The Agora
Bible Commentary
1 Corinthians

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

1 Corinthians 1

1Co 1:1

See Lesson, Paul the man.

See Lesson, Paul's ecclesial letters.

See Lesson, Error in Corinth.

Central interest: The implications of the unity, in Christ, of all believers. "Did they not realize what their party loyalties in effect signified? Namely, that the unique and glorified Christ could be parcelled out among rival groups as though he were a mere thing and not the sublime being who alone had made them what they were by his sacrificial death on their account" (WFB 68).

Various refs to Num: Paul's authority was being challenged by some in Corinth: as Moses' authority had been challenged by Aaron, Miriam, Korah, etc, and nation as a whole (Tes 49:409-411).

How many Corinthian letters? WFB suggests 4 (pp 18-29):
CALLED TO BE AN APOSTLE: Called in Acts 26:17 (cp Rom 1:1; Gal 1:15). The 12 were called (Mar 1:7; Luk 6:13), and Paul was no less called (1Co 15:8).

BY THE WILL OF GOD: God's will was particularly manifested in Paul's case. His preparation was from birth. He was a microcosm of all believers, combining Hebrew, Greek and Roman in himself.

SOSTHENES: "Safe strength", poss the same as the chief ruler of the synagogue (Act 18:17) -- who later became a Christian.

1Co 1:2

CHURCH: Gr "ecclesia". The believers are the church. "Church = building" is not a NT idea! "Ecclesia" = assembly (see Act 19:39).

CORINTH: "The ancient city of Corinth was located on the isthmus between Attica to the northeast and the Greek Peloponnesus to the south and had controlling access to two seas -- the Aegean, about five miles to the east, and the Ionian on the west. Its eastern port was Cenchrea, located on the Saronic Gulf (Acts 18:18; Rom 16:1), its western harbor was at Lechaeum on the Corinthian Gulf. This proximity to the seas and its nearness to Athens, only 45 miles to the northeast, gave Corinth a position of strategic commercial importance and military defense. It lay below the steep north side of the 1,800-foot high fortress rock, the Acrocorinth with its temple of Aphrodite. Thus located, the city received shipping from Italy, Sicily, and Spain, as well as from Asia Minor, Syria, Phoenicia, and Egypt. Instead of going 'round the horn' at Cape Malea at the south end of the Peloponnesus, ships either docked at the Isthmus and transported their cargoes by land vehicles from one sea to another, or if the ships were small, they were dragged the five miles across the isthmus. Today there is a canal running through the narrowest part of the isthmus near Corinth.

"Corinth was called 'the bridge of the sea'. It was considered a prosperous and rich city... 'always great and wealthy.' At the peak of its power and influence the city probably had a free population of 200,000 in addition to half a million slaves in its navy and in its many colonies.

"During the Roman period and in its position as a political center, Corinth flourished, with vast income coming from its sea trade and from the development of its arts and industries. Its pottery and Corinthian brass (a mixture of gold, silver, and copper) were world famous.

"The celebration of the Isthmian games at the temple of Poseidon made a considerable contribution to Hellenic life. This temple was located about seven miles east of Corinth, not far from the eastern end of the isthmus. But with the games there came an emphasis on luxury and profligacy, because the sanctuary of Poseidon was given over to the worship of the Corinthian Aphrodite (probably a counterpart of the Syrian Astarte), whose temple on the Acrocorinth had more than 1,000 'temple prostitutes'. Many people came to Corinth on account of these priestesses, and the city grew rich. Korinthiazomai (meaning 'to live like a Corinthian in the practice of sexual immorality') was the expression used to describe a person of loose life.

"Paul probably came to this important but immoral city in the fall of AD 50, after having preached the gospel to the highly intellectual Athenians.

"In the Corinthian church were both Jews and Gentiles, as inferred from Paul's reference to them in 1Co 1. This is also attested by Latin names, such as Gaius, Fortunatus, Crispus, Justus, and Achaicus (1Co 1:14; 16:17) and by the mention of the Jews, Aquila and Priscilla (Act 18:14) and of Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue (Act 18:8). Sosthenes, another synagogue ruler there (Act 18:17) -- if he is the Sosthenes of 1Co 1:1 -- also became a member of the congregation. But no doubt the greater part of the church was composed of native Greeks; cf Paul's reference to the Greeks who seek after wisdom (1Co 1:20-24) and also his reference to the congregation being Gentiles (1Co 12:2)" (EBC).

CALLED TO BE HOLY: For this Jesus prayed: Joh 17:19.

HOLY: Or "saints". Gr "hagios", the holy ones! As God "set apart" or "sanctified" or "made holy" His people in Egypt (Exo 13:2; Lev 11:44), so NT believers were "made holy" in Christ.

All believers are "saints" through their spiritual union with Christ, a fact Paul often expressed by the phrase "in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:1,2; Eph 2:6,10,13; 3:6) or "in Christ" (Rom 12:5; 2Co 5:17). This use of the term emphasizes not so much personal holiness, though the believer's conduct should correspond increasingly to his standing (2Co 7:1; 2Th 5:23), but the objective "set apart" status each believer possesses because of the grace conferred upon him or her through Christ.

WITH ALL THOSE: This position was not the exclusive privilege of Corinthians, but of all "who call upon the name', ie, all those who have faith in a divinely sent message.

EVERYWHERE: "In every place". The letter is not addressed to all saints everywhere. But the saints in Corinth, even if meeting in different places, were called to become part of one universal body! Cp phrase in 2Co 2:14; 1Th 1:8; 1Ti 2:8.

LORD: Kyrios, used 7 times in 1Co 1:2,3,7,8,9,10,31. A reminder that we all have the same Lord!

LORD JESUS CHRIST: This name concerns a Messiah (Christ) and Savior (Jesus) who has bought us (and thus he is also Lord, 2Pe 2:1).

1Co 1:3

GRACE: Gr "charis" = the favor of God (Act 11:23; 15:11).

PEACE: The usual Jewish salutation, but here given absolutely sincerely (cp Joh 14:27).

1Co 1:7

TO BE REVEALED: "Apokalupsis".

1Co 1:8

"Unto the end": "I am with you unto the end": Mat 28:20. "He loved them unto the end": John 13:1. "Who shall confirm you unto the end": 1Co 1:8. "The rejoicing of hope firm unto the end": Heb 3:6. "Beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end": Heb 3:14. "Full assurance of hope unto the end": Heb 6:11. "Keepeth my works unto the end": Rev 2:26.

BLAMELESS: The testimony was confirmed (v 6), and God would confirm or establish to the end. Thus established, they could not be reproached -- they were blameless or unreproveable (RV); unimpeached -- one against whom no charge could be sustained (Rom 8:33).

1Co 1:9

The name of Jesus Christ is used 9 times in first 9 vv.

1Co 1:10

See Lesson, One mind. A sectarian spirit threatened to destroy their unity.

I APPEAL: An appeal and a rebuke wrapped up together!

BROTHERS: Occurs 39 times in this letter, more than in any other.

IN THE NAME: The name of Christ is an incentive to unity, for it will be fully realized in a unity (Joh 17:1).

THAT ALL OF YOU AGREE WITH ONE ANOTHER: The basis of Scriptural oneness: the unity of teaching.

DIVISIONS: Gr "schismata", lit dissensions. The forming of cliques in the midst of the one body.

PERFECTLY UNITED: "Katartizo" = joined together, mended, made complete. Cp Mat 4:21; Mar 1:19 (sw, sig mending their nets); Gal 6:1 (sw sig restoring to unity); Heb 10:5 (sw sig Christ being prepared).

1Co 1:11

Quarreling: the root malady of all the other problems that follow.

1Co 1:12

WHAT I MEAN IS THIS: All these, a "figure" (1Co 4:6). There were sections in the ecclesia and Paul does not name the leaders, but to show the futility of it all he gives to the sections the names of the apostles and Apollos (1Co 4:6). The groups doubtless corresponded to fancied differences in the leaders named.

I FOLLOW CHRIST: In this case, poss implying "you others do not!" (ie 1Co 2:10).

1Co 1:13

As there is only one head (Christ), there can be only one body (Eph 4:4,5)!

Many times we read Paul's question here as we do other Scriptures, without considering that it may have application to ourselves. Mankind always has a tendency to worship itself, a tendency which often manifests itself in the slavish adherence to the dictates of some other man. Even Paul acknowledged and used to good purpose this human tendency -- as all good preachers must -- when he encouraged these same Corinthian brethren to be imitators of him (1Co 11:1, RSV). He was in their presence, he was visible, his words and examples were forceful; and it is true that most men are like sheep looking for a shepherd. But the difference between Paul and some leaders was this: that he always kept Christ in the forefront: 'Follow me, but only insofar as I follow Christ.'

The apostle must have realized that the tendency to believe and follow that which is visible, to follow other men more readily than an unseen Christ, would lead to serious and far-reaching consequences, and result in believers becoming estranged and the Brotherhood divided. The condition of the Corinthian ecclesia presented an opportunity for the suppression of this tendency in its beginning, and to point a warning for all time. The Corinthians were in a dangerous position: While all professed the name of Christ, a sectarian spirit had definitely risen in their midst, threatening to destroy their unity as a part of the Body of Christ:

"Some boasted in Paul, others in Apollos, others in Cephas, and others in Christ. Hence the question: 'Is Christ divided?' The anticipated answer is, of course, 'NO.' Yet there must be division. It is Christ who says so: 'Henceforth there shall be division' (Luk 12:51-53). 'But did he mean among the elect of God? No. Is it right among them then? It will not happen among them, brother. The saints are of one mind. But who are they? Leave that. The judgment will decide.' This last quotation is from the late editor RR. The present editor endorses his words absolutely, because, on the most careful study of the NT, he believes they breathe the spirit of Christ and Paul" (CCW, Xd 59:122).

The exhortations of the apostles require us to face the facts, to recognize them, and to act with wisdom. We do not hesitate to invite our unbaptized friends to face the facts of our message to them; should we not follow the same principle of guidance for ourselves? Our answer must be in the affirmative. This matter should be brought home to us in the further question: "Of what body am I a member?" Would not all unhesitatingly answer: "We belong to the Body of Christ"? This is as it should be; but are we prepared to face the fact that in so answering we commit ourselves to a condemnation of the present disrupted state of Christadelphia? Certainly we cannot in reason justify it. Christ is not divided. "Doth not even nature itself teach us" that it is not possible that members of the same physical body can be separated from one another, and the body structure still retain its form and function? As the Creator has designed both the natural body and the spiritual body (His ecclesia), their adaptation to His purpose in their respective unities must necessarily follow His design. Thus should the Brotherhood, notwithstanding the varied character of its membership -- young and old, rich and poor, "liberal" and "conservative" -- be one body in Christ, in which there should be no schism.

All who are agreed upon the simple first principles of the Faith, and have been truly baptized into the name of Christ, have acknowledged Christ as their "Head". To be consistent, we should therefore confess that the present condition of Christadelphia proves false our profession. What is the matter? Who is in the wrong? Should not the whole body of believers be unitedly holding to the "head"? The "head", "from which the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love" (Eph 4:16)? The apostle Paul in yet another place calls attention to "Christ our life" (Col 3:4). Can Christ be the "Life" of a mutilated body, whose members are not only severed but also in active opposition to one another?

" 'Is Christ divided?' Paul asked in amazement; that is, did they not realize what their party loyalties in effect signified? -- namely, that the unique and glorified Christ could be parcelled out among rival groups as though he were a mere thing and not the sublime being who alone had made them what they were by his sacrificial death on their account! Then, to drive the point home, come two equally decisive questions, 'Was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?' " (WFB 68).

What then is our position as the Body of Christ? Most surely, brethren, we should come together, and in all humility and brotherly love have these matters set right, before the day of opportunity passes forever, so that all who truly belong to Christ may be a united, living band, awaiting his return.

Just think how it would be -- speaking of his return -- if the Lord were to appear incognito in our midst at this very moment! Would he be received by all portions of the Brotherhood without question, or would there be "righteous" concern that he who is "in fellowship" with one faction cannot be "in fellowship" with another, for fear of "contamination"? Would such "contamination" be feared by the One who while yet in the flesh touched sightless lepers and naked demoniacs and foul corpses? Let us think of two brethren working side by side, both having been baptized into Christ, and yet they act as if they were strangers to one another. Circumstances have placed them in separate "fellowships", and they find between them a great gulf not of their own making. The situation is painfully embarrassing and unpleasant. How would it be if the Lord, their Head, were to stand with them one day, his true identity hidden? He converses with them; he finds (for he knew he would find) the knowledge of the Truth, much zeal, and love, on both sides. The Master is pleased, and graciously reveals himself to them. With both joy and regret, and confusion, these two brethren stand in the presence of their Lord. 'O fools, and slow of heart to truly believe in me... why have you been satisfied with my body divided? Did you really think I would be pleased with such a condition? Now I beseech you, before it is too late, that there be no divisions among you.'

The time to retrace our steps in now! Let us make a special effort, not just lip-service, to this ideal of unity. Let us not be ashamed when Christ does come, that he will say, "I have somewhat against thee." Rather let us reasonably, prayerfully, conscientiously, and in humility of spirit set ourselves and our house in order, as best we can, before it is too late. Christ must not be divided among us.

1Co 1:15

SO NO ONE CAN SAY THAT YOU WERE BAPTIZED INTO MY NAME: A good reason not to baptize anyone into the "body of the Christadelphians"! Or -- even more especially -- into a particular "fellowship"! True baptism is INTO CHRIST, and not into some "subset" thereof!

1Co 1:16

Paul has no concern for "statistics"!

1Co 1:17

NOT... TO BAPTIZE: Lesson: There is no special virtue in the baptizer! (Jesus did not baptize: Joh 4:2.) Baptism, however, is essential: Rom 6:3-5; 1Co 12:13; Gal 3:27-29; Eph 4:5; Col 2:12. Also, note the context in 1Co 1:13-16 -- where baptism is spoken of quite positively.

NOT WITH WORDS OF HUMAN WISDOM: Any attempt to square the cross with human conceptions of rightness is foredoomed to failure.

1Co 1:18

MESSAGE: "Word" (RV): discourse or proclamation.

FOOLISHNESS: To proclaim salvation through a crucified man was folly to those who were lacking in the moral ability to discern. But to others, it was God's power, in that (1) God's power was seen in it, and (2) it was the efficient means God employed (Rom 1:16), and (3) it was effective in them (Gal 2:20).

1Co 1:19

Isa 29:14 -- see context (vv 9-14): Israel turned to their own devices, and God destroyed their wisdom.

1Co 1:21

The world did not by its wisdom arrive at knowledge of God; God chose to employ the means man regarded as foolish.

1Co 1:22

Signs // power in v 24. Wisdom // wisdom in v 24.

1Co 1:24

BUT TO THOSE WHOM GOD HAS CALLED, BOTH JEWS AND GREEKS, CHRIST THE POWER OF GOD AND THE WISDOM OF GOD: If Christ had come with worldly pomp, only the rich could have received him; if as a philosopher, only the schoolmen: but coming as he did he is available for all, whether Jew or Greek, who will humble themselves and accept God's way which exceeds human boasting. To such, Christ is the wisdom of God and the power of God: exhibiting in himself God's wisdom and power: and in what was accomplished also. Only God's wisdom could find a way for forgiveness; only God could provide power to triumph over sin.

1Co 1:27

Vv 27-29: One of the fundamental messages of the Bible, and shown in practice a hundred times: (1) God saves a nation through one man, after first selling him into slavery, and casting him into prison. (2) God rescues that same nation through one little baby destined for death, but plucked out of his burial coffin on a whim by a king's daughter. (3) God sends home 30,000 troops, and wins a great victory with 300. (4) Another army cringes in their tents at the threats of a giant warrior, who blasphemes the name of the God of Israel, but a little boy -- rejecting all the armaments of a soldier -- goes out to "fight" him with a shepherd's sling... and faith. (5) A whole nation is brought to the brink of ruin, and extinction, with a huge army surrounding its capital city -- and then, to top it all off, its king is smitten with a deadly disease -- but God answers his prayers and the threat is wiped out in a single night. (6) Thousands of Jews die ugly, horrible deaths on Roman crosses, but one of those poor suffering "criminals" turns out to be the Saviour of the world.

In our Father's world, a still, small whisper of wind shakes the earth; a tiny cry in a lonely manger introduces a new world order; a microscopic seed grows into a great tree; and a little stone becomes a great mountain to fill the whole earth..."so that no flesh may boast before HIM..."

1Co 1:30

REDEMPTION: "Apolutrosis" = to be bought away from. See Lesson, Redemption.

1Co 1:31

The only real status any man has is in Christ.

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