Where the world comes to study the Bible

1 Corinthians 1

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS*

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Greetings and Thanksgiving Greeting Salutation Greetings Address and Greetings
1:1-3 1:1-3 1:1-3 1:1 1:1-3
      1:2  
      1:3  
  Spiritual Gifts at Corinth Thanksgiving Blessings in Christ Thanksgiving
1:4-9 1:4-9 1:4-9 1:4-9 1:4-9
Divisions in the Church Sectarianism is Sin Divisions at Corinth Divisions in the Church Dissensions Among the Faithful
1:10-17 1:10-17 1:10-17 1:10-13 1:10-16
      1:14-17 The True Wisdom and the False
Christ the Power and Wisdom of God Christ the Power and Wisdom of God Christ Crucified (1:18-2:5) Christ the Power and Wisdom of God (1:17-3:4)
        1:17-25
1:18-25 1:18-25 1:18-25 1:18-20  
      1:21-25  
1:26-31 1:26-31 1:26-31 1:26-31 1:26-31

* Although they are not inspired, paragraph divisions are the key to understanding and following the original author's intent. Each modern translation has divided and summarized the paragraphs. Every paragraph has one central topic, truth, or thought. Each version encapsulates that topic in its own distinct way. As you read the text, ask yourself which translation fits your understanding of the subject and verse divisions.
In every chapter we must read the Bible first and try to identify its subjects (paragraphs), then compare our understanding with the modern versions. Only when we understand the original author's intent by following his logic and presentation can we truly understand the Bible. Only the original author is inspired—readers have no right to change or modify the message. Bible readers do have the responsibility of applying the inspired truth to their day and their lives.
Note that all technical terms and abbreviations are explained fully in the following documents: Brief Definitions of Greek Grammatical Structure Textual Criticism, and Glossary.

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one main subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:1:1
  1
Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,

1:1 "Paul" Most Jews of Paul's day living outside of Palestine had two first names, one Jewish one Roman (cf. Acts 13:9). Paul's Jewish name was Saul. He, like the ancient King of Israel, was of the tribe of Benjamin (cf. Rom. 11:1; Phil. 3:5). His Roman or Greek name, Paul, meant "little." This referred either

1. to his physical stature, which was alluded to in a second century non-canonical book, The Acts of Paul, in a chapter related to Thessalonika called "Paul and Thekla"

2. to his personal sense of being the least of the saints because he originally persecuted the Church (cf. I Cor. 15:9; Eph. 3:8; I Tim. 1:15)

3. simply to the name given by his parents at birth

"called" See Special Topic following.

SPECIAL TOPIC: CALLED

▣ "an apostle" This is a common Greek word for "send" (i.e., apostellō). See Special Topic at 4:9. This term has several theological usages.

1. The rabbis used it as one called and sent as an official representative of another, something like our English "ambassador" (cf. II Cor. 5:20).

2. The Gospels often use this term of Jesus being sent by the Father (cf. Matt. 10:40; 15:24; Mark 9:37; Luke 9:48). In John the term takes on Messianic overtones (cf. John 4:34; 5:24,30,36,37,38; 6:29,38,39,40,57; 7:29; 8:42; 10:36; 11:42; 17:3,8,18,21,23,25; 20:21). It is used of Jesus sending believers (cf. John 17:18; 20:21).

3. The NT used it for disciples.

a. the original Twelve who were an inner circle of disciples (cf. Luke 6:13; Acts 1:21-22)

b. a special group of Apostolic helpers and co-workers

(1) Barnabas (cf. Acts 14:4,14)

(2) Andronicus and Junias (KJV, Junia, cf. Rom. 16:7)

(3) Apollos (cf. I Cor. 4:6-9)

(4) James, the Lord's brother (cf. Gal. 1:19)

(5) Silvanus and Timothy (cf. I Thess. 2:6)

(6) possibly Titus (cf. II Cor. 8:23)

(7) possibly Epaphroditus (cf. Phil. 2:25)

c. an ongoing gift in the church (cf. I Cor. 12:28-29; Eph. 4:11)

4. Paul uses this title for himself in most of his letters as a way of asserting his God-given call and authority as Christ's representative (cf. Rom. 1:1; I Cor. 1:1; II Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:1; I Tim. 1:1; II Tim. 1:1; Titus 1:1).

 

"Jesus Christ" These terms are part of the fuller title "the Lord Jesus Christ" (cf. vv. 2,3,7,8,9,10). These three titles all have individual significance.

1. "Jesus" is the name given to the baby in Bethlehem by the angel (cf. Matt. 1:21). It is made up of two Hebrew nouns: "YHWH," the covenant name for deity, and "salvation" (i.e., Hosea). It is the same Hebrew name as Joshua. When used alone it often identifies the man, Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary (e.g., Matt. 1:16, 25; 2:1; 3:13,15,16).

2. "Christ" is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Messiah (i.e., an Anointed One). It asserts Jesus' OT title as YHWH's promised One sent to set up the new age of righteousness.

3. "Lord" (used in 1:1 in KJV) is the translation of the Hebrew term adon, which meant "owner, husband, master, or lord." The Jews became afraid of pronouncing the sacred name YHWH lest they take it in vain and break one of the Ten Commandments. Whenever they read the Scriptures, they substituted Adon for YHWH. This is why our English translations use all capitals Lord for YHWH in the OT. By transferring this title (kurios in Greek) to Jesus, the NT authors assert His deity and equality with the Father.

 

"by the will of God" This is the first of several emphatic statements in this introduction relating to Paul's authority (i.e., "called an Apostle," v. 1, "by the will of God," v. 1, and "by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ," v. 10). Paul's Apostolic authority is the major theological issue in the Corinthian letters, especially II Corinthians.

This same introductory phrase is used in Col. 1:1; I Cor. 1:1; II Cor. 1:1; and II Tim. 1:1. Paul was convinced that God had chosen him to be an Apostle. This special sense of calling began at his Damascus road conversion (cf. Acts 9:22,26).

▣ "Sosthenes" This was possibly the Jewish leader mentioned in Acts 18:17, who was beaten by the mob and possibly later became a believer and a local church leader. It is possible that he was Paul's (1) helper; (2) scribe; (3) source of information about the church or; (4) someone the church knew well.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:1:2
  2
To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:

1:2 "to the church" See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: CHURCH (EKKLESIA)

"of God which is at Corinth" This phrase expresses two distinct senses about "the church."

1. It is a local body of born again, baptized believers. Most of the places in the NT that the word ekklesia is used reflect this local sense.

2. It is also the universal expression of the body of Christ. This is seen in Matt. 16:18 (i.e., the first of the rare usage of this term by Jesus, cf. Matt. 18:17 [twice]); Acts 9:31 uses the singular "church" for all the local congregations in Judea, Galilee, and Samaria; and finally the use of the term in Ephesians, which is a cyclical letter to the churches of Asia Minor (cf. 1:22; 3:10,21; 5:23-32).

There is one large body of Christ made up of all believers (some now dead, some alive) and there are local expressions of that universal body.

▣ "to those who have been sanctified" This is a perfect passive participle, which means they have been and continue to be declared holy by the work of Jesus through the agency of the Spirit (cf. 6:11). This term (hagiazō) is related to the word "holy" (hagios) and "saints" (i.e., "holy ones" hagioi). It speaks of our separation to God for service. Here it refers to our position in Him as v. 3 does, but other places in the NT believers are to strive toward "holiness" (e.g., Matt. 5:48). It is a position to be possessed. Paul encourages this factious, prideful church by calling them "saints" even amidst their failures and sins!

SPECIAL TOPIC: NEW TESTAMENT HOLINESS/SANCTIFICATION

▣ "in Christ Jesus" This grammatical form is designated as a locative of sphere. Believers are sanctified by the Father (i.e., the source, cf. John 17:7; I Thess. 5:23) through Jesus (i.e., the grounds, cf. 1:2; Eph. 5:26). Both aspects come together in Heb. 2:11. It is normally the Holy Spirit to which this is attributed (i.e., the agency, cf. Rom. 15:16; II Thess. 2:13).

This is Paul's favorite way to designate believers. A good example of this is Eph. 1:3,4,7,9,10,12,13. See William Barclay, The Mind of St. Paul, pp. 121-132. It means vital, personal union with Jesus (cf. Acts 17:28).

It is interesting to note how scribes sometimes have

1. "in Christ Jesus" - MSS P46, B, D, F, G

2. "in Jesus Christ" - MSS א, A

These kinds of variations occur often in the process of reading and copying. They do not affect the meaning, but do show that the early scribes were more concerned with the basic meaning of a text and not rigid literacy.

"by calling" This is a present middle participle. As Paul was called an Apostle, so too the Corinthian Christians were called saints (cf. Rom. 1:7). Notice the heavy emphasis on the doctrine of election in this chapter in vv. 9,24,26,27,28. This construction refers to the initial act of God calling them and their subsequent calling on Jesus in prayer for salvation, which resulted in ongoing prayer, worship, and obedience. Salvation is both an initial faith/repentance response and a continuing faith/repentance response. See Special Topic: Calling at 1:1.

"saints" "Saints" (hagioi) is theologically related to the OT term "holy," (kadosh) which means "set apart for God's service" (cf. I Cor. 1:2; II Cor. 1:1; Rom. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:2). It is plural in the NT except for one time in Philippians (4:21), but even there, it is used corporately. To be saved is to be part of the covenant community of faith, the family of believers, the body of Christ.

God's people are holy because of the imputed righteousness of Jesus (cf. Romans 4; II Cor. 5:21; Galatians 3). It is God's will that they live holy lives (cf. 1:4; 4:1; 5:27; Col. 1:22; 3:12). Believers are both declared holy (positional sanctification) and called to lifestyle holiness (progressive sanctification). Justification and sanctification must be affirmed together!

SPECIAL TOPIC: SAINTS

"with all who in every place" Paul uses this phrase to remind the Corinthian believers that they are part of a larger church family. They do not have the right to uniqueness or special treatment. They must conform to the whole body of Christ in doctrine and practice (cf. 4:17; 7:17; 11:16; 14:33).

"call on the name of our Lord" This refers to becoming a Christian (cf. Acts 2:21; 22:16; Rom. 10:9-13), but also to continuing worship (i.e., the OT use of the name, cf. Gen. 4:26; 12:8; 26:25). Here it is a present middle participle, which describes a moment-by-moment faith relationship with Christ (i.e., similar theologically to Paul's "in Christ") and an emphasis on an individual's volition. See Special Topic at 1:10.

"their Lord and ours" This is another phrase that implies the unity of all believers and churches. Jesus is Lord of all the Christian congregations, which includes Corinth. Paul identifies himself and Sosthenes with the believers at Corinth in this phrase. They need to be reminded that (1) they are one of many congregations and (2) that Paul is one of them and for them!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:1:3
  3
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1:3 "Grace" Paul has changed the normal Greek letter opening term "greetings," charein, to a uniquely Christian one which sounds similar, charis (cf. Rom. 1:7; II Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3 Eph. 1:2; Phil. 1:2; II Thess. 1:2; Philemon v. 3).

"peace" It is possible that as grace reflected a typical Greek greeting so "peace" reflected the typical Hebrew greeting, shalom. The term shalom is both a Hebrew greeting and farewell. It implies not only the absence of problems, but the presence of goodness and well-being. It is just possible that Paul's standard greeting comes from Num. 6:25-26, where both grace and peace appear. Theologically grace always precedes peace, but both are found only in a faith relationship with Christ (i.e., both corporately and individually).

SPECIAL TOPIC: PEACE (SHALOM)

"from God our Father AND THE Lord Jesus Christ" Both "grace" and "peace" come from the Father and the Son. The Father and Jesus are linked grammatically as one unit (i.e., one preposition, but two objects). This is a common way for NT authors to assert Jesus' deity (cf. I Thess. 1:1; 3:11; II Thess. 1:2,12; 2:16). The use of the OT titles of God applied to Jesus is another way to assert the same truth (i.e., Lord); also an OT event "Day of our Lord," now attributed to Jesus ("the day of our Lord Jesus Christ," cf. v. 8).

For the title "the Lord Jesus Christ" see note at 1:1.

SPECIAL TOPIC: FATHERHOOD OF GOD

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:1:4-9
  4
I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, 5that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, 6even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, 7so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

1:4 "I thank my God always concerning you" This is a present active indicative, which expresses ongoing action. Verses 4-9 are an expansion of the things Paul thanks God for in the life of this troubled church. An introductory thanksgiving was a culturally expected element in first century letters. There is no thanksgiving in the introduction to II Corinthians (nor Galatians).

There are two ancient Greek uncial manuscripts (i.e., א* and B) which omit the pronoun "my." However, the Greek manuscripts of P61, א2, A, C, D, F, G, as well as the Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and Armenian translations do include it. The UBS4 Greek text gives its inclusion an A rating (i.e., certain).

SPECIAL TOPIC: THANKSGIVING

"for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus" Paul emphasizes that their standing and gifts were by the grace of God through the finished work of Jesus Christ and not by their personal merit (i.e., aorist passive participle, cf. Eph. 2:8-9). This was the focus needed to offset their spiritual pride in

1. their gifted leaders

2. their individual spiritual gifts

3. their intellectual background (i.e., Greek culture)

4. their social standing (i.e., Roman culture)

 

1:5 "in everything you were enriched in Him" This aorist passive indicative matches the theological emphasis of v. 4 (i.e., God's grace given in Christ). In all the passive verbs in vv. 4-9 the implied agent is God. The Triune God has provided believers everything they need (i.e., all the spiritual gifts, cf. v. 7). See Special Topic: The Trinity at 2:10.

Notice Paul's use in this verse of three pas (i.e., "all" or "everything"). God is a complete provider. He does not need the ingenuity, intellect, or social standing of human beings.

NASB"in all speech and all knowledge"
NKJV"in all utterance and all knowledge"
NRSV"in speech and knowledge of every kind"
TEV"in all things including all speech and all knowledge"
NJB"in every kind of utterance and knowledge"

The Phillips translation has "from the words on your lips to the understanding in your hearts." These were two aspects of the Greek-oriented (i.e., later Gnostic) spiritual pride which was developing in the Corinthian church (cf. 13:1-3). They were glorying in their gifts and performance instead of in Christ. It was God who gave them these very gifts. There was/is no room for human pride (cf. Eph. 2:9). See SPECIAL TOPIC: BOASTING at 5:6.

The knowledge Paul is alluding to is not theoretical knowledge, nor academic knowledge, but Christian truth and how it applies to life (cf. vv. 8-10; Rom. 14:1-15:13). Human knowledge builds up, but God's knowledge edifies and leads to peace and harmony in the Christian fellowship. Oh how we need God's gift of knowledge in the church today!

1:6 "even as the testimony concerning Christ" The Apostolic preaching of the gospel, energized by the Spirit, enriched these believers in spiritual giftedness. Like all of God's blessings and gifts, these flow through Christ to needy, responsive human hearts.

NASB, NKJV "was confirmed in you"
NRSV"has been strengthened among you"
TEV"has become firmly fixed in you"
NJB"has taken root in you"

This is the Greek term bebaios, which has three connotations.

1. that which is sure, certain, or able to be relied on (cf. Rom. 4:16; II Cor. 1:7; Heb. 2:20; 3:6,14; 6:19; II Pet. 1:10,19).

2. the process by which something's trustworthiness is shown or established (cf. Rom. 15:8; Heb. 2:2, cf. Louw and Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Vol. 1, pp. 340,377,670).

3. in the first century Koine papyri found in Egypt it became a technical term for a legal guarantee (cf. Moulton and Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament, pp. 107-8).

Here it refers to God's power demonstrated among them (i.e., spiritual gifts). It could refer to other manifestations of the Spirit, because it is another aorist passive indicative paralleled to v. 5 (and also the aorist passive participle in v. 4), it could also refer to God's actions through the Holy Spirit in their conversions.

1:7

NASB, NJB "so that you are not lacking in any gift"
NKJV"so that you come short in no gift"
NRSV"so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift"
TEV"that you have not failed to receive a single blessing"

The term "gift" is charisma. This word is related to the term "grace," charis, which emphasizes that the spiritual gifts are given by God for the common good (cf. 12:7,11). They are meant to glorify Christ, not the Spirit or the individual Christian (cf. chapters 12-14). All of the gifts needed were present in the Corinthian church as they are in every church (cf. v. 5). God has abundantly provided (i.e., strong double negative connected with "lacking") for His people during the interim between Christ's two comings through the Holy Spirit's ministry.

▣ "awaiting eagerly" This Greek term can mean

1. patiently waiting for an expected future event (cf. Heb. 10:13; I Pet. 3:20)

2. eagerly expecting a future event (cf. Rom. 8:19,23,25; Phil. 3:20; Heb. 9:28)

The NKJV, NASB, and NIV translations follow #2, while NRSV, TEV, and NJB translations follow #1.

"the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ" This is the Greek term apocalupsis. It is often translated "revelation." The term basically means to draw back a curtain so as to reveal something. It is the title of the last book of the NT. Here it refers to the return of Christ (cf. v. 8). See SPECIAL TOPIC: NT TERMS FOR CHRIST'S RETURN at 15:23.

1:8

NASB, NKJV"who will also confirm you to the end"
NRSV"He will also strengthen you to the end"
TEV"He will keep you firm to the end"
NJB"he will continue to give you strength till the very end"

Throughout vv. 4-9 the active agent of the passive verbs has been God. However, v. 8 is ambiguous. Some commentators think that for the first time in this section Christ is the referent of "who." It seems contextually better to assume that God the Father is still the active agent who sustains believers and establishes their acceptableness.

The term "confirm" was used in v. 6. This church needed to be stabilized, to be constant and unwavering. This is one of the main purposes of Paul's letters to them. Christ's gospel was confirmed (i.e., v. 6) and they will be confirmed by God's help (i.e., v. 8). In II Cor. 2:8 Paul wants their love for him to be confirmed.

The Bible has two seemingly paradoxical truths about the believer's relationship with God.

1. It is covenantal in nature; therefore, it involves an initial and an ongoing faith and repentant response. We must be diligent to maintain our relationship.

2. It is secure in God's faithfulness (cf. Jude 24). No one can steal our relationship from us (cf. John 6:37,39; 10:28; Rom. 8:38-39). Security and perseverance are both biblical (cf. Eph. 2:8-9,10 and Phil. 2:12-13). They are the two necessary aspects of "covenant."

 

"blameless" See Special Topic following.

SPECIAL TOPIC: BLAMELESS, INNOCENT, GUILTLESS, WITHOUT REPROACH

"in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ" The NT authors have taken the OT "Day of YHWH" and applied it to Jesus' Second Coming. Jesus Christ is YHWH's surrogate in creation, redemption, and judgment.

1:9 "God is faithful" The term "faith" in the OT is a metaphorical extension of a stable or firm stance. It came to denote metaphorically that which is sure, trustworthy, dependable, and faithful. None of these describe even redeemed fallen mankind. It is not mankind's trustworthiness, or faithfulness or dependability, but God's (cf. Deut. 7:9; Ps. 36:5; 40:10; 89:1,2,5,8; 92:2; 119:90; Isa. 49:7; Rom. 3:3; I Cor. 10:13; II Cor. 1:18; I Thess. 5:24; II Tim. 2:13). We trust in His trustworthy promises, not our trustworthiness! Covenant obedience flows from gratitude! The biblical focus has always been on His faithfulness, not the believers' faith! Faith cannot save anyone. Only grace saves, but it is received by faith (cf. Eph. 2:8-9). The focus is never on the amount of faith (cf. Matt. 17:20), but on its object (Jesus). Our hope is in the unchanging character of the God who calls and promises (cf. Mal. 3:6; II Cor. 1:20).

Faith receives God's free gift in Christ (cf. Rom. 3:22,25; 4:5; 6:23; 9:30; Gal. 2:16; I Pet. 1:5). Mankind must respond (i.e., initially and continuously) to God's offer of grace and forgiveness in Christ (cf. John 1:12; 3:16-17,36; 6:40; 11:25-26; Rom. 10:9-13).

God deals with fallen humanity by means of covenant. He always takes the initiative (cf. John 6:44, 65) and sets the agenda and the boundaries (cf. Mark 1:51; Acts 20:21). He allows fallen mankind to participate in their own salvation by responding to His covenant offer. The mandated response is initial and continuing faith, repentance, obedience, service, worship, and perseverance.

Michael Magill, New Testament TransLine, p. 577, #24, has a great comment:

"Note the past tense in v. 5-6, present tense in v. 7, future tense in v. 8. God is faithful in all three senses."

SPECIAL TOPIC: Believe, Trust, Faith, and Faithfulness in the Old Testament (אמן)

"through whom you were called" This is the continuing emphasis on God's election of the Corinthian believers (cf. 1:2,9,24,26; Acts 18:9).

"fellowship with His Son" This is the Greek term koinonia which means joint participation in. God has called us to be in union with His Son both positionally (See Special Topic: Sanctification at 1:2) and relationally. The goal of Christianity is Christlikeness (cf. Rom. 8:29; Gal. 4:19; Eph. 1:4; 2:10).

Believers' lifestyles after they meet Christ are evidence of their salvation (cf. the NT books of James and I John). They are saved by grace through faith unto works (cf. Eph. 2:8-9,10)! They are saved to serve (cf. Rom. 6:11)! Faith without works is dead, as are works without faith (cf. Matt. 7:21-23 and James 2:14-26). The goal of the Father's choice is that believers be "holy and blameless" (cf. Eph. 1:4; Matt. 5:48).

Paul was often attacked for his radically free gospel because it seemed to encourage godless living. A gospel so seemingly unconnected to moral performance might lead to abuse. Paul's gospel was free in the grace of God and the finished work of Christ and the wooing of the Holy Spirit, but it also demanded an appropriate response, not only in initial repentance, but in ongoing repentance. Godly living is the result, not lawlessness. Good works are not the mechanism of salvation, but the result. This paradox of a completely free salvation and a cost-everything response is difficult to communicate, but the two must be held in a tension-filled, paradoxical, dialectical balance. One dare not separate justification and sanctification.

SPECIAL TOPIC: KOINŌNIA

"His Son" Jesus as the Son of God is a recurrent theme in Paul's writings (cf. Rom. 1:3,4,9; 5:10; 8:3,29,32; I Cor. 1:9; II Cor. 1:19; Gal. 1:16; 2:20; 4:4,6; Eph. 4:13; Col. 1:13; I Thess. 1:10). He is not "son" in time only, but "Son" in eternity (cf. Heb. 1:2; 3:6; 5:8; 7:28). There has never been a time when Jesus was not the Son. Jesus' exaltation by the resurrection and at the ascension merely restores and magnifies His pre-existent, pre-incarnate glory.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE SON OF GOD

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:1:10-17
  10
Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe's people, that there are quarrels among you. 12Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, "I am of Paul," and "I of Apollos," and "I of Cephas," and "I of Christ." 13Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. 16Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. 17For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.

1:10 "Now" This is an adversative. Paul begins the main body of the letter.

"I exhort you" This phrase was both tender and tough. It was a call to appropriate living as well as an authoritative challenge. Paul often used this term (cf. I Cor. 1:10; 4:16; 16:15; II Cor. 2:8; 5:20; 6:1; 10:1; 12:1,8; 15:30; Eph. 4:1; Phil. 4:2; I Thess. 4:10; I Tim. 1:3; Philemon vv. 9-10). See full note at II Cor. 1:4-11.

SPECIAL TOPIC: COMFORT

"brethren" Paul uses the term "brethren" or "brother" often. Even though Paul had to exhort this congregation with strong words they still are his brothers and sisters in Christ.

Paul often uses this term to signal a new subject, but in this book he also uses it to signal the oneness of this church with both Paul and the other churches.

"by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" In Jewish life the name represented one's character and authority. Here the Phillips translation caught the essence "by all that our Lord Jesus Christ means to you."

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE NAME OF THE LORD

"that you all agree" There are two present active subjunctives in Paul's purpose (i.e., hina) clause.

1. that there may not continue to be dissensions (present active subjunctive)

2. that they may (present active subjunctive) be having been knit together (i.e., perfect passive participle, which makes this a periphrastic).

These subjunctives add a note of contingency. There were divisions and these factions were not knit together. The necessary attitudes and actions to maintain unity are listed in Eph. 4:2-3.

Paul's desire for this church reflects Jesus' prayer in John 17:11,21-23, "that they may be one, even as We are." This is also the thrust of Eph. 4:1-6. Unity (not uniformity) is crucial for a healthy, growing, Great Commission church (cf. Phil. 1:27). Lack of unity results in blinded minds (cf. II Cor. 3:14; 4:4; 11:3).

"there be no divisions among you" This term (i.e., schismata) was used in Koine Greek of factious political parties (cf. Acts 14:4; 23:7). We get the English word, "schism," from this Greek term. This was one of the major problems in this church (cf. 11:18-19; 12:25). These divisions were based on

1. believers' personal preference for certain leadership skills (i.e., rhetoric)

2. believers' pride and jealousy over spiritual gifts

3. believers' recognition of economic categories (i.e., rich and poor)

4. believers' prejudice over social rank (i.e., slave and free)

5. believers' racial pride (i.e., Jew and Gentile)

6. believers' jealousy or pride over marital status (i.e., married and unmarried)

7. believers' pride over intellectual prowess (i.e., first century educational elitism, sophists)

In many ways this emphasis on arrogance, pride, dogmatism, and personal preference describes the modern church's denominational confusion. Each group claims to be number one following their human leaders (i.e., Luther, Calvin, Arminius, Wesley, etc.). Each group thinks they exclusively reflect God's mind. Oh, the continuing need for humility and teachability. All those who continually call on Jesus' name are His church!

"that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment" The Today's English Version (TEV) translation has "completely united with only one thought and one purpose." That purpose is the Kingdom of God, the gospel, the Great Commission, personal holiness, not personal biases, preferences, or agendas!

1:11 "Chloe's people" We know nothing about this lady except that perhaps she was a member of the church at Corinth or at least her workers were members. Her name was a nickname for the agriculture goddess, Demeter. Her servants are one source of Paul's knowledge about the problems which had developed within the house churches at Corinth. See Introduction, VI. A.

▣ "that there are quarrels among you" This same term (i.e., eris) is listed in fruits of the flesh in Gal. 5:20, which characterizes fallen, angry, selfish people. It is also listed in several other Pauline lists of sins (cf. 3:3; II Cor. 12:20; I Tim. 6:4). It should never, never characterize the church of Jesus Christ!

1:12 This seems to be a list of the factions (i.e., Paul's group, Apollos' group, Peter's group, Jesus' group). Much has been made of the characteristics of the leaders (i.e., Paul = freedom party, which included Gentiles by faith alone; Apollos = philosophical party; Cephas = Jewish traditionalist or legalistic party, cf. II Cor. 11:18-33); Christ = those of special rank, calling, giftedness, or spirituality (cf. possibly II Cor. 12:1). However, there is no certain information in the NT about the theology or motivation of each group. These leaders themselves were not factious. It was the groups at Corinth who claimed them as their champions who were factious.

▣ "Apollos" This was a highly educated and eloquent preacher from Alexandria, Egypt. He was in Corinth (cf. Acts 18:24-19:1), but he refused to go back (cf. 16:12). He was just the kind of leader this church was drawn to.

▣ "Cephas" This is the Aramaic equivalent to the Greek name, Peter. It is uncertain if Peter was ever in Corinth. If not, this may reflect a "Judaistic" party (cf. Galatians and possibly II Corinthians).

▣ "I of Christ" It is uncertain if this is Paul's reaction to the leader-oriented factions or another factious group who claimed only Christ as their leader. Clement of Rome, who wrote to Corinth in a.d. 95 (i.e., I Clem. 48) does not mention a Christ's party, although he does mention the other factious groups. This supports the view that this may be an exclamation by Paul. They may choose to acknowledge and follow human leaders, but he lifts up and belongs to Christ alone!

Other scholars have supposed that this may have been a group that claimed a special knowledge of Jesus or a special revelation from Jesus or a special relationship to Jesus (i.e., an elite, Gnostic-type faction). But again, this is uncertain and mere speculation. There is so much we do not know about the first and second century church.

1:13 This verse records Paul's horrified reaction. "Has Christ been cut up?" This is a perfect passive indicative, implying Christ has been and remains divided by the attitudes and actions of these factions at Corinth. If this is a question, then a "yes" response is expected.

The Papyri manuscript which was written in the a.d. 200's, has a textual variant, "Christ cannot be divided" (but this papyri has been damaged and the text is unsure). The most ancient and reliable Greek uncial manuscripts, א, A, B, C, D, F, and G, delete the negative and, thereby, make this (1) a question; (2) an exclamation; or (3) a statement. The UBS4 gives the shorter text an A rating (certain).

"Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul" These are Paul's emphatic statements of Christ's supremacy (i.e., depreciating himself) possibly addressed to these factious groups or at least the group that was called by his name. This question expects a "no" answer.

1:14 "Crispus" This is the person mentioned in Acts 18:8 who was the leader of the synagogue in Corinth who accepted Christ. Acts 18:8 also mentions that he was baptized along with his household (cf. v. 16). Apparently Paul performed this "household" baptism. In the ancient world when the head of the household converted, usually the entire house converted. This would normally include the children and servants, if there were any. For my full note see Acts 16:5 online at www.freebiblecommentary.org.

"Gaius" This person may be the one mentioned in Rom. 16:23, in whose house the church at Corinth met. His full Roman name would be Gaius Titus Justus.

1:16 "Stephanas" This is the person mentioned in I Cor. 16:15,17. He was one of the three church members who brought a letter from the church to Paul at Ephesus. See Introduction, VI. A.

1:17 "For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach" This is not meant to disparage baptism, but to react to the factious spirit in the church of Corinth that was lifting up certain leaders. However, this statement does indicate that baptism was not seen as a "sacramental" agency of grace. It is surprising that some interpret Paul's writings in a sacramental sense when in all his writings he specifically mentions the Lord's Supper only once in I Cor. 11 and baptism twice, in Rom. 6:1-11 and Col. 2:12. However, baptism is the will of God for every believer:

1. it is the example of Jesus (Matt: 3:13-17)

2. it is the command of Jesus (Matt. 28:28-10)

3. it is the expected, normal procedure for all believers (Romans 6; Acts 2:38)

I do not believe it is the channel for receiving the grace of God or the Spirit. It was that public opportunity for new believers to express their faith in a very public and decisive way. No NT believer would ask, "Must I be baptized to be saved?" Jesus did it! Jesus commanded the church to do it! Do it!

SPECIAL TOPIC: BAPTISM

NASB"not in cleverness of speech"
NKJV"not with wisdom of words"
NRSV"not with eloquent wisdom"
TEV"without using the language of men's wisdom"
NJB"not by means of wisdom of language"

The term sophia (i.e., cleverness or wisdom) in vv. 17-24 is used in its human orientation (i.e., worldly wisdom, human wisdom, fallen wisdom). Human eloquence and/or wisdom cannot take the place of God's good news in Christ's substitutionary death. The power is in the message, not in the messenger (i.e., not even in Paul, cf. II Cor. 10:10; 11:6). A segment of this church prided themselves in rhetoric (see Bruce W. Winter, Philo and Paul Among the Sophists). A group of Jewish-oriented false teachers will later come to Corinth and attack Paul for his lack of rhetorical speaking skills in II Corinthians 10-13. No flesh will glory before God (cf. 1:29; Eph. 2:9).

"so that the cross of Christ would not be made void" If humans could save themselves through their actions or intellect, then Christ's death would not have been necessary! But, they could/can not! The power of the cross is God's complete provision through Christ. Everything that needs to be done for the whole world to be saved is finished, complete, and available in the life, teachings, death, resurrection, ascension, and coming again of Christ, to which humans can only respond/receive by faith.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:1:18-25
  18
For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside." 20Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

1:18 "For the word of the cross" This "word" (i.e., logos) is related to the content of Paul's preaching (cf. vv. 17 and 23). Usually in his preaching Paul emphasizes both the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ. But in this context he focuses on the crucifixion (cf. Gen. 3:15; Psalm 22; Isaiah 53; Zechariah 9-14) and its results (cf. 1:30).

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV"foolishness"
TEV"is nonsense"
NJB"folly"

This Greek word comes into English as "moron." It is a key element in Paul's description of fallen human wisdom (cf. vv. 18,21,23,25), also notice 2:14; 3:18-19; 4:10. The gospel is revelation (i.e., self disclosure) from God, not human discovery!

▣ "to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" These are two present participles. The first is a present middle participle and the second a present passive participle. See SPECIAL TOPIC: SALVATION (GREEK VERB TENSES) at 3:15. There are only two kinds of people: those who are perishing and those who are being saved (cf. II Cor. 2:15; 4:3). The term "perishing" does not mean physical annihilation, but permanent loss of fellowship with God, for which they were created. See Special Topic at 1:28. Modern interpreters have taken the Hebrew euphemisms and literalized them. Two examples are:

1. "sleep" = death, not unconsciousness until resurrection

2. "perish" = spiritual loss, not annihilation

Some say that annihilation (i.e., cessation of life) is more humane than a permanent hell (cf. Fudge, The Fire That consumes). The problem arises when the same word used to describe hell is used of heaven (i.e., "eternal," cf. Matt. 25:46) and the mention of a double resurrection as in Dan. 12:2; John 5:28-20; and Acts 24:15. Yet it is not God who sends people to hell, but their own rejection of (1) the light they have (i.e., Ps. 19:1-6; Romans 1-2) or (2) the gospel (i.e., the unpardonable sin and the sin unto death are the sin of unbelief). Unbelief in this life affects eternity.

The NT describes salvation as a

1. past decisive volitional act (i.e., aorist tense, Acts 15:11; Rom. 8:24; II Tim. 1:9; Titus 3:5)

2. a process which continues through life (i.e., present tense, I Cor. 1:18; 15:2; II Cor. 2:15)

3. a past event which becomes a state of being (i.e., perfect tense, Eph. 2:5,8)

4. a future consummation (i.e., future tense, Rom. 5:9,10; 10:9; 13:11; I Cor. 3:15; Phil. 1:28; I Thess. 5:8-9; Heb. 1:14; 9:28)

The theological danger is to isolate any one of these as "the" essence of salvation. We must always be on guard against an easy believism which emphasizes the initial act only or perfectionism which emphasizes the product only. Salvation is an initial, volitional response to God's free offer in Christ which issues in a daily Christlikeness. It is not only a person to welcome, but a message about that person to be received, and a life in emulation of that person to live. It is not a product, an insurance policy, a ticket to heaven, but a growing daily relationship with Jesus. The NT does not emphasize making a decision, but being a disciple (cf. Matt. 28:19-20).

The real mystery is that when the gospel is presented, some say "yes" and are saved, but some say "no" and their rebellion is reaffirmed (cf. Luke 2:34; John 9:39; I Pet. 2:7). It does not surprise me that people say yes, but I am amazed that with

1. the desire of God for all to be saved

2. the finished work of Christ

3. the wooing of the Sprit

4. the felt guilt of humanity

5. the purposelessness of life without God

that people say "No"! This is the mystery of election (cf. II Cor. 3:14; 4:4; 11:3).

"the power of God" The gospel is the power of God (cf. 1:24; Rom. 1:16). The gospel reveals and channels the power of God. It produces faith. It produces repentance. It produces wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption (cf. 1:30). The preaching of the cross does all of this. It is God's power behind the written word (i.e., the Bible), the living word (i.e., Christ), the preached word (i.e., the gospel), and the established word (i.e., Christlikeness/the kingdom of God).

1:19 This is a quote of Isa. 29:14. It is an example of OT synonymous parallelism. The emphasis is on the folly of human wisdom without God (cf. Isa. 29:13; Eccl. 1:12-18; 12:12).

"destroy" This is part of an OT quote (i.e., Isa. 29:14). See Special Topic: Apollumi at 8:11.

1:20 This is a list of human rationalists (i.e., Jewish and Gentile). It may be an allusion to Isa. 33:18 in the LXX (Jerome Biblical Commentary, p. 257). Humans cannot discover the gospel. It is the mystery of God hidden from the ages (cf. Eph. 2:11-3:13). God's plan and provisions seem foolish because they devalue human merit and wisdom.

▣ "of this age. . .of the world" These two phrases reflect a similar concept in that this period of time is fallen. This is not the world that God intended, but the gospel will transform this fallen age into God's intended creation (i.e., Genesis 1-2 and Revelation 21-22).

The term "world" is used in two senses in the NT: (1) the physical planet (cf. John 3:16) and (2) fallen human society organized and functioning apart from God (cf. James 1:27; 4:4; I John 2:15-17). In Paul's writings the Hebrew term 'olam, translated into Greek as aiōn, and came to be synonymous with kosmos (cf. 1:20; 2:6; 3:19; Eph. 2:2). For kosmos see Special Topic: Paul's Use of Kosmos (world) at 3:21b-22.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THIS AGE AND THE AGE TO COME

▣ "Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world" The grammar shows that Paul expects a "yes" answer.

1:21 "For since in the wisdom of God" This may be an allusion to Pro. 8:22-31, as is John 1:1-5,9-14. It also refers to the plan of God to redeem fallen humanity. Redemption was planned in the heart of God before creation (cf. Matt. 25:34; Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:28; 13:29; Eph. 1:4; I Pet. 1:19-20; Rev. 13:8). This plan involved

1. foreknowledge of mankind's fall

2. mankind's inability to perform the will of God (cf. Deut. 31:27-29; Josh. 24:19; Gal. 3)

3. God's provision in Christ (i.e., the new covenant, cf. Jer. 31:31-34)

4. the inviting of Jew and Gentile by faith in Christ (cf. v. 21; Eph. 2:11-3:13)

 

SPECIAL TOPIC: BOB'S EVANGELICAL BIASES

▣ "did not come to know God" The Greeks did not believe that God was knowable. Their deities had human frailties and were uninvolved in this world. Fallen humanity cannot discover God, but God has chosen to reveal Himself through Christ, (i.e., the Living Word) and through the Bible (i.e., the written Word), as well as through redeemed humanity (i.e., the established word)!

"God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached" It is not the presentation, but the content of the gospel that is foolishness to the fallen mind (cf. 2:14).

▣ "to save those who believe" This is an aorist active infinitive followed by a Present active participle. This is the essence of gospel proclamation! The term "save" was used in the OT for physical deliverance, but in the NT it came to be used for spiritual forgiveness and acceptance. Our acceptance by God through Christ is a completed fact, but on our part it is a continuing covenantal relationship. All dealings between God and humans are covenantal. God always initiates the covenant and sets its requirements, but He has chosen that we must personally respond and continue to respond. See Special Topic at 3:15.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE NEED TO PERSEVERE

1:22 "Jews ask for signs" This reflects Paul's knowledge of the life of Christ (cf. Matt. 12:38; 16:1,4; Mark 8:11-12; John 4:48; 6:30).

▣ "Greeks search for wisdom" "Greeks" (Hellēnes) refers to all non-Jewish people. This is clearly seen in its use in Acts 18:16-21,32; Rom. 1:13.

1:23 This verse should begin with the adversative "but." Paul's answer to both a desire for "signs" and "wisdom" was the gospel.

▣ "crucified" This is a perfect passive participle. Jesus' crucifixion, not logic nor miracles, is the heart of Paul's gospel. The perfect tense asserts that Jesus remains the "crucified one." When we see Jesus in heaven He will have retained the marks of His crucifixion (cf. John 20:25) because they have become His badges of honor and glory. Jesus is the only part of the Trinity that has a physical body.

It is surely possible that this perfect tense is a consummative perfect which focuses on the completion of an event or act, implying the result (cf. Daner and Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, pp. 202-203). Jesus crucified sealed our salvation. He was the fulfillment of Gen. 3:15; Psalm 22; Isaiah 53; and Zech. 12:10. A suffering Messiah was a theological shock to Jews!

Notice the Messianic titles used by the early proclaimers and confessors.

1. Jesus is the Christ (Messiah) - Acts 5:42; 9:22; 17:3; 18:5,28; I Cor. 1:23

2. Jesus is the Son of God - Acts 9:20; Rom. 1:3-4

3. Jesus is Lord (reflecting Lord, YHWH) - Acts 2:36; 10:36; 11:20; Rom. 10:9; II Cor. 4:5; Col. 2:6

These are theological summaries used to affirm Christological affirmation (see James D. G. Dunn, Unity and Diversity in the NT, pp. 34-63).

NASB, NKJV,

NRSV "stumbling block"
TEV"that is offensive"
NJB"an obstacle"

This Greek term (i.e., skandalon) was used for the trigger mechanism on an animal trap (cf. Gal. 5:11). The Jews rejected Christ because of the crucifixion (cf. Deut. 21:23). They were expecting the Messiah to be a conquering military leader (and He will be when He returns!). The Jews did not recognize a Suffering Messiah (cf. Gen. 3:15; Psalm 22; Isa. 52:13-53:12) and a two-stage coming (i.e., incarnation and glorious return).

SPECIAL TOPIC: MESSIAH

NASB, NJB"and to the Gentiles foolishness"
NKJV"to the Greeks foolishness"
NRSV"foolishness to Gentiles"
TEV"nonsense to the Gentiles"

The Greeks rejected Christ because the concept of resurrection (i.e., because to them the physical body was the origin of evil) did not fit their preconceived philosophical ideals. This statement of Paul also shows that the supposed "dying and rising redeemer" of the fertility cults and mystery religions was not a major tenet of Greek thought and surely not the source of Paul's view of Jesus.

Be careful not to judge the gospel by your own culture or national categories! The NKJV, following the Textus Receptus, has "Greeks," which follows the corrected Greek uncial manuscripts C3 and Dc. All other Greek manuscripts have "Gentiles" (ethnesiu). The term "Greeks" does occur in vv. 22 and 24. Probably ancient scribes changed v. 23 to make them all consistent.

For "foolishness" see note at 1:25.

1:24 "but to those who are the called" The opening of I Corinthians emphasizes God's call (i.e., election) and God's grace as the only grounds for the Corinthian church's salvation (cf. vv. 2,9,26,27; Eph. 1-2). We learn from John 6:44,65 that no one comes to God unless the Spirit draws him/her. God's call does not eliminate or minimize the need for human response, both initially and continually.

SPECIAL TOPIC: ELECTION/PREDESTINATION AND THE NEED FOR A THEOLOGICAL BALANCE

▣ "both Jews and Greeks" This shows the purpose of the gospel is to unite all humans in Christ. This is the mystery of God hidden from the ages, but now clearly revealed (cf. Eph. 2:11-3:13).

▣ "Christ the power of god and the wisdom of God" The first phrase may relate to the resurrection of Christ because of the use of "power of God" in Rom. 1:4.

The second phrase uniquely relates to the problem of the Corinthian church's emphasis on knowledge. However, it may surely be a reference to Pro. 8:22-31 (i.e., the personified wisdom of creation, cf. 8:6; Col. 1:15-17; Heb. 1:2).

1:25 "the foolishness of God is wiser than man" This is an OT theme (cf. Isa. 55:8-9). It is repeated in I Cor. 1:18,21,23. This is the term mōros. It and its other forms are used often by Paul in his Corinthian letters. See Special Topic at 15:36.

1. mōros (foolish), I Cor. 1:25,27; 3:18; 4:10

2. mōria (foolishnes), I Cor. 1:18,21,23; 2:14; 3:19

3. mopainō (made foolish), I Cor. 1:20

 

▣ "the weakness of God is stronger than men" This is basically asserting God's incomparable greatness. He is even magnified through human weakness (cf. I Cor. 12:5,7-10). It may refer to the "apparent" failure of Jesus' death from a purely human point of view (cf. II Cor. 13:4), yet in reality it was a victory of eternal consequences!

The gospel, the victory, is all of God and not of mankind. See Special Topic: Weakness at II Cor. 12:9.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:1:26-31
  26
For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29so that no man may boast before God. 30But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31so that, just as it is written, "Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord."

1:26-31 This last paragraph of chapter one shows us the tension-filled relationship of "wisdom" and "knowledge" as it relates to the gospel. In one sense they are "bad," in another they are "good." Let me quote a wonderful passage from Herman Ridderbos' Paul, An Outline of His Theology:

"To be sure, the relationship of faith and knowledge, pistis and gnosis, just as that of faith and works, is ambivalent. On the one hand knowledge stands in faith's way, that is, when, just as good works for the Jews, it represents the human will to self-redemption. As this antithesis is developed in Galatians and Romans with respect to works, this threat to the Christian faith from the side of gnosis is elucidated especially in I Corinthians (cf., e.g., I Cor. 1:26-29). And this danger exists not merely from the side of what Paul calls "the wisdom of this world" (I Cor. 1:21), but also from a certain kind of Christian gnosis. Paul does recognize that gnosis in itself: we know that we all have knowledge (I Cor. 8:1). But he immediately adds to this: knowledge puffs up, love builds up. What is at issue here is a wrongly employed Christian gnosis, which elevates itself above one's neighbor, the weak; a knowledge that is indeed in the service of one's own individual freedom, but not of the edification of the church. This gnosis only promotes proud individualism and stands over against love. In that sense gnosis, even as works, can come to stand over against love; as such it is injurious and without profit (I Cor. 13:2,3)" p. 242.

1:26

NASB, NRSV,
NJB"consider"
NKJV"see"
TEV"remember"

This is either a present active imperative or a Present active indicative. Moffatt translates it as, "Look at your own ranks." This passage was not meant to be a put-down to the early church and its leaders, but an affirmation of the love and power of God. It was meant to shatter the pride of this arrogant church. The early church was made up mostly of the "have nots" of society. However, apparently one of the factions in Corinth was made up of Roman patrons and the culturally elite. By using these who have no worldly status, God magnifies His power.

▣ "not many wise according to the flesh" This refers to human wisdom or worldly standards (cf. 1:20; 2:6,8; 3:18).

SPECIAL TOPIC: FLESH (sarx)

▣ "not many mighty" This refers to physical strength or social standing.

"not many noble" This refers to one's family background which would involve wealth, education, and social privilege. These three characterizations fit the Sophists, who were so proud of their education, position, and sophistication.

1:27 "God has chosen the foolish things of the world" This is an AORIST MIDDLE INDICATIVE. God Himself has chosen to manifest His power through the weak so that there will be no doubt who should receive the glory (cf. II Corinthians 12). The victory is in God's resources, not human achievement (cf. v. 29; Eph. 2:9) or social standing.

For "foolish" see note at 1:25. For "world" see Special Topic at 3:21b-22.

1:28

NASB"the base things of the world and the despised"
NKJV"the base things of the world and things which are despised"
NRSV"what is low and despised in the world"
TEV"what the world looks down on and despises"
NJB"those who by human standards are common and contemptible"

This phrase is in contrast to the "wise. . .mighty. . .noble" of v. 26. The term "base things" is literally "those of low birth," which is another reference to Roman nobility.

NASB, NRSV "the things that are not"
NKJV"the things which are not"
TEV"things is nothing"
NJB"those who count for nothing"

Is this another category of debased things/people or a summary? Because there is no kai (i.e., and; MSS P46, א*, A, C*, D, F, G) before this phrase as there is with all the others, it is probably a summary statement. God calls and uses those people of whom the world takes no notice! The theological points are

1. "no flesh will glory before God" (cf. 1:29)

2. God's power and equipping is magnified in the weakness of the human vessel (cf. II Cor. 12:1-10)

3. Christ's mediation is magnified (cf. 1:30)

In Him, everything that the Jews and Greeks sought and strived after, is a gift from YHWH, through Messiah, energized by the Holy Spirit!

▣ "nullify the things that are" This is the Greek term, katargeō. See note at 1:18 and the Special Topic following.

SPECIAL TOPIC: NULL AND VOID (KATARGEŌ)

1:29 "no man may boast before God" The verb is an aorist middle subjunctive which implies a settled personal choice. No created flesh entity will vaunt itself before the creator (cf. Eph. 2:9)! This was the central truth of Paul's message to the proud Corinthians and to fallen mankind in general, Jew or Gentile (cf. Rom. 3:27; Eph. 2:9). See SPECIAL TOPIC: BOASTING at 5:6.

▣ "man" This is literally "flesh." See Special Topic at 1:26.

1:30

NASB"by His doing"
NKJV"of Him"
NRSV"He is the source"
TEV"God"
NJB"by Him"

This is literally "out of him," which is a Greek idiom expressing the First Cause, the Prime Mover. The Father sent it, Jesus brought it, and the Spirit energized it. What follows is a list of God's gifts to believers through Christ.

▣ "wisdom from God" In Jewish thought wisdom is personified in Pro. 8:22-31 and Col. 2:2-3. Wisdom is a person. Truth is a person. The gospel is a person-Jesus! (cf. John 14:6).

If, however, Paul was addressing the philosophical element in the church, then sophia would have a connection with their pride in their cultural traditions (i.e., Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, etc.). It would be a metaphor from academy. It is also possible that an incipient Gnosticism was present in the eclectic religious milieu of Corinth and possibly had infiltrated the church (cf. 1:18-2:8; 3:18-23; 8:1-2). If so, then Paul's comments in Colossians are relevant (i.e., Christ, Himself, is wisdom, cf. Col. 1:9; 2:3).

I think all these terms refer to what Christ has done for believers through Jesus.

1. He is God's wisdom to us

2. He is God's righteousness to us

3. He is God's sanctification to us

4. He is God's redemption to us

It is all of God the Father through God the Son.

▣ "righteousness" This was a metaphor from the law court (cf. Rom. 3:21-26; II Cor. 5:21). By Paul's day the rabbis had transferred the semi-personal wisdom of Proverbs 8 to the Mosaic Law. To it was attributed ultimate authority. If Paul was thinking of the Jewish element in the Corinthian church, this was a powerful and ultimate designation.

SPECIAL TOPIC: RIGHTEOUSNESS

▣ "sanctification" This was a metaphor from the sacrificial system of Israel (cf. Rom. 6:19-23). This is the from the same root as "holy" or "consecrated." In the OT it referred to a person, place, or thing that was separated to God's service. Theologically it refers to the believer's position in Christ. The moment one puts his faith in Him, he is justified and sanctified (cf. Rom. 8:30). See Special Topic at 1:2.

▣ "redemption" This means "to buy back" (cf. Rom. 3:24). This was a metaphor from the slave market. It is the major OT concept of salvation.

SPECIAL TOPIC: RANSOM/REDEEM

1:31 This is a quote from Jer. 9:23-24. Paul repeats this quote in II Cor. 10:17. "Lord" in the Jeremiah passage refers to YHWH, but here to Jesus! This is a common NT technique to affirm the deity of Jesus.

We do not boast in and of ourselves, but of Him in whom all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily! These two quotes of Jeremiah show a connection between I Corinthians 1-4 and II Corinthians 10-13. The opponents are Jewish sophists who boasted of the rhetorical style (cf. Bruce W. Winter, Philo and Paul Among the Sophists).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why is God's calling emphasized so often by Paul?

2. How can God call sinful people "holy"?

3. What is the purpose of spiritual gifts in the church?

4. Why was the church at Corinth so factious?

5. How does v. 12 relate to modern denominations?

6. Is Paul putting down baptism in v. 17?

7. Why did the Jews reject the gospel?

8. Why did the Greeks reject the gospel?

9. Why has God chosen to use weak people with no social or intellectual standing to spread the gospel?

 

Related Topics: Bible Study Methods