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1-2I, Paul, have been called and sent by Jesus, the Messiah, according to God’s plan, along with my friend Sosthenes. I send this letter to you in God’s church at Corinth, believers cleaned up by Jesus and set apart for a God-filled life. I include in my greeting all who call out to Jesus, wherever they live. He’s their Master as well as ours!
3May all the gifts and benefits that come from God our Father, and the Master, Jesus Christ, be yours.
4-6Every time I think of you—and I think of you often!—I thank God for your lives of free and open access to God, given by Jesus. There’s no end to what has happened in you—it’s beyond speech, beyond knowledge. The evidence of Christ has been clearly verified in your lives.
7-9Just think—you don’t need a thing, you’ve got it all! All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that.
The Cross: The Irony of God’s Wisdom
10I have a serious concern to bring up with you, my friends, using the authority of Jesus, our Master. I’ll put it as urgently as I can: You must get along with each other. You must learn to be considerate of one another, cultivating a life in common.
11-12I bring this up because some from Chloe’s family brought a most disturbing report to my attention—that you’re fighting among yourselves! I’ll tell you exactly what I was told: You’re all picking sides, going around saying, “I’m on Paul’s side,” or “I’m for Apollos,” or “Peter is my man,” or “I’m in the Messiah group.”
13-16I ask you, “Has the Messiah been chopped up in little pieces so we can each have a relic all our own? Was Paul crucified for you? Was a single one of you baptized in Paul’s name?” I was not involved with any of your baptisms—except for Crispus and Gaius—and on getting this report, I’m sure glad I wasn’t. At least no one can go around saying he was baptized in my name. (Come to think of it, I also baptized Stephanas’s family, but as far as I can recall, that’s it.)
17God didn’t send me out to collect a following for myself, but to preach the Message of what he has done, collecting a following for him. And he didn’t send me to do it with a lot of fancy rhetoric of my own, lest the powerful action at the center—Christ on the Cross—be trivialized into mere words.
18-21The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer silliness to those hellbent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense. This is the way God works, and most powerfully as it turns out. It’s written,
I’ll turn conventional wisdom on its head,
I’ll expose so-called experts as crackpots.
So where can you find someone truly wise, truly educated, truly intelligent in this day and age? Hasn’t God exposed it all as pretentious nonsense? Since the world in all its fancy wisdom never had a clue when it came to knowing God, God in his wisdom took delight in using what the world considered stupid—preaching, of all things!—to bring those who trust him into the way of salvation.
22-25While Jews clamor for miraculous demonstrations and Greeks go in for philosophical wisdom, we go right on proclaiming Christ, the Crucified. Jews treat this like an anti-miracle—and Greeks pass it off as absurd. But to us who are personally called by God himself—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God’s ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one. Human wisdom is so tinny, so impotent, next to the seeming absurdity of God. Human strength can’t begin to compete with God’s “weakness.”
26-31Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.”
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Salutation
1 From Paul,#tn Grk “Paul.” The word “From” is not in the Greek text, but has been supplied to indicate the sender of the letter. called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus#tc Many important mss, as well as several others (א A Ψ 1739 1881 Ï sy), have a reversed order of these words and read “Jesus Christ” rather than “Christ Jesus” (Ì46 B D F G 33 it). The meaning is not affected in either case, but the reading “Christ Jesus” is preferred both because it has somewhat better attestation and because it is slightly more difficult and thus more likely the original (a scribe who found it would be prone to change it to the more common expression). At the same time, Paul is fond of the order “Christ Jesus.” As well, the later Pauline letters almost uniformly use this order in the salutations. Thus, on both external and internal grounds, “Christ Jesus” is the preferred reading here. by the will of God, and Sosthenes, our brother, 2 to the church of God that is in Corinth,#map For location see JP1-C2; JP2-C2; JP3-C2; JP4-C2. to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, and called to be saints, with all those in every place who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.#tn Grk “theirs and ours.” 3 Grace and peace to you#tn Grk “Grace to you and peace.” from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
Thanksgiving
4 I always thank my God for you because of the grace of God that was given to you in Christ Jesus. 5 For you were made rich#sn Made rich refers to how God richly blessed the Corinthians with an abundance of spiritual gifts (cf. v. 7). in every way in him, in all your speech and in every kind of knowledge#sn Speech and knowledge refer to the spiritual gifts God had blessed them with (as v. 7 confirms). Paul will discuss certain abuses of their gifts in chapters 12-14, but he thanks God for their giftedness.6 just as the testimony about Christ has been confirmed among you – 7 so that you do not lack any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation#sn The revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ refers to the Lord’s return, when he will be revealed (cf. the reference to the day of our Lord Jesus Christ in v. 8). of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8 He#tn Grk “who,” referring to Christ. Because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, a new sentence was started here in the translation. will also strengthen you to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into fellowship with his son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Divisions in the Church
10 I urge you, brothers and sisters,#tn Grk “brothers,” but the Greek word may be used for “brothers and sisters” or “fellow Christians” as here (cf. BDAG 18 s.v. ἀδελφός 1, where considerable nonbiblical evidence for the plural ἀδελφοί [adelfoi] meaning “brothers and sisters” is cited). by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to agree together,#tn Grk “that you all say the same thing.” to end your divisions,#tn Grk “that there be no divisions among you.” and to be united by the same mind and purpose.#tn Grk “that you be united in/by the same mind and in/by the same purpose.” 11 For members of Chloe’s household have made it clear to me, my brothers and sisters,#tn Grk “brothers.” See note on the phrase “brothers and sisters” in 1:10. that there are quarrels#tn Or “rivalries, disputes.” among you. 12 Now I mean this, that#tn Or “And I say this because.” each of you is saying, “I am with Paul,” or “I am with Apollos,” or “I am with Cephas,” or “I am with Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Paul wasn’t crucified for you, was he?#tn Questions prefaced with μή (mh) in Greek anticipate a negative answer. This can sometimes be indicated by using a “tag” at the end in English (here the tag is “was he?”). Or were you in fact baptized in the name of Paul?#tn This third question marks a peak in which Paul’s incredulity at the Corinthians’ attitude is in focus. The words “in fact” have been supplied in the translation to make this rhetorical juncture clear. 14 I thank God#tc The oldest and most important witnesses to this text, as well as a few others (א* B 6 1739 sams bopt), lack the words τῷ θεῷ (tw qew, “God”), while the rest have them. An accidental omission could well account for the shorter reading, especially since θεῷ would have been written as a nomen sacrum (eucaristwtwqMw). However, one might expect to see, in some mss at least, a dropping of the article but not the divine name. Internally, the Pauline introductory thanksgivings elsewhere always include τῷ θεῷ after εὐχαριστῶ (eucaristw, “I thank”; cf. Rom 1:8; 1 Cor 1:4; Phil 1:3; Phlm 4; in the plural, note Col 1:3; 1 Thess 1:2). However, both the fact that this is already used in 1 Cor 1:4 (thus perhaps motivating scribes to add it ten verses later), and that in later portions of his letters Paul does not consistently use the collocation of εὐχαριστῶ with τῷ θεῷ (Rom 16:4; 1 Cor 10:30), might give one pause. Still, nowhere else in the corpus Paulinum do we see a sentence begin with εὐχαριστῶ without an accompanying τῷ θεῷ. A decision is difficult, but on balance it is probably best to retain the words. that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name! 16 (I also baptized the household of Stephanus. Otherwise, I do not remember whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel – and not with clever speech, so that the cross of Christ would not become useless.#tn Grk “would not be emptied.”
The Message of the Cross
18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will thwart the cleverness of the intelligent.”#sn A quotation from Isa 29:14. 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the expert in the Mosaic law?#tn Grk “the scribe.” The traditional rendering of γραμματεύς (grammateu") as “scribe” does not communicate much to the modern English reader, for whom the term might mean “professional copyist,” if it means anything at all. The people referred to here were recognized experts in the law of Moses and in traditional laws and regulations. Thus “expert in the Mosaic law” comes closer to the meaning for the modern reader. Where is the debater of this age? Has God not made the wisdom of the world foolish? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world by its wisdom did not know God, God was pleased to save those who believe by the foolishness of preaching. 22 For Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks ask for wisdom, 23 but we preach about a crucified Christ,#tn Or “Messiah”; Grk “preach Christ [Messiah] crucified,” giving the content of the message. a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. 24 But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom,#tn Grk “than men.” and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.#tn Grk “than men.”
26 Think about the circumstances of your call,#tn Grk “Think about your calling.” “Calling” in Paul’s writings usually refers to God’s work of drawing people to faith in Christ. The following verses show that “calling” here stands by metonymy for their circumstances when they became Christians, leading to the translation “the circumstances of your call.” brothers and sisters.#tn Grk “brothers.” See note on the phrase “brothers and sisters” in 1:10. Not many were wise by human standards,#tn Grk “according to the flesh.” not many were powerful, not many were born to a privileged position.#tn The Greek word ευγενής (eugenh") refers to the status of being born into nobility, wealth, or power with an emphasis on the privileges and benefits that come with that position. 27 But God chose what the world thinks foolish to shame the wise, and God chose what the world thinks weak to shame the strong. 28 God chose#tn Here καί (kai) has not been translated because of differences between Greek and English style. what is low and despised in the world, what is regarded as nothing, to set aside what is regarded as something, 29 so that no one can boast in his presence. 30 He is the reason you have a relationship with Christ Jesus,#tn Grk “of him you are in Christ Jesus.” who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”#sn A quotation from Jer 9:24. The themes of Jer 9 have influenced Paul’s presentation in vv. 26-31. Jeremiah calls upon the wise, the strong, and the wealthy not to trust in their resources but in their knowledge of the true God – and so to boast in the Lord. Paul addresses the same three areas of human pride.