I Corinthians Commentary
First Corinthians purpose seems to point to Jesus’ resurrection as a reality of history and is taken as to be indisputable and beyond questioning. This is testified by Paul’s listing of eye witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection and as being pivotal to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul’s counsel regarding the resurrection was that it was an historical fact. This may be why Paul concludes this letter with the certainty of the resurrection, particularly since some in the church at Corinth had denied it. If the resurrection did not happen, Paul said the gospel was compromised. Believing in the gospel by necessity meant believing in the resurrection. Christ’s atoning sacrifice in death and His resurrection were inseparable.
Adding to the veracity of the resurrection, Paul mentions the 500 brothers who saw the empty tomb and many of these eye witnesses were still alive at the time of Paul’s writing this. Paul tells the Corinthians that their salvation would be impossible unless the resurrection had occurred and that they could not be resurrected until after death. Anyone who teaches that Jesus was not resurrected or teaches that believers will not be resurrected are false teachers or false apostles
Paul also asserts that sanctification is positional and not socio-economic or philosophic. God is no respecter of persons regardless of their social, economic, or academic standing in the world (Acts 10: 34, 35; Eph. 6: 9; Col. 3: 25; I Pet. 1: 17).
God’s grace should have been seen as something that God gave them apart from their own works. The Corinthians had a tendency to be filled up with themselves rather than being humble. The only reason they composed the Corinth church was due to God’s effectual calling and His imparting to them His grace which was undeserved and unmerited by them.
Without God’s grace any unity and peace would have been humanly impossible but with the grace God gave them they displayed powerful gifts of prophecy, tongues, and of spiritual discernment’s. The Corinthians, despite their tendencies toward divisiveness and esteeming their own gifts as supreme above the others member’s gifts, were nonetheless unified in peace and purpose. Gifts are intended for service to the Lord and to benefit the church as a whole. But these gifts are to be of service to the Lord in love and not with a haughty spirit. This is a powerful testimony of the power of God’s Spirit, of God’s Word, and Paul’s message about Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians Summary
The church at Corinth was a church that was divided. Part of the reasons for the division were that members were aligning themselves along personalities (e.g. Paul, Apollos, and Cephas) and not ascribing their salvation to Christ alone.
The Corinthians also had a self-centered and self-preservation mind set; esteeming of others more than self was next to impossible which caused further divisions among them. The praise of men seemed to be what certain leaders in the church were concerned about instead of seeking the praise of God since He is Who they were ultimately responsible to.
Above all else, it was pride that was the greatest cause of division. Arrogance in some of the party leaders was the opposite of what is a necessity for the church; unity. The opposite of love is not hate but it is pride. Church members were having personal disputes too which was another cause for division. Paul was disappointed that church members could not settle issues within the church and members had to resort to lawsuits which made them little different that those in the world.
One of the major problems of the Corinthian church was named by Paul as a failure to discipline a church member. The Body of Christ is compromised when a member is openly sinning. A failure to disfellowship this man would only serve to make the church more arrogant. The analogy that Paul uses is that of yeast which permeates and affects the whole loaf. The church misused Paul’s statement that “everything is permissible” as a license for all kinds of immorality. Sexual immorality grieves the Holy Spirit and hurts the believer and their testimony, for their body is not their own; they were bought with a price. Marriage is a holy union and when this is compromised it affects the believer and even Christ’s church. The union of a man and woman changes them both. When Paul quoted Genesis 2:24, “the two will become one flesh” he was not giving an affirmation that a man and a prostitute become one or that sexual relations meant a man and a woman were married, but was indicative of the seriousness of the sin of sexual immorality. It is impossible to experience sexual immorality without affecting the church.
Paul’s counsel regarding marriage was that danger lurks with any occurrence of sexual relationships outside of the marriage. Neglect of marital duties is one of Paul’s concerns. Some were refraining from sexual intercourse for improper reasons and abstinence in marriage could lead to immorality. Paul counseled Christian spouses to not divorce their unbelieving spouses and that a believer should strive to maintain the marital relationship with a non-believer. The believing spouse may possibly lead the unbelieving spouse into a saving relationship with Christ. In Paul’s estimation, remaining single would be better. The single Christian would be less encumbered in serving the Lord but this was not a command from the Lord but only what Paul thought best..
Love was Paul’s underlying theme regarding Christian liberty. The Corinthian’s question about eating meat sacrificed to idols was not a huge problem to Paul since idols were man made objects and God is real and sovereign over all. There were numerous idols but only One True God. There is liberty for those Christians who feel no conscientious problems with eating meat sacrificed to idols but Paul said it should not be eaten in the presence of those Christians who feel that it was not right to do so or in front of those who would object to it because they might offend them or cause them to stumble. Paul was saying to the Christians who do not object to this that this does not mean others would not object to it, therefore they should refrain from eating meat sacrificed to idols in front of Christians who object to this as an act of love and respect for fellow believer’s feelings. This could infringe on the beliefs of those who are “weak” in the faith or in knowledge and on their ability to discern right from wrong. Each believer is to respect the other for what they might feel is a sacrifice in their adoration or worship of Christ. The same teaching that Paul spoke about meat sacrificed to idols was similar to that of a Christian’s freedom to be a vegetarian or to eat meat. The underlying principle remained love.
Paul’s counsel regarding spiritual gifts was love as the underlying principle. The Holy Spirit gives each believer different gifts but the purpose of gifts is to serve the Lord and the church. Each member of a body was essential to the church’s service and none were more or less important in the body of Christ. Each part was critical to its functioning as a whole.
The church members were not the ones who choose the gifts but these gifts were God’s sovereign choice alone and were by His good pleasure and will. Neither did the gifts belong to the possessor of them, but were for the church in general and for its edification and building up. This lack of knowledge showed by the Corinthian’s preoccupation of the gift of tongues and by their esteeming it above all others gifts were a good example of their ignorance about the spiritual gifts. Members having certain gifts were in no way intended to make them feel superior to those whom they deemed as having lesser gifts.
Baptism of the Spirit occurs immediately after the moment that someone believes in Jesus Christ as Savior. It is apparent that the baptism of the Spirit and the receiving of the Holy Spirit are synonymous. It also does not appear that being filled with the Spirit and being baptized with the Holy Spirit are two different things but one and the same. For example in I Cor. 12:13 it says, “For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body.” I like what Michael Green says of the meaning of the two metaphors of being filled with the Spirit and receiving the Holy Spirit, “All alike have been immersed in the sea of the Spirit; all alike have had His living water irrigating their parched lives.(1)
The last thing that Paul wanted to do was to create more division in the Corinthian church and the way that Paul spoke of the Holy Spirit’s being received, “For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body“ would hardly allow for such distinction between being filled with the Spirit and receiving the Holy Spirit. You either have the Holy Spirit or you do not. You can not have more of it or have less of it. Paul stated in 1:13, “In whom also, after ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise“. The Holy Spirit seals the believer for eternity. It is not possible that you can not be more or less sealed by Him. This seems clear in Colossians 2:10 where it’s stated that “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law…that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Since we can not redeem ourselves and the Spirit is given as a free gift and we are saved through faith, it is not the measure of the Spirit that we receive but the fact that we do receive it that seals us permanently.
The conclusion is that all believers equally share the reality of being baptized by the Spirit at the moment that they believe the message of the gospel, the message that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He alone saves. When anyone believes in Jesus Christ, he or she is saved and receives the Holy Spirit at that time (Acts 4:12). At the very moment that you believe in Jesus Christ, you immediately receive the Holy Spirit (are baptized in) and become a Christian.
1 Corinthians Key Verses
I Corinthians 1:21 “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.”
I Corinthians 6:9-11 “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit thekingdomofGod? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit thekingdomofGod. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
I Corinthians 10:4 “They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.”
I Corinthians 10:17 “Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.”
I Corinthians 13:1-3 “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”
I Corinthians 15:3-6 “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.”
I Corinthians 15:22 “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”