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Series Theme: FRAMEWORKS: Paul's FIRST letter to the Corinthians

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 FRAMEWORKS: 1 Corinthians 1

In this ‘Framework' we use our usual text PLUS comment style to enable you, as simply as possible, to catch the sense of his writing.

Why read 1 Corinthians: Paul had been to Corinth and stayed with them for over a year and a half (see Acts 18:11) and thus had poured a tremendous amount of teaching into them. The life and the power of the Holy Spirit had clearly been with him with the result that the church was alive with that same power and presence of the Lord. However, that doesn't stop people being people, and as the history of revivals shows, the work of the power and presence of God can be spoilt by people being people! He wrote from Ephesus (see 16:8) and referred back to his time with them. But he's heard things about them through the apostolic grapevine and they are things that concern him and he needs to address them. So, he

•  addresses the problem of disunity (ch.1-4) adding a spiritual dimension,
•  deals with things he's heard about immorality and disputes in the church (ch.5,6)
•  expounding on Christian marriage in difficult circumstances (ch.7),
•  challenges them about their attitudes about food (ch.8)
•  teaching about freedom and self-discipline (ch.9 & 10) reminding them of Israel's history,
•  and challenges them on how they meet together (ch.11)
•  going on to teach about the right way to administer spiritual gifts (ch.12-14)
•  teaches on the realities of resurrection (ch.15).

He concludes with matters of taking regular collections and then speaks about his travel plans and some final ‘in house' directions.


We thus see a church that in many ways appears to put many modern churches to shame in the way it exercises gifts of the Spirit, but then spoils that reputation with a lot of very human failures. It thus acts as a strong reminder that spirituality is to be combined with righteousness and very practical holy living. The detail of ch.12-14 on good administration of Holy Spirit life in the church is unique in the New Testament and his teaching on practical issues is instructive while his chapter 15 on resurrection is again unique in the Bible. The reminder in that chapter that Jesus IS reigning in this world (v.25,26) and that, set against the context of the rest of the letter, reminds us that although he reigns over all, he does give us individual autonomy over how we will live out his commands and that thus challenges us to check how we are living. A lengthy but challenging book that is well worth reading.




FRAMEWORKS: 1 Corinthians 1: Greetings & Warnings about Divisiveness & Spirit power


v.1-3 Hints in Greetings
v.4-9 Thanksgiving with Hints
v.10-16 Paul's Challenge to a Church with Divisions
v.17-31 Christ Crucified is God's Power and Wisdom


[Chapter Synopsis: Paul greets the church in Corinth, a church he knew well having stayed with them over a year and a half, and it is clear he has things on his mind as he subtly reminds them they are saved by grace, which is all-important, and the disunity he hears about has no place in the body of Christ. As he reiterates his calling he reminds them that the gospel is folly to the unsaved world but it IS God's way of saving humanity and (implied) the Cross needs to be kept at the forefront of all preaching.


NOTE: Because there is a large measure of unity within the first four chapters, we will provide a Summary-Recap of these chapters at the end of chapter 4 so that we may see how they link together and flow from one to another.]



v.1-3 Hints in Greetings


v.1 (Paul's credentials? Called of God to be an apostle) Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,

v.2 (As so often in his openings, he hints at what is on his heart for his readers – a reminder that they are called to be sanctified and made holy. That is what is behind most of this letter) To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours:

v.3 (Grace brings peace, both are needed foundation stones of our lives) Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.


[Passage Synopsis: Paul's greetings give a warning of what is to come as he reaffirms his calling and their need.]



v.4-9 Thanksgiving with Hints


v.4 (His thanks in prayer is for the grace they have received from God) I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.

v.5 (because God has enabled them in speech [intriguing!] and knowledge) For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—

v.6 (showing that what they had taught them was true. He had been with them for a year and a half – see Acts 18:11 and knew the great things God had done in raising them up) God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you.

v.7 (seeing how they have been endued with spiritual gifts from God) Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.

v.8 (but it is God and not the gifts [implied] that will keep them to the end) He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

v.9 (God has remained true throughout, calling them into close relationship with His Son, Jesus, the Christ and their Lord) God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.


[Passage Synopsis: Again within these verses are hints about what is on his mind. Yes, they have been greatly blessed with God's grace in the form of spiritual gifts but they are not the be-all or end-all, as we might say today. It is their relationship with Jesus that will hold them and keep them.]



v.10-17 Paul's Challenge to a Church with Divisions


v.10 (Paul clearly has a list of things on his mind he needs to raise with them. He starts with an issue that could undermine the church - disunity) I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.

v.11 (he's been told of upsets occurring there ) My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you.

v.12 (they appear to have different ‘heroes' of faith) What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas [That is, Peter] ”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

v.13 (hold on! is there division in Christ, was I the one crucified for you so you were baptized in my name? No way!) Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?

v.14,15 (I remember I actually only baptized two of you, so don't hold me up as your saviour) I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name.

v.16 (oh yes, there was one other I baptized, but that's all) (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don't remember if I baptized anyone else.)


[Passage Synopsis: As he goes straight into dealing with things he's heard through the grapevine about them, he starts with the subject of the divisions there and makes the strong point that there is no room for disunity in the body of Christ. Note: the name of Apollos arises here and will be repeated a number of times. He had ministered in that same area – see Acts 18:24-28 – and the nature of his fervent ministry made him a favourite of many.]



v.17-31 Christ Crucified is God's Power and Wisdom


v.17 (my calling wasn't to baptize but to preach the Cross) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

v.18 (that message may be folly to some but actually it is the power that enables people to be saved) For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

v.19 (Isaiah prophesied God's intent to come with a different approach) For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” [Isa 29:14]

v.20 (where are all the smart guys? Lost! God's show how foolish their ways are) Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

v.21 (human wisdom wasn't up to saving people, so it had to be by the apparent folly of the gospel it would happen) For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

v.22-24 (Jews and Greeks both had their own ideas but our message is still Christ crucified, a message they still struggle with, but it still saves those who hear God's calling) Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

v.25 (God outclasses with this ‘foolish' message both human wisdom and human strength) For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

v.26 (stop and think about yourselves, how you were not ‘great' people when you were saved) Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.

v.27 (but God turns the world's values on its head) But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

v.28,29 (God chose to call nobodies to become somebodies, so there is no room for boating in any of us) God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.

v.30 (it's only by accepting Christ and his death for you that you are made righteous and holy and are being redeemed) It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

v.31 (so there is no room for boasting, people!) Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” [Jer 9:24]


[Passage Synopsis: Having reiterated his calling, not to baptize but to preach the Gospel of Christ, he declares the central focus of his message – the cross of Christ. It doesn't matter that it appears folly to the unsaved world, it IS God's method for saving mankind.]


Continue to Chapter 2