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1 Corinthians 1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians
At a Glance
Author: The apostle Paul
Audience: The church of Corinth
Date: AD 53–55
Type of Literature: A letter
Major Themes: The gospel, the church, spiritual gifts, holiness, love, and the resurrection
Letter Opening — 1:1–9
Causes and Cures of Division — 1:10–4:21
Moral Issues and Marriage — 5:1–7:40
Condemnation of Idolatry — 8:1–11:1
Affirmation of Worship and Gifts — 11:2–14:40
The Resurrection of the Dead — 15:1–58
Letter Closing — 16:1–24
About 1 Corinthians
The once influential seaport city of Corinth was strategically located at the crossroads of the world. Prosperous, powerful, and decadent, it was a city that God wanted to reach with the power of the gospel. God sent the apostle Paul to Corinth on his third missionary journey to establish a church in a city that desperately needed love and truth. Paul spent a year and a half in Corinth and saw the church grow, with more believers being added to their number daily. But they needed wisdom from their spiritual father, Paul. So he wrote this letter to encourage them to carry on in their faith and to remain steadfast to the truths of the gospel.
Written while Paul was in Ephesus, this letter had a powerful effect on the Corinthian believers. In his second letter to them, he was able to take them even further into the truths of our new covenant reality and the power of the gospel to overcome sufferings. While Paul was ministering in Corinth, he met two people who would become his coworkers: Aquila and Priscilla, a husband-and-wife team.
Perhaps this book is best remembered for the so-called love chapter. In 1 Corinthians 13 we have the clearest and most poetic masterpiece of love in the New Testament. God’s unending love always sustains us and gives us hope. Think how many of the problems in your life could be solved by embracing the revelation of love found in this anointed letter of Paul! May the love of God win every battle in your heart, bringing a full restoration of your soul into the image of God, for God is love.
We are so enriched by having this inspired letter, written to Paul’s spiritual sons and daughters. How grateful we are that God has given us the treasures found in 1 Corinthians!
Many see 1 Corinthians as a letter of correction. Indeed, many errors had crept into the belief system of the church of Corinth and the spiritual walk of its members. Some of the issues Paul needed to address include: living godly in a corrupt culture, being unified as one body without competition, maintaining the priority of sexual and moral purity within the church, understanding more completely the role of spiritual gifts in the context of the church, embracing love as the greatest virtue that must live within our hearts, maintaining orderly worship with proper respect toward one another, and keeping the hope of the resurrection burning brightly in our hearts.
But 1 Corinthians is not all correction. Paul gave many wonderful teachings to the young church that will impact your life as well. Like the Corinthian believers, you possess every spiritual gift, you are fully equipped to minister to others, you are capable of demonstrating love to all, and the hope of a future resurrection brings meaning to your life today.
Author and Audience
The apostle Paul wrote to the church of Corinth not as an outsider but as one who was intimately involved in their affairs as a founding father (see Acts 18). He composed this letter about AD 53–55, while living in Ephesus. He was responding to certain issues and problems in the Corinthian church. Apparently, a delegation had arrived from Corinth and notified Paul of what was taking place and asked for his advice. First Corinthians was his response.
While this letter was directed to a specific congregation in a specific Roman city, we are as much of the audience today, given how we mirror many of the characteristics that defined Corinth. It was considered a modern, cosmopolitan city; its people were staunch individualists; their behaviors reflected this individualism; their spirituality was polytheistic; and believers accommodated the gospel in ways that made it palatable to the surrounding culture. These characteristics could also be said of us.
Corinth was the New York, London, and Sydney of the ancient world. We need the voice of Paul and the Spirit of God to speak into our lives today. May we hear them clearly.
Major Themes
The Nature of the Gospel. This letter is gospel drenched! Not only in what it reveals about our story in Christ, but in what it reveals about his story too. In 8:6 we find revelation-truth about Christ that hadn’t been understood before: “For us there is only one God—the Father. He is the source of all things, and our lives are lived for him. And there is one Lord, Jesus, the Anointed One, through whom we and all things exist.” Here Paul equates the one true God of Israel, Yahweh, with Jesus. Jesus is Yahweh, the only true God.
Paul also revealed the nature of our story, the story each of us has committed to by believing the gospel. Paul shared the core message that had been part of the church from the beginning: “The Messiah died for our sins, . . . He was buried in a tomb and was raised from the dead after three days, as foretold in the Scriptures. Then he appeared to Peter the Rock and to the twelve apostles” (15:3–5). This is the essence of the gospel, the good news about our forgiveness from sins, freedom from shame and guilt, and new life in Christ. Like Paul, God’s amazing grace has made us who we are.
The Church of Christ. One of the central issues Paul addressed was what we call ecclesiology, the nature of the church. What does it mean to be the people of God? What does it mean to gather as God’s holy people—in Corinth, throughout America, or in Australia? One commentator declares these teachings on the church to be this letter’s greatest theological contribution. As a church planter this makes sense. Paul was deeply concerned for his spiritual children and how they publicly professed and lived out the gospel in a gathered community.
In this anointed letter, Paul confronted the nature of church leadership and pastoral ministry. He addressed lawsuits that were tearing believers apart. He confronted head-on the toleration of sexual immorality within the community. And he addressed the nature of worship, particularly the expression of God’s supernatural gifts that God has imparted to every believer. No stone is left unturned as Paul shapes our understanding of what it means to be “God’s inner sanctuary” (3:16), literally “the body of Christ” (10:16) living and breathing in the world!
Holy and Ethical Living. In two of his other letters, Romans and Galatians, Paul made it clear that we are saved by grace through faith. In this letter, he makes it equally clear that we are “God’s expensive purchase, paid for with tears of blood,” and in response are called to “use your body to bring glory to God” (6:20). We do this by “following God’s commandments” (7:19) and obeying “the law of Christ” (9:21).
No aspect of our new Christian ethics and holy living is left unaddressed. “People who continue to engage in sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, sexual perversion, homosexuality, fraud, greed, drunkenness, verbal abuse, or extortion—these will not inherit God’s kingdom realm” (6:9–10). We may be saved by grace, but Paul makes it clear that as Christians we are to live our lives in a way that glorifies and honors God (10:31).
Love, the Motivation of Our Lives. Each of Paul’s letters seems to have an ethical high note. In his second letter to the Corinthians, it is generosity. In Ephesians, one could say it’s humility. And Galatians emphasizes the fruit produced by the Spirit life. In this letter Paul uncovers the beautiful ethical prize after which we are to run: love. The so-called love chapter expounds upon the virtues of loving both God and neighbor, as Christ commanded. According to Paul, love is more worthy than speaking eloquently “in the heavenly tongues of angels” (13:1), better than having “unending supernatural knowledge” (13:2), and far more important than giving away everything to the poor (13:3). As Paul says, “Love never stops loving”; it never fails (13:8).
Issues of “the End.” By “the end” we mean both our personal end at death and also our world’s end when Christ returns. While we often think our end hope is in heaven, it isn’t. Our ultimate Christian hope is in the resurrection. Paul spent fifty-eight verses and an entire chapter making this clear. In fact, this was his main message. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead paved the way for our own resurrection. He is “the firstfruit of a great resurrection harvest of those who have died” (15:20). Because Jesus is alive, we have a bright hope for tomorrow. For this reason we can confidently declare, along with Paul, “Death is swallowed up by a triumphant victory! So death, tell me, where is your victory? Tell me death, where is your sting?” (15:54–55).
1 Corinthians
Love and Truth





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