1 Corinthians 1:1-11
Written about 54 AD - Corinth was one of the most wicked cities in ancient times. It was about 50 miles west of Athens. In the first century it was one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire and by the second century it was one of the most richest cities in the known world. It was a center of paganism and the chief religion was the worship of Aphrodite and her temple stood on a hill called Acrocorinth and housed 1,000 prostitutes. It was also a major port where merchants and sailors from many nations and languages would come to sell and ship their goods.
Paul stayed there for about 18 months on his second missionary journey. Paul authored this letter about 3 years after his visit there from Ephesus. Many of the Christians were saved out of paganism but were having problems breaking their old habits. A problem we could understand since there were not many Christian teachers who really had a good understanding of the ways of Christianity since it was still in its embryonic period. In this commentary, whenever I use terms, like “Paul says” or “Paul refers” it is not saying that these are Paul’s opinions or that they are not the inspired words of God. The entire Bible is the inspired word of God. Of course, the text is the beloved King James Bible.
I Corinthians 1:1
Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,
Called - Called out or appointed
Will of God - John 1:12-13
Sosthenes - "a strong and powerful savior" Acts 18:17
Right at the outset we read that Paul is already telling these Corinthian Christians what his source of authority is. The word “called” carries with it the meaning of “called out or appointed.” Paul is stating that his calling is by the Lord Jesus Christ and through the will of God. (Heb 5:4 KJV) And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. As Aaron was called to be the High Priest, Paul was called to be an Apostle to bring the message of the cross and to start churches in various areas. God’s will is the determining factor who gets saved and chosen for whatever assignment He has to give. (John 1:12-13 KJV) But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: {13} Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. Sosthenes was also called in like manner. He may not have been called to be a traveling Apostle like Paul, nevertheless as we see in John 1:13 that all Christians are called in the same manner, according to the Will of God, and not man. This means that the idea of free will never plays a part in salvation. It is God’s will and not free will.
1 Corinthians 1:2
(a) Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, (b) with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:
(a) Corinth was one church which gave Paul much consternation yet he called them saints and sanctified in Christ Jesus. It must also be noted that Paul is making his address to the church of God, but he qualifies the letter to those who are sanctified and called Saints. This means although the letter was to be read in the general congregation, it was aimed at those who were saved. Not everyone in every congregation is saved. The Bible impacts only Christians as unbelievers do not care what it says, until Judgment Day.
(b) Those that are set apart in Christ are brethren to all others in the world who are truly saved. True sanctification is the common bond for true fellowship with other believers. This means that true believers, wherever they congregate, are brethren to other Christians. (John 17:19 KJV) And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
1 Corinthians 1:3
Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Grace be unto you is the beautiful salutation which means, “May God grant you the joy of His great salvation.” Notice he also wishes them grace and peace. In the Jewish setting the Jews would greet with Shalom and Paul is continuing the greeting to both Jew and Gentile, while realizing there is no difference in Christ. Paul is wishing these believers peace. First, there is the peace we have with God upon salvation when the war between us is over. (Rom 5:1 KJV) Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: Secondly, after salvation, we have the peace that God gives to His children that can under gird us as we go through life. (Psa 29:11 KJV) The LORD will give strength unto his people; the LORD will bless his people with peace.
1 Corinthians 1:4
I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;
Notice salvation is given, not earned, or worked for. (John 6:37-39 KJV) All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. {38} For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. {39} And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. Notice how Paul is encouraging these Christians knowing that he must also chide them for what was going on there. He wants them to know that they are not forgotten by the Lord Jesus Christ even though there were many problems in that church. He wanted to give them assurance ahead of admonishment.
1 Corinthians 1:5
That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;
Enriched - were made rich or wealthy - Proverbs 13:7 contrast with Revelation 3:14-22
Utterance - "logw" = word, subject, matters, speech, statement
Knowledge - Exodus 35:30-35; Jer. 3:15; Eph 1:17
There is a definite relationship between growth and the preaching of the true word. Paul is desiring that these Christians would be enriched or made wealthy by the Lord Jesus Christ. The wealth he has in view is that of the gospel. (2 Cor 4:7 KJV) But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. Paul never considered money as a part of the Gospel, he saw it as a means to fund sending the Gospel forth. There is great difference between using it to send forth the Gospel and it being a part of the Gospel. He knows that if the Corinthians would receive true Bible teachings, they would then increase in the true knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and that would increase their spiritual walk. (2 Pet 3:18 KJV) But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. It is the same need today, no Christian can grow on lack of true teaching. How does a human body grow with lack of nutrition?
1 Corinthians 1:6
Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:
Testimony - "marturion" - proof or evidence - 2 Timothy 1:8
Confirmed - established - Col. 2:7
Paul continues the thought from the previous verse that he hoped that they grow in the Christian walk, since the evidence existed in the Corinthian church that the Lord Jesus had established them as a church. (Mark 16:20 KJV) And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen. No doubt, there were miracles being performed here and Paul will deal with the misuse of the miraculous later on. But here he is assuring them that the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ existed within their church.
1 Corinthians 1:7
So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Gift - Spiritual gifts
Waiting - eagerly expecting or intensely waiting
Paul wanted this church to be a vibrant church heavily involved with the propagation of the Gospel. He wanted to see every spiritual gift being used properly so there would be a great Gospel ministry going on as they redeemed the time until the Lord Jesus Christ returned on the last day. There is to be no sitting around on a mountaintop in white robes, but there is to be Gospel activity which is to be handed down from generation to generation until the last day when the Lord returned. Oh if the modern church would catch that vision.
1 Corinthians 1:8
Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Confirm (future tense) - Make firm by argument or proofs -1 Peter 1:5
Blameless - Above reproach - Rev. 14:1-5
As Christians continue to wait for the return of Christ, they are not doing it sitting on a mountaintop in white robes. In fact, in James it speaks about our faith being proven by our works. This is the earthly confirmation of our salvation. If we were not truly saved, then we would not concern ourselves with working for the furthering of the Kingdom of Christ. The fact that we work out our own salvation is being obedient to the Word of God and that salvation, which under girds our works is what will make us blameless, or above reproach, when the Lord comes back. It is not our works which create us blameless but the salvation which Christ gave us. The “day of our Lord Jesus Christ” is judgment day for the unbeliever and Glory day for the believer. Since Christ began the great work of salvation in us, He will keep us until the end when we are safely home in Heaven.
1 Corinthians 1:9
God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus
Christ our Lord.
1 John 1:3-7
Paul is also adding to the promise of the previous verse. He is telling us that our salvation will bring us into Heaven because God is faithful and it is by Him that we are called unto the intimate fellowship with His Son. The security of the believer rests in the hand of God and not in ours. (John 6:44 KJV) No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. (Eph 1:4 KJV) According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: The salvation of the true believer began in eternity and it will end in eternity. End? Don’t you mean continue? How about continue endlessly?
1 Corinthians 1:10
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
Divisions - Schisms can be both good and bad
Perfectly joined together - being knit together or restored or repaired
Same Mind - A mind in biblical concert
Same Judgment - “gnwmh” = same opinion or intention
Now Paul begins the correction of the Corinthians in contrast to the positive opening statements which he made. He wanted to assure them that the following corrections were for their own good and it would not affect their salvation. He wanted to make sure their church does not go the way of the world. First, he wanted them to speak the same thing, that is, they were to possess biblical speech, which would bring them into harmony with biblical teachings. In other words, they were to hold to the true biblical doctrines.
Whenever a church holds on to the true biblical doctrines, that assembly will be unable to be shaken from its foundation. Now divisions in the church can be both good and bad. If a church divides on a biblical issue, depending on the issue, it could be have a cleansing effect on that church. If a church divides because someone introduces a bad doctrine, such as signs and wonders, it could have a devastating effect on a church. Divisions can also polarize a church. Paul wanted to see this young church have a doctrinal basis on which the entire church would rest. This is why many churches throughout the ages have introduced confessions and doctrinal statements. They are designed to give information to those who may consider joining that church. While the confession does not hold the same authority as the Bible, it can extract a guideline of beliefs from the Bible. For example, if you have a church which believes in the Doctrines of Grace and then someone from an Arminian background comes in and may want to join, then when they read that Salvation is by grace alone and that we cannot ask God for it, the confession may help to prevent a possible split later on if this person with different beliefs wants to join.
Paul also wanted to see this church perfectly joined or knit together. (Col 2:2 KJV) That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; That is, he wanted to see this church being as close as the human body is tied with muscles and all the inner workings. He desired to see a spiritual intimacy in this church. He knew that the only way there could be spiritual intimacy is if all the Christians in that assembly were of the same mind and judgment. He wanted them to be united in purpose. A church divided among itself can never progress, it can only regress but when the entire congregation is in concert on the Scriptures and purpose, it can become a mighty congregation, and numbers has nothing to do with it.
When we talk about having a Christian mind, here is a list of the type of minds which should be present in every congregation.
Neh 4:6 - The Mind to work
Psa 26:3 - A devoted mind
Lam. 3:21-23 - A hopeful mind
Luke 8:35 - A sober mind
Luke 17:11 - A ready mind
Acts 20:19 - A humble mind
Romans 12:2 - A renewed mind
Romans 14:5 - An unwavering Mind
2 Cor. 8:12 - A willing mind
2 Timothy 1:7 - A sound mind = A disciplined mind
1 Corinthians 1:11
For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
Contentions = Rivalries
Paul now gets to the heart of the matter that someone who had much love for the church notified him that destruction was on the horizon. Nothing can destroy a church as fast as rivalries among the people. It doesn’t matter what they are competing for, whether it be position, doctrinal preeminence, or whatever, rivalries are a death knell to a local assembly. I have seen rivalries in many churches where different people tried to become the power brokers in the church which resulted in hostilities between many people. Two different doctrinal camps will definitely cause a war in the assembly as both sides try to take over the church with their teachings. The rivalries in the Corinthian church must have been of such a nature that they needed to bring in Paul because they could not settle the differences among themselves.