logos} is applied as the name of God the Son, in Joh 1:1-4,14.
The 'word of the cross' describes what He has done for us (as stated in 1Cor 15:3-4; cp. Acts 13:26; Eph 1:13).
...is to them that perish {GK=apollumi, lit., 'are destroyed'} foolishness {GK=moria, absurdity}...
It does not say 'them that may perish' at a future judgment. The tense of the GK verb 'perish' indicates that they are already lost {as in 2Cor 4:3). Their present state of ruin is unending, because they reject, as absurd, the message of salvation through Christ's death and resurrection.
...but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. (cp. Rom 1:16)
Where is the wise {GK=sophos}?
...hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world {GK=aion, age}?
The wisdom {GK=sophia} of this 'age' is whatever living men consider 'sophisticated.'
...hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world {GK=kosmos, order, arrangement}?
God has demonstrated the absurdity of the wisdom of the organized world system, in that throughout the ages, fallen men have failed to reach a true knowledge of God, even though He makes Himself known (Rom 1:20-22,28).
For... it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
Here, the word for 'preaching' {GK=karugma} refers to 'a proclamation' or 'the thing preached.' Sinners are saved when they hear and believe 'the word of the cross.'
Sadly, that Word is rejected by worldly wisdom...
For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom...
These two groups may also be in view in v.20. There, 'the scribe' though well versed with the Hebrew Scriptures, remains blind to the One who came in fulfillment of prophecy, even after seeing miraculous proofs (eg., Mat 12:38-40; 16:1-4). Likewise, the Gentiles, being 'wise' in every form of human philosophy, grope in darkness concerning the true God (eg., Acts 17:18-23,32).
23 But we preach Christ crucified,
unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks,
Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men;
and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
...we preach Christ {lit., a messiah} crucified...
The Jews were looking for the promised Messiah, but they expected a powerful king to deliver them from gentile dominion. They stumbled at the suffering servant, who told them they would die in their sins unless they believed on Him (Joh 8:21-24; Rom 9:31-33).
     To the Gentiles, it was an absurdity to place one's confidence in a crucified man (eg., Acts 26:22-24).
But unto them which are called... Christ the power {GK=dunamis} of God, and the wisdom of God.
"But to those whom God had elected to salvation, both from among the Jews and Greeks, Christ was the great miracle of God and the great philosophy of God -- the power of God in destroying sin and death, man's greatest foes, and the wisdom of God in devising a plan of salvation which pardoned guilty men and at the same time vindicated and glorified the justice of God." [GWms]
1Pet 2:7,8
26 For ye see your calling, brethren,
how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty,
not many noble, [are called]:
{cp. Luk 18:24,25}
27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise;
and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
28 And base things of the world,
and things which are despised, hath God chosen,
{cp. Mat 11:25,26}
[yea], and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:
29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.
{cp. Eph 2:8,9}
We preach (v.23)... for ye see your calling (v.26)...
Often, in Paul's letter, he applies the word 'we' to the messengers of the Gospel, primarily the apostles (including himself). In these places, 'ye' refers to the recipients of the message. As believers mature and enter into the work of proclaiming the Gospel, they will increasingly comprehend that God, in Christ, has set them apart from the world.
30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom,
{ie., even} righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
But of him are ye in Christ Jesus...
It is God who has chosen and called believers to new life 'in Christ' (v.26,27; Eph 1:3,4,10).
...who... is made {has become} unto us wisdom {lit., wisdom from God}...
Christ, Himself, is the wisdom of God (v.24; cp. Prov 8:12,22-36).
For believers, Christ has fulfilled God's wisdom in regard to our salvation.
He, who is wisdom from God, in our behalf, has secured our...
  1. righteousness - by which we are acceptable before God. Rom 3:21-26; 2Cor 5:21
  2. sanctification - by which we are set apart for God. v.2; 1Cor 6:9-11
  3. redemption - by which we are bought out of sin, death, and the kingdom of darkness.
    1Cor 15:54-57; Col 1:12-14
...as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. Jer 9:23,24

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