Exposition of 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 Unity under the cross of Christ

1 Corinthians 1:10-17

10 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. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 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.

Verse 10 marks the sharp transition from prior thanksgiving into issues within the Corinthian church. Paul states from the outset that a problem within the church demands resolution in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:10). Hidden within the English translations is a threefold repetition of the word for same all say the same thing (1 Cor. 1:10, NET Bible margin) . . . be restored with the same mind and the same purpose (1 Cor. 1:10b, Common English Bible).

The Greek verb Paul employs for agree (1 Cor. 1:10) is colorful. It is used in Mark 1:19 for mending a torn fishing net; it also was used to describe setting a broken bone.[1] The restoration of unity in relation to witness, mind and purpose would satisfy the appeal that there be no divisions among you (1 Cor. 1:10). We do best in applying these ideas when we stress Pauls solution — a thorough pursuit of unity — rather than entering into speculation about the exact nature of the disagreements in the Corinthian church.

In calling the Corinthians brothers and sisters (1 Cor. 1:11), Paul speaks as no Roman would speak except to a blood relative. He is emphasizing their unity in Christ. Paul has had word of actual quarrels in the church that involve people taking different sides. Paul identifies these groups by using the names Paul, Apollos, Cephas (Peter), and Christ (1 Cor. 1:12). The best explanation appears to be that Paul made up the slogans (e.g. I am of Apollos) to be put-downs of such petty bickering rather than actual self-designations by the groups involved. He presents a childish caricature to illustrate the presence of radical individuality in the church.[2]

It is likely that the final clause I follow Christ is a sample of Pauls sarcasm,[3] yet it has a literary purpose in that it allows Paul to simultaneously lampoon the divisions while gathering all of the Corinthian Christians under the banner of Christ as he develops his argument.

In 1 Cor. 1:13, Paul resorts to shocking language to make his point. The question Is Christ divided? expects the answer yes! By their disunity, it is as if Christ has been torn into parts! Greek grammar next signals that the following two questions (Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?) expect the answer no. It is absurd to put Paul on the level of Christ, who alone went to the cross for our sins. Equally foolish is the idea that anyone would have been baptized into union with Paul — no!

Almost as an aside, Paul mentions baptizing Crispus and Gaius (1 Cor. 1:14). We learn in Acts 18:8 that Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord. They were among the first to believe Pauls preaching in Corinth. Another who trusted in Christ was Titius Justus, a Gentile whose large house stood next to the synagogue (Acts 18:7). When Paul mentions in Rom. 16:23 Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, many believe his full name is Gaius Titius Justus.[4]

Paul returns to the subject of 1 Cor. 1:1, his sending by Christ. He was sent to preach the good news with plain speech about the cross of Christ (1 Cor. 1:17) because those persuaded by clever rhetoric would not experience the power of Christs death and resurrection. No one, then or now, is won by clever speech; we gain salvation only by trusting in Jesus, who died for us on the cross and rose again to a new life for God.

Copyright 2012 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003) 43.

[2] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 48.

[3] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 49.

[4] Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987) 62, footnote 71.

Exposition of 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 Gods kindness in Jesus Christ

1 Corinthians 1:4-9

4 I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5 For in him you have been enriched in every way — with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge —6 God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8 He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

As we get further into First Corinthians, we will find that the Christians in Corinth had a problem with pride and with misuse of spiritual gifts to justify that pride. We can almost imagine that their confidence as upwardly-mobile Roman citizens has spilled over into an unjustified level of pride in their spiritual standing as well. They had a very pleasing opinion of themselves!

Paul clearly expresses his thankfulness for what the Corinthians have in Christ (1 Cor. 1:4), but he does so in a way that makes it clear that the source of these blessings lies in Gods grace and not in what the Corinthian Christians have done on their own. The Corinthians have things backwards: the tail does not wag the dog; the dog wags the tail!

Paul begins to reframe the situation by starting with Gods grace. James Dunn reminds us that It is important to grasp . . . that for Paul grace does not mean an attitude of disposition of God; it denotes rather the wholly generous act of God.[1] In what way did God act? He sent Christ Jesus, who was full of grace and truth (John 1:17). Because of this emphasis on action in the biblical meaning of grace, the word kindness is often a better way of thinking about grace.

So, Paul jumps right to Gods grace given you in Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 1:4). In him the Corinthians have been enriched in every way (1 Cor. 1:5). Their wealth does not lie in the lucrative trade of Corinth, but rather in Christ. This is why Fee says: The whole of the thanksgiving is God-oriented and Christ-centered. Everything comes from God and is given in Christ Jesus.[2]

Pauls letters often use this early section that expresses thanksgiving to bring up problem areas that will be explored later. Here he singles out all kinds of speech and all knowledge (1 Cor. 1:5) as particular areas in which God has blessed the church. Later he will point out ways the Corinthians have misused these gifts. For example, though Paul here says the Corinthians have been given all knowledge (1 Cor. 1:5), he will ask them eleven times in the letter, Do you not know?[3] Apparently they knew a lot but did not know how to apply it.

Paul also begins to turn their thoughts to the day when Christ will return to evaluate their stewardship of the spiritual gifts given to the church in Corinth. Thus he speaks of their eager waiting for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed (1 Cor. 1:7) and their blamelessness on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:8). In this way Paul takes the Old Testaments day of the Lord (Amos 5:18-20 and Joel 2:31) — a period including Gods wrath, the return of Christ, final judgment and the creation of a new heaven and new earth — and clarifies it. Fee says, It is still the day of the Lord, but the Lord is none other than Jesus Christ.[4]

As a final note of thankfulness, we can join the Corinthians in being grateful that the faithfulness of God (1 Cor. 1:9) is what keeps you firm to the end (1 Cor. 1:8). Our fellowship with his Son (1 Cor. 1:9) is unbreakable!

Copyright 2012 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] Cited by Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987) 35, footnote 29.

[2] Fee, First Corinthians, 36.

[3] David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003) 34, citing 1 Cor. 3:16, 5:6, 6:2-19, 9:13, 9:24 and 12:2.

[4] Fee, First Corinthians, 43.

Exposition of 1 Corinthians 1:1–3 Getting definite about identity

1 Corinthians 1:1–3

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,

2 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:

3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 Getting definite about identity

We will soon see that faction-building — so common to the culture of Roman Corinth — had become a major problem troubling this young church. New Testament scholar Linda Belleville informs us that “At the heart of the Corinthians’ problems was an attitude of spiritual arrogance.”[1] Roman pride led to a false assumption of spiritual superiority.

Using a modified form of the standard greeting in letters of that period, Paul begins his attempt to cure the Corinthian identity problem by starting with Christ Jesus. Jesus is mentioned by name four times in the first three verses. Further, Jesus is called “Lord” three times. New Testament scholar James Dunn comments that the title “Lord” denotes: “dominance and the right of disposal of superior over inferior — whether simply master over slave, king over subject, or, by extension, God over worshipper. To confess someone as one’s ‘lord’ expresses an attitude of subserviency and a sense of belonging or devotion to the one so named.”[2]

So, a major idea in defining the identity of Christians is that Jesus is their Lord, not Caesar or any other person, such as the head of a faction.

Paul’s identity is also important to the success of this letter. In calling himself “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” (1 Cor. 1:1), Paul presents himself as the emissary of Jesus. According to ancient usage, an apostle is a “sent one,” and “’The one whom a man sends is like the man himself.’”[3]

In addition to identifying Jesus as Lord and himself as Jesus’ emissary, Paul also identifies the Corinthian recipients. Although there were probably several house churches in Corinth, Paul emphasizes their unity by calling them “the church of God in Corinth” (1 Cor. 1:2). Paul goes on to say that the Corinthian believers have been set apart (“sanctified”) — a Greek verbal form indicating something done in the past and having a lasting result — to serve God. The full phrase “sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:2) means this setting apart occurs through union with Christ by faith.

Paul ends his initial greeting with a wish for grace and peace, precious gifts that can only come from the Father and the Son (1 Cor. 1:3).

Copyright © 2012 Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] Linda L. Belleville, 2 Corinthians, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, IL.: InterVarsity Press, 1996) 17.

[2] James D.G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Company, 1998) 247.

[3] David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003) 25.

Exposition of 1 Corinthians — Introduction

 History and Geography

The Greek city of Corinth has never lacked self-confidence, but that lofty opinion has not always served her well. Mighty Corinth led the Achaean League of Greek cities and defied the Romans when they said to break up the League. Roman consul Lucius Mummus took Corinth in 146 B.C., destroyed it, and killed the male population. The women and children were sold into slavery.[1] That was the city’s first failure in humility.

Julius Caesar — ever a strategic thinker — rebuilt Corinth in 44 B.C. as a Roman colony formally named Colonia Laus Julius Corinthiensis, meaning colony of Corinth in Honor of Julius.[2] Eventually, Rome sent many members of the freedman class (predominantly poor), military veterans, urban tradesmen and laborers to populate the colony. As a result, Latin was the official language of Corinth even beyond the time of the Apostle Paul.[3] New Testament scholar David Garland says, “When Paul visited, the city was geographically in Greece but culturally in Rome.” This history is vital in understanding the many problems Paul confronted in his letters to the Corinthian church.

Corinth and Ephesus

By looking at the map, you will see that Corinth was sited at the end of a narrow land bridge — roughly ten miles in length — connecting the Greek mainland to the massive peninsula named Peloponnesus, a place known as the ancient home of the Spartans. Corinth had a sheltered harbor and was just a mile away from a paved track used to haul cargo from the other harbor on the eastern side of the land bridge. This favorable geography made Corinth the main trade hub between Rome and the Roman province of Asia (modern Turkey). Springs provided an ample source of fresh water. Opportunities for gaining wealth abounded in Corinth.

The only alternative to shipping goods east or west through Corinth was the deadly trip around the Peloponnese peninsula. Those waters produced the violent storm that later swept Paul all the way to Malta where God intervened to save the lives of all aboard (Acts 27).

New Testament scholar Linda Belleville informs us: “Numbering some 500,000 slaves and 200,000 non-slaves at its height, Corinth’s cosmopolitan population was made up of a mix of local Greeks, Orientals (including a large number of Jews) and Italians.”[4] She compares it to San Francisco, Chicago and Boston.

 Cultural Influences

A building boom made Paul’s Corinth the most dazzling of the Greek cities. Various types of stone were locally available for building. At its core Corinth centered on the pursuit of success using trade, business and entrepreneurial skill. This environment interacted with Roman culture through the Corinthians’ desire to have public status, to promote their own honor, and to have numerous clients or adherents of their faction. Garland summarizes the Corinthian attitudes by quoting what the Roman poet Horace said about the Roman populace: “[They are] ‘absurd slaves to fame, who are stupefied by titles and masks.’”[5]

 Religious Setting

Corinth drew both people and religions from all over the Roman Empire. Most people “believed that there was safety in numbers: the more gods that one appeased and had on one’s side the better.”[6] Capping them all was the Roman imperial cult, which worshiped the power and genius of the emperor. New Testament scholar Craig Keener capably describes Roman commercial practices, which directly affected the Corinthians, when he says: “Pagan symbols were prominent at major Mediterranean ports, and activities of the shipping lines and merchant guilds involved aspects of the [Roman] imperial cult.”[7] Anyone who wanted in on the wealth had to play the game of idolatrous patriotism. The imperial cult applied such terms as “Lord,” “savior,” and “son of God” to Caesar, not Jesus.

All had to honor the emperor, but there were also sacred places for the Roman-Greek pantheon of gods — at least twenty, including Zeus, Neptune and Venus — Egyptian mystery cults, Asian mystery cults, as well as a Jewish synagogue and the ever-present magicians. In short, Corinth had every possible combination of religions in the Roman world. The city was full of temples.

 Establishing the Dates of Paul’s Ministry in Corinth

Paul’s ministry in Corinth is described in considerable detail in Acts 18:1–18. Acts 18:2 explains how Paul met two Jews recently expelled from Rome by order of Emperor Claudius. This decree was issued in A.D. 49. Garland says, “Acts 18:12–17 also refers to Gallio as the proconsul of Achaia [Greece], and an inscription fragment dates his tenure in office from July 1, A.D. 51, to June 30, A.D. 52.”[8] Garland goes on to suggest that the church in Corinth was founded in February/March, A.D. 50 and that Paul left for Ephesus by ship in September, A.D. 51. Paul taught the word of God for 18 months in Corinth (Acts 18:11). See the next section for the dates of other brief visits by Paul to Corinth.

Since Jesus was crucified in A.D. 33, Paul was proclaiming salvation in the name of Jesus just seventeen years later.

Paul’s relationship to Corinth

Belleville very capably summarizes Paul’s relationship to Corinth by saying, “The Paul-Corinthian relationship spanning seven years, three personal visits and four letters, is one of the most complex topics in New Testament studies.”[9] The two early stages of the relationship, as defined by Belleville, are summarized below.

Stage One “After a forced exit from Thessalonica and again from Berea (Acts 17:1–15; 1 Thess. 2:17–18), Paul made his way down the Aegean coast to Athens for a short layover (Acts 17:16–34; 1 Thess. 3:1–2) and then to Corinth where he settled down for about a year and a half (A.D. 50–52); Acts 18:1–18). . . . At some point he received enough financial support that he was able to drop his trade and give full attention to evangelism (Acts 18:5).”[10]

Stage Two “About 52 A.D. Paul left Corinth to briefly visit Jerusalem and then Antioch, his home base and supporting church. From there he went to Ephesus and set up his base of operations in the lecture hall of a local philosopher named Tyrannus (literally ‘the tyrant’). Three years were spent evangelizing, as Luke reports, ‘all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia’ (Acts 19:10). It was during this three-year period that Paul wrote the Corinthians three letters and made his second visit to the city.”[11]

The biblical books of First Corinthians and Second Corinthians are apparently the second and third of the three letters Paul wrote to the Corinthian church from Ephesus, about 250 miles by sea to the east. First Corinthians was written partly to reply to a letter sent from the Corinthian church to Paul and carried by three of its members (1 Cor. 16:7). They probably took back Paul’s answer (First Corinthians) in A.D. 54.

Later in A.D. 54 (summer or fall), Paul made a “painful visit” (2 Cor. 2:1; 12:14, 21; 13:1–2) to Corinth and then returned to Ephesus. In A.D. 55 or 56, Paul wrote Second Corinthians in answer to further (false) charges made by some in Corinth. Finally, in the winter of A.D. 56, Paul visited Corinth for the last time, staying about three months.

Copyright © 2012 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 

[1] David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003) 1.

[2] Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William. B. Eerdmans publishing Company, 2000) 3.

[3] Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987) 1, footnote 3.

[4] Linda L. Belleville, 2 Corinthians, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, IL.: InterVarsity Press, 1996) 14–15.

[5] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 4.

[6] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 9.

[7] Craig Keener, Revelation, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000) 427.

[8] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 18.

[9] Belleville, 2 Corinthians, 15.

[10] Belleville, 2 Corinthians, 16.

[11] Belleville, 2 Corinthians, 16.