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1 Corinthians
Love and Truth
Paul’s Greeting
1From Paul, divinely appointed according to the plan of God, to be an apostle of the Anointed One, Jesus. Our fellow believer Sosthenes joins me 2in writing you this letter addressed to the community of God throughout the city of Corinth. For you have been made pure, set apart in the Anointed One, Jesus. And God has invited you to be his devoted and holy people, and not only you, but everyone everywhere who calls on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord, and ours also.
3May joyous grace and endless peace be yours continually from our Father God and from our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One!
Made Wonderfully Rich
4I am always thanking my God for you because he has given you such free and open access to his grace through your union with Jesus, the Messiah. 5In him you have been made extravagantly rich in every way. You have been endowed with a wealth of inspired utterance and the riches that come from your intimate knowledge of him. 6For the reality of the truth of Christ is seen among you and strengthened through your experience of him. 7So now you aren’t lacking any spiritual gift as you eagerly await the unveiling of the Lord Jesus, the Anointed One. 8He will keep you steady and strong to the very end, making your character mature so that you will be found innocent on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9God is forever faithful and can be trusted to do this in you, for he has invited you to co-share the life of his Son, Jesus, the Anointed One, our King!
Paul Addresses Divisions in the Church
10I urge you, my brothers and sisters, for the sake of the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to agree to live in unity with one another and put to rest any division that attempts to tear you apart. Be restored as one united body living in perfect harmony. Form a consistent choreography among yourselves, having a common perspective with shared values.
11My dear brothers and sisters, I have a serious concern I need to bring up with you, for I have been informed by those of Chloe’s house church that you have been destructively arguing among yourselves. 12And I need to bring this up because each of you is claiming loyalty to different preachers. Some are saying, “I am a disciple of Paul,” or, “I follow Apollos,” or, “I am a disciple of Peter the Rock,” and some, “I belong only to Christ.” 13But let me ask you, is Christ divided up into groups? Did I die on the cross for you? At your baptism did you pledge yourselves to follow Paul?
14Thank God I only baptized two from Corinth—Crispus and Gaius! 15So now no one can say that in my name I baptized others. 16(Yes, I also baptized Stephanus and his family. Other than that, I don’t remember baptizing anyone else.) 17For the Anointed One has sent me on a mission, not to see how many I could baptize, but to proclaim the good news. And I declare this message stripped of all philosophical arguments that empty the cross of its true power. For I trust in the all-sufficient cross of Christ alone.
The True Power of the Cross
18To preach the message of the cross seems like sheer nonsense to those who are on their way to destruction, but to us who are on our way to salvation, it is the mighty power of God released within us. 19For it is written:
I will dismantle the wisdom of the wise
and I will invalidate the intelligence of the scholars.
20So where is the wise philosopher who understands? Where is the expert scholar who comprehends? And where is the skilled debater of our time who could win a debate with God? Hasn’t God demonstrated that the wisdom of this world system is utter foolishness?
21For in his wisdom, God designed that all the world’s wisdom would be insufficient to lead people to the discovery of himself. He took great delight in baffling the wisdom of the world by using the simplicity of preaching the story of the cross in order to save those who believe it. 22For the Jews constantly demand to see miraculous signs, while those who are not Jews constantly cling to the world’s wisdom, 23but we preach the crucified Messiah. The Jews stumble over him and the rest of the world sees him as foolishness. 24But for those who have been chosen to follow him, both Jews and Greeks, he is God’s mighty power, God’s true wisdom, and our Messiah. 25For the “foolish” things of God have proven to be wiser than human wisdom. And the “feeble” things of God have proven to be far more powerful than any human ability.
God’s Calling
26Brothers and sisters, consider who you were when God called you to salvation. Not many of you were wise scholars by human standards, nor were many of you in positions of power. Not many of you were considered the elite when you answered God’s call. 27But God chose those whom the world considers foolish to shame those who think they are wise, and God chose the puny and powerless to shame the high and mighty. 28He chose the lowly, the laughable in the world’s eyes—nobodies—so that he would shame the somebodies. For he chose what is regarded as insignificant in order to supersede what is regarded as prominent, 29so that there would be no place for prideful boasting in God’s presence. 30For it is not from man that we draw our life but from God as we are being joined to Jesus, the Anointed One. And now he is our God-given wisdom, our virtue, our holiness, and our redemption. 31And this fulfills what is written:
If anyone boasts, let him only boast
in all that the Lord has done!
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I. ADDRESS#Paul follows the conventional form for the opening of a Hellenistic letter (cf. Rom 1:1–7), but expands the opening with details carefully chosen to remind the readers of their situation and to suggest some of the issues the letter will discuss.
Greeting.
1Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,#Called…by the will of God: Paul’s mission and the church’s existence are grounded in God’s initiative. God’s call, grace, and fidelity are central ideas in this introduction, emphasized by repetition and wordplays in the Greek. and Sosthenes our brother,#a. [1:1] Rom 1:1. 2to the church of God that is in Corinth, to you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy, with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.#b. [1:2] Acts 18:1–11. 3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanksgiving.
4I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, 5that in him you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, 6as the testimony#The testimony: this defines the purpose of Paul’s mission (see also 1 Cor 15:15 and the note on 1 Cor 2:1). The forms of his testimony include oral preaching and instruction, his letters, and the life he leads as an apostle. to Christ was confirmed among you, 7so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.#c. [1:7] Ti 2:13. 8He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus [Christ].#d. [1:8] Phil 1:6. 9God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.#e. [1:9] 1 Jn 1:3.
II. DISORDERS IN THE CORINTHIAN COMMUNITY
A. Divisions in the Church*
Groups and Slogans.
10I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.#f. [1:10] Phil 2:2. 11For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers, by Chloe’s people, that there are rivalries among you. 12I mean that each of you is saying, “I belong to#I belong to: the activities of Paul and Apollos in Corinth are described in Acts 18. Cephas (i.e., “the Rock,” a name by which Paul designates Peter also in 1 Cor 3:22; 9:5; 15:5 and in Gal 1:18; 2:9, 11, 14) may well have passed through Corinth; he could have baptized some members of the community either there or elsewhere. The reference to Christ may be intended ironically here. Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.”#g. [1:12] 3:4, 22; 16:12; Acts 18:24–28. 13#The reference to baptism and the contrast with preaching the gospel in v 17a suggest that some Corinthians were paying special allegiance to the individuals who initiated them into the community. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14I give thanks [to God] that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius,#h. [1:14] Acts 18:8 / Rom 16:23. 15so that no one can say you were baptized in my name. 16(I baptized the household of Stephanas also; beyond that I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.)#i. [1:16] 16:15–17. 17#The basic theme of 1 Cor 1–4 is announced. Adherence to individual leaders has something to do with differences in rhetorical ability and also with certain presuppositions regarding wisdom, eloquence, and effectiveness (power), which Paul judges to be in conflict with the gospel and the cross. For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with the wisdom of human eloquence,#Not with the wisdom of human eloquence: both of the nouns employed here involve several levels of meaning, on which Paul deliberately plays as his thought unfolds. Wisdom (sophia) may be philosophical and speculative, but in biblical usage the term primarily denotes practical knowledge such as is demonstrated in the choice and effective application of means to achieve an end. The same term can designate the arts of building (cf. 1 Cor 3:10) or of persuasive speaking (cf. 1 Cor 2:4) or effectiveness in achieving salvation. Eloquence (logos): this translation emphasizes one possible meaning of the term logos (cf. the references to rhetorical style and persuasiveness in 1 Cor 2:1, 4). But the term itself may denote an internal reasoning process, plan, or intention, as well as an external word, speech, or message. So by his expression ouk en sophia logou in the context of gospel preaching, Paul may intend to exclude both human ways of reasoning or thinking about things and human rhetorical technique. Human: this adjective does not stand in the Greek text but is supplied from the context. Paul will begin immediately to distinguish between sophia and logos from their divine counterparts and play them off against each other. so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.#j. [1:17] 2:1, 4.
Paradox of the Cross.
18The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.#k. [1:18] 2:14 / Rom 1:16. 19For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the learning of the learned I will set aside.”#l. [1:19] Is 29:14.
20Where is the wise one? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish?#m. [1:20] Is 19:12. 21#True wisdom and power are to be found paradoxically where one would least expect them, in the place of their apparent negation. To human eyes the crucified Christ symbolizes impotence and absurdity. For since in the wisdom of God the world did not come to know God through wisdom, it was the will of God through the foolishness of the proclamation to save those who have faith. 22For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom,#n. [1:22] Mt 12:38; 16:1 / Acts 17:18–21. 23but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,#o. [1:23] 2:2; Gal 3:1 / Gal 5:11. 24but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
The Corinthians and Paul.
#The pattern of God’s wisdom and power is exemplified in their own experience, if they interpret it rightly (1 Cor 1:26–31), and can also be read in their experience of Paul as he first appeared among them preaching the gospel (1 Cor 2:1–5). 26Consider your own calling, brothers. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong,#p. [1:27] Jas 2:5. 28and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, 29so that no human being might boast#“Boasting (about oneself)” is a Pauline expression for the radical sin, the claim to autonomy on the part of a creature, the illusion that we live and are saved by our own resources. “Boasting in the Lord” (1 Cor 1:31), on the other hand, is the acknowledgment that we live only from God and for God. before God.#q. [1:29] Eph 2:9. 30It is due to him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption,#r. [1:30] Rom 4:17 / 6:11; Rom 3:24–26; 2 Cor 5:21 / Eph 1:7; Col 1:14; 1 Thes 5:23. 31so that, as it is written, “Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord.”#s. [1:31] Jer 9:23; 2 Cor 10:17.