First Corinthians 1-4

Introduction: This letter from Paul to his church in Corinth was written around 53-57 AD, while Paul was in Ephesus.  Paul is writing to address divisions that have arisen in Corinth, to condemn the sexual immorality he had heard about, and to describe his beliefs on matters like marriage and resurrection of the dead.

1 Corinthians 1-4: Greetings to the church in Corinth.  Be united–Chloe’s people told me that you are quarreling, identifying themselves with Paul, or Apollos, or Peter, or Christ.  But human wisdom is overrated–I’m not very eloquent or wise–since God will make the wise foolish.  Our message sounds foolish to the wise, but God’s foolishness will save those who believe.

When I preached to you, I did not use lofty words or human wisdom; I simply demonstrated the Spirit and spoke God’s wisdom.  Those who are unspiritual do not understand, but the spiritual do.  You, however, are not yet spiritual–you are only infants, drinking milk instead of eating solid food, since you say “I belong to Apollos” and “I belong to Paul”.  Paul and Apollos are only God’s servants; you are God’s temple.  So do not boast of human leaders.  Also, why are you exalting yourselves whereas we, the apostles, are hungry and thirsty, poorly clothed and beaten and homeless?  I am not writing to shame you, but to admonish you; I am like your father in Christ and will be visiting you soon.

Commentary:

  • “Chloe’s people” are probably her slaves
  • We see here that the Corinthian church is split between followers of Paul, Apollos, and to a lesser extent, Peter.  (There was probably no “Christ party”; Paul was being ironic.)
  • We get a fascinating look at the socioeconomic composition of the Corinthian church: “Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth” (1:26).  So some of the members are from the elite, but most are poor.
  • Paul is not too pleased with other ministers of the gospel, as he says “For though you might have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers” (4:15).
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