1 Corinthians 1-2

After a brief salutation and expression of gratitude, Paul gets down to business. He had received a report from a family in Corinth about the existence of contentious divisions in the church. In the first two chapters the apostle not only addresses the sinfulness of their factions, he also addresses an underlying cause, namely, a misplaced elevation of human wisdom.

I. Chapter 1

A. Salutation (1:1-3)

B. Gratitude (1:4-9)

1. As is typically the case, Paul expresses gratitude for the recipients of his letter while offering insight into the contents of his prayers for them.

2. He is grateful for their reception of God’s grace, that they have been enriched in Christ, and that they lack no spiritual gift.

C. Division over preachers (1:10-17)

1. Here Paul begins addressing their problems, the first of which is division. Having heard from Chloe’s family of their divisions, Paul appeals to them to be united (10-11).

2. Though they were dividing based on personal loyalties to preachers involved in their conversions, Paul takes their focus to Christ, the gospel, and the cross (12-17).

D. God’s wisdom in Christ (1:18-25)

1. The cross is foolish to those who don’t understand it. But for those who do, it is God’s power to save (18).

2. God’s plan for the redemption of man – a plan with the cross at its center – may seem foolish to some, but it is actually the embodiment of God’s power and wisdom (19-25).

E. Jesus is the only ground for boasting (1:26-31)

1. Paul reminds them that they were not among the wise, powerful, or upper classes. Yet God called them in the body of Christ (26-28).

2. There is nothing in the gospel message, properly understood, that would lead one to boast in himself. Our only basis for boasting is in what Jesus has done for us (29-31).

II. Chapter 2

A. The pre-eminence of Christ in Paul’s preaching (2:1-5)

1. Paul didn’t utilize lofty speech or human wisdom when he preached to them. He just preached Christ crucified. Truth be told, he was actually scared to death (1-3).

2. But he preached “in demonstration of the Spirit and power,” so that they would not elevate him (Paul), but magnify God (4-5).

B. The wisdom of God revealed (2:6-16)

1. The message of Paul’s preaching was the revelation of the “mystery,” that is, God’s eternal purpose for the redemption of man. This message was revealed to Paul and the other apostles by the Holy Spirit (6-13).

2. The person who is governed solely by worldly standards will not accept the spiritual nature of the gospel message (14-16).

III. Application Lessons

A. God’s grace is amazing (1:4-5). We should be grateful for it (4). It is God’s gift (4). It is in Christ (4). It makes us rich (5). It is responsible for what we accomplish in the kingdom (5).

B. We should have confidence in each other (1:8-9). Though they had many problems, Paul was confident that they would fix them and not forfeit their eternal salvation.

C. Unity in Christ is possible (1:10), but only if everyone is willing to agree to follow the standard of God’s word.

D. We don’t often think like God does (1:26-28; 1 Samuel 16:7; Luke 16:15; Psalm 50:21).

E. Be careful whom you glorify (1:29-31). No human being, especially preachers, should be given credit for what God is responsible for.

F. The message is more important and powerful than the messenger (2:1-4). God used a weak, frightened man to reach the Corinthians. The power was in the message.

G. The word of God is verbally inspired (2:9-13). The words that inspired men spoke were words that came from the Holy Spirit who revealed the mind of God.

Eddie Parrish

Introduction to 1 Corinthians

There may not have been a more troubled church in the first century than the church in Corinth. In his first letter to them, Paul corrects their errors, answers their questions, and encourages them with statements of confidence. Before studying the letter, let us highlight some matters of background and introduction: the recipients, writer, date, and purpose of the letter.

I. Recipients

A. “The church of God which is at Corinth” (1:2)

B. The congregation began through the work of Paul, Silas, and Timothy on Paul’s second evangelistic journey (Acts 18).

1. Paul arrived in Corinth after leaving Athens (18:1).

2. He stayed with and worked alongside Aquila and Priscilla as tentmakers (18:2-3).

3. He spoke each Sabbath Day in the local synagogue, but was largely rejected (18:4-6).

4. After this, he localized his teaching in a house right next to the synagogue and converted many, including the ruler of the synagogue (18:7-8).

5. Though uneasy about staying, he remained a year and a half (18:9-11; 1 Cor. 2:3-5).

6. Typically for Paul, Jewish opposition caused trouble for him and he eventually moved on (18:12-18).

C. Corinth was a wicked city. Out of that wickedness and depravity would come those who made up the church there (1 Cor. 6:9-11; note: “such were some of you”).

II. Writer

A. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ (1:1)

B. Virtually no one, not even the most vehement critics of the Bible, question the authorship of the book.

III. Date

A. The letter was written from Ephesus (1 Cor. 16:8).

B. But since Paul’s first visit to Ephesus was short (Acts 18:19-21), it is unlikely that he wrote this letter then. However, he spent 3 years there on his third journey (Acts 19:1-41; 20:31). The letter was probably written during that time.

IV. Purpose

A. The church at Corinth was a troubled group. Some concerned members had written Paul a letter informing him of existing problems (1:11; 15:12). In addition, there had been additional correspondence from the church to Paul that included a number of questions that needed answers (7:1).

B. The book outlines itself rather easily as Paul moves from one problem to the next:

1. Division (1-4)

2. Immorality (5)

3. Lawsuits (6)

4. Marriage Questions (7)

5. Matters of Christian Liberty (8-10)

6. Disorder in Worship (11)

7. Spiritual Gifts (12-14)

8. The Resurrection (15)

9. Personal Matters (16)

V. Practical Lessons

A. Congregations will have problems as long as they consist of people.

B. The world sometimes influences the church more than the church influences the world.

C. Congregational leadership cannot ignore problems.

D. Though the ideal is to avoid problems, they can be beneficial (11:19).