Study on 1 Corinthians: Chapter 1

I have been told I am rather ambitious. Pastor Jeremy has deemed it fit that I lead the Bible studies during the week. and I will be posting my notes here, as I think some of my dear readers may gain from it. I used a variety of tools and web sites to formulate this study. One being usefulbible.com. As well as many books on the subject. In addition, I have included my own research.

1:1 – About Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians

So Paul sent the Book of 1 Corinthians as a letter to the church in Corinth. Its purpose was to give advice on the matters that the church leaders had asked about.

1:2-3 – The nature of God’s church

So, at the start of his letter, Paul called them: ‘the church of God’. That means ‘the people whom God has separated for himself’. He also called them ‘the saints’, in other words, ‘the holy people’. Paul used the word‘saints’ to describe all Christians. ‘Holy’ means that a person belongs to God. Paul also said that God had ‘sanctified’ them. That means that God had made them holy.

Paul emphasized their connection with other Christians, both in Corinth and elsewhere. Some groups in Corinth were acting as if they were the only real Christians. (*1)

1:4-9 – Paul’s prayer

We will see that the first Christians in Corinth were doing many wrong things. Many of them did not love each other, and they did not respect their leaders. But still, Paul was kind to them and he wrote to them in a gentle manner. He knew that they had not been Christians for a long time. Most of them had not chosen on purpose to have those wrong attitudes.

So in Paul’s prayer for them, he expresses his thanks to God. God had been very kind to them, and he had done wonderful things in their lives. Most Christians in Corinth were not wealthy (1:26), but they lacked nothing in their relationship with God. God had made them able to speak for him. God had given them the knowledge that they needed. God had given them his Holy Spirit, and there was evidence of that fact in their lives.

1:10-13 – Arguments about who leads the church

All the Christians in Corinth met together as one church, but there were different groups in that church Those different groups were constantly arguing with each other. (*2)

One group said that Paul was their leader. It was true that Paul had been the first leader of the church at Corinth. But Paul did not want to be the leader of a group that argued with other Christians! Paul was not trying to make himself important; he considered himself God’s servant.

Another group were loyal to Apollos. Apollos led the church after Paul left Corinth. You can read about this extraordinary man in Acts 18:24-28. Apollos’s work at Corinth was very successful. But at that time, Apollos had not even met Paul. The two men probably had different opinions about many subjects. (*3)

A third group would only accept the authority of the first Christian church in Jerusalem. That was where Cephas, usually called Peter, served God.

The last group probably thought that churches should not have any human leaders. Paul did not agree with that idea . (*4)

Paul reminded the people in all these groups that Christians belong to Christ. It was Christ who died to save them. God appoints many different kinds of people to be the leaders of his church.

But perhaps ‘leaders’ is the wrong word, because really they work as God’s servants.

Christians who constantly argue need to become more mature in their relationship with God. Then they will not still want to argue about their opinions. Instead, they will desire to love and to serve other people.

1:14-17 – Why Paul did not carry out many baptisms

Because Paul was very busy, he only had time to carry out a few baptisms. Crispus was a leader of the Synagogue in Corinth (Acts 18:8). A Synagogue is a building where people meet to pray. Gaius was probably a wealthy and generous man; Paul mentions him in Romans 16:23. Stephanas was the first person in Corinth who became a Christian (16:15). Perhaps Paul had time for his baptism because not so many people wanted to speak to Paul then. (*6)

1:18 – The cross is the power of God to save

Really, there are only two groups of people in the world. What separates the two groups is their reaction to Christ’s death on the cross.

God’s people believe that God has saved them by means of Christ’s death. They even call it ‘the Gospel’, which means ‘the good news’. Like everyone else, they were guilty of many wrong and evil deeds, and they did not deserve God’s kindness. (*7)

But on the cross, Christ suffered the punishment for their evil deeds. The result is that God is saving them from the power of evil deeds (Romans 6:23), from the devil (Hebrews 2:14), and from death (15:54-57).

But for other people, Christ’s death is not good news. It is clear evidence that they too must die. And it reminds them that they cannot avoid God’s punishment for their evil deeds. Of course they do not want anyone to tell them about Christ’s death. It seems foolish even to mention such a shameful matter. The Son of God died in an awful manner, as criminals die.

Such people do not see how powerfully God was acting to save his people. And they do not realize that God wants to save them, too. God does not want to punish anyone for their evil deeds. (*8)

But he can only save people who believe his message (John 3:16). And nobody can believe a message that they have never heard (Romans 10:12-14).

So it is essential for Christians to speak about Christ’s death. Of course many people will consider that message foolish. But some people will believe, and by means of that message, God will save them.

1:19-21 – The limit of human intelligence

The Bible is not against science. In fact, the Bible encourages people to study our world carefully (for example, Job chapter 39; Ecclesiastes 1:13. However, the Bible does insist that human intelligence, like everything else in the world, has a limit (Psalm 119:96) (*9)

We see that limit whenever intelligent people cannot believe in God. All their education has failed even to show them that God exists. They may be very wise, but in this most important matter, they are no better than fools. (*10)

1:22-24 – How Christ’s death shows God’s wisdom and power

The Jews are the people who came from the families of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Paul speaks about them in particular because God had made special promises to their nation. God did that because he wanted to use them to tell people in every nation about himself (Genesis 12:3; Isaiah 49:6).

The Greeks are really the people from Greece. However, Paul uses the word to refer to people from all the other nations too. We can see that from 1 Corinthians 1:23, where Paul uses the word for ‘nations’ instead of ‘Greeks’. Paul uses the word ‘Greeks’ only because he was writing to people in Greece.

In Greece especially, people considered wisdom and special knowledge to be very important (Acts 17:18-21). They believed that these things came from the gods. And they had many gods (Acts 17:22-23). They thought that they would know the thoughts of their gods by their study of wisdom.

The Jews knew about the real God. They knew about the powerful things that he had done to rescue their nation in the past. Their nation was in a weak state. They wanted God to do powerful things like that to rescue them again.

But God alone has the right to choose how he will save people. He did not choose to save people by the sort of powerful act that many Jews wanted. He did not choose to impress people by his great wisdom, as people from other nations wanted. Instead, he sent his Son, Jesus, to die on the cross. That is how he saves people. Jesus suffered the punishment for their evil deeds.

That fact disappoints many people. But it does not disappoint the people whom God has saved. In the death of Christ, they can see both God’s wisdom and his power. And by the death of Christ, God can save both Jews and people from all the other nations.

1:25 – Evidence that God is wise and powerful

It is not difficult to prove that God is powerful. His act to create the heavens and the earth was more powerful than anything that people can even imagine.

In the same manner, we can easily prove that God is wise. When he created the heavens and the earth, he did it in a very skillful manner. It takes wisdom to get the details of any design right. A bomb is powerful, but it can only destroy things. The kind of power that can create new and wonderful things is evidence of God’s great wisdom (*11)

Christ’s death showed both God’s great power and his great wisdom. God acted in a way that most people did not expect. When people trust God, he saves them because of Christ’s death. (*12) (*13)

1:26-29 – Why God chooses people who are not important

That was why, in Corinth, God saved so many poor and weak people. He was giving honour to those people who really were humble in front of him. And so God showed clever people that their wisdom was not complete. He showed strong people that they were too weak to save themselves. He was giving wise and powerful people the opportunity to become humble. And if they did that, he could save them too, because of Christ’s death.

A proud person is not ready to ask God to save him. But when he sees God’s work in other people’s lives, perhaps he will be humble enough to ask for God’s help, too.

1:30-31 – True greatness

If you want to speak about true greatness, you certainly must not speak about yourself. It is only proud people who talk constantly about their own skills, strength and successes. They praise themselves when they should give honour to God. They depend on themselves when they need to trust in God. And those proud attitudes make God angry.

Instead, you should talk about the good things that God has done for you. And if you have invited Christ into your life, God has done many wonderful things for you. Paul mentions righteousness, sanctification and redemption; we will explain each of these words below. These things show the wisdom of God from which we can benefit because of Christ’s death.

Righteousness means complete goodness. Of course, Christians cannot pretend that they are completely good (*14)

Their goodness can only come from God, by means of the death of Christ. (*15)

Sanctification means that God has declared someone to be holy. Holy means that a person (or a thing) belongs to God. God has separated them for himself. Paul has already used similar words to describe Christians in 1 Corinthians 1:2. Christians are the people whom God has made holy, by means of the death of Christ.

Redemption means that God has paid the price to free his people. He saves them from the power of evil deeds, death, and the devil. The price that he paid was the death of Christ. (*16)

Paul declared that he would be proud about nothing except Christ’s death for him. (*17)

In other words, Paul refused to be proud about anything that he himself had done. Instead, he gave thanks to Christ. Only what Christ has done shows true greatness.

(*1) – 1 Cor 1:11-12

(*2) – 1 Cor 11:18

(*3) – 1 Cor 3:5

(*4) – Titus 1:5

(*5) – 1 Cor 12:28

(*6) – 1 Cor 3:5

(*7) – Romans 3:23

(*8) – 2 Peter 3:9

(*9) – 1 Cor 13:9

(*10) – Psalm 53:1

(*11) – Proverbs 8:1, 22-31

(*12) – 1 Cor 1:24

(*13) – Romans 1:16

(*14) – 1 John 1:8.

(*15) – Romans 4:22-25

(*16) – 1 Peter 1:18-19

(*17) – Galatians 6:14