Exposition of 1 Corinthians 16:19–24 “My love to all of you in Christ Jesus”

1 Corinthians 16:19–24

19 The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house. 20 All the brothers and sisters here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.

21 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand.

22 If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed! Come, Lord!

23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.

24 My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen.

When Paul mentions “the churches in the province of Asia” (1 Cor. 16:19), he is again sending actual greeting but also making the Corinthians see that they are part of the larger body of Christ. Let them look above not only their factional divisions but also outward to see the bond of love between Christians everywhere. The Roman province of Asia was located in what is now western Turkey.

The role of Aquila and Prisca (a shortened form of Pricilla) is notable. Acts 18:1–3 informs us that Aquila was a Jew who, along with his wife Pricilla, was expelled from Rome (probably as a Christian) in A.D. 49, when Emperor Claudius “closed down a Roman synagogue because of continuous disturbances centering on the figure of Christ.”[1] They emigrated to Roman Corinth where they met Paul, another tentmaker, and both hosted him and worked with him in the trade. They also joined Paul in Ephesus, where a church met in their home.

Anthony Thiselton approvingly describes the research of another scholar concerning Paul’s stay in Corinth: “Murphy-O’Connor convincingly paints a picture of Aquila and Prisca having their home in the loft of one of the shops around the market square (approximately 13 ft. x 13 ft. x 8 ft. without running water) ‘while Paul slept below amid the tool-strewn workbenches and the rolls of leather and canvas.’”[2] Are you feeling the hardship?

Though Paul dictated his letter to a professional scribe or secretary, he could not resist writing a greeting in his own hand (1 Cor. 16:21). This was all typical. One of Paul’s scribes actually identifies himself in Rom. 16:23.

Verses 22–24 serve as a sharp conclusion to the entire letter. The purpose of such a rhetorical conclusion was to reinforce the argument of the letter with emotional force. Here the vocabulary emphasizes Jesus Christ, love, and either the grace or the judgment that all will receive when Christ returns.

It seems most probable that in verse 22 the verb “love” refers to covenant loyalty. Covenant loyalty essentially amounts to obedience, just as Jesus emphasized with his disciples: “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15). In the Old Testament, the result of maintaining covenant loyalty to God was blessing, while breaking the covenant resulted in curses. The curse is expressed by the famous Greek noun anathema, which has been adopted into English most frequently in reference to a person who has been excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church.

Thiselton summarizes: “Paul has reproached the [message] of the cross and the content of the gospel through the array of pastoral, ethical, and theological issues that bubble away at Corinth: Come on, he concludes; are you ‘in’ or are you ‘out’?”[3] The return of Christ will resolve this question once and for all.

“Come, Lord!” represents the Aramaic term “Maranatha.” Generations of Christians have echoed this appeal.

Paul closes by mentioning the grace represented uniquely by Jesus Christ and Paul’s own special love for all who are joined to Christ (verses 23–24). Amen!

Copyright © 2014 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 

[1] Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William. B. Eerdmans publishing Company, 2000) 1343.

[2] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 1343.

[3] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 1351.

Exposition of 1 Corinthians 12:4–7 Paul’s synopsis

1 Corinthians 12:4–7

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

Compare 1 Corinthians 12:1 with 12:4, paying attention to the word translated “gift.”

 Now about the gifts (pneumatikos) of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. (1 Cor. 12:1)

 There are different kinds of gifts (charisma), but the same Spirit distributes them. (1 Cor. 12:4)

 The Greek word translated “gifts of the Spirit” in verse 1 (pneumatikos) means “having to do with the divine Spirit.” It could be a reference to either “spiritual things” or “spiritual persons.” The English versions have translated pneumatikos in a more specific manner in 1 Cor. 12:1 due to the context beginning in verses 4–6, where Paul begins his extensive argument about spiritual gifts. But this contextual translation obscures the fact that Paul has changed words and uses the Greek noun charisma in verse 4, meaning “that which is freely and graciously given.”[1] This word is closely related to the Greek noun charis, which is usually translated “grace.” God’s grace has come to us through Christ crucified.

So, what is the point? Some of the Corinthian believers — and some believers today — want to focus attention on themselves as spiritual by using the spectacular gift they have been given as proof of their supremacy over others. Paul is saying that emphasis is all wrong! God gave them this spiritual ability as a free gift, a grace-gift, not as their due. All honor should go to the gift-giver, not to the gift-holder.

It is easy to spot the deliberate parallels in 1 Cor. 12:4–6. Note, for example, the phrases “different kinds” and “the same” that occur in each verse. This heavy use of parallel phrasing focuses the mind on the few differences between the verses.

One such difference is the progression “Spirit . . . Lord . . . God,” a clear reference to the Holy Spirit, the Lord Jesus and God the Father. In short, the entire Trinity is involved in providing spiritual gifts for the good of the church. Further, the Father, the Son and the Spirit are all different, but they are totally unified in their actions. Even the Corinthians should have gotten the hint that the variety of spiritual gifts should operate in unity and not division.

Another progression is the sequence “kinds of gifts . . . kinds of service . . . kinds of working.” At first glance, these phrases seem to focus on the gifting, service or work carried out by each believer, but that misses the point. We have already noted that the gifts are apportioned by the Spirit (verse 4) as a matter of God’s grace or kindness. The different types of service are all designed to honor the same Lord (verse 5). The phrase “kinds of working” (verse 6) speaks not only of work but of bringing about results[2], and Paul attributes this working to “the same God who produces all of them in everyone” (1 Cor. 12:6b, NET). So, there is much more emphasis on what God is doing than initially comes to our attention.

Another difference stands out in the parallel phrasing of verses 4–6; it is the phrase “in all of them and in everyone” (1 Cor. 12:6).Thiselton explains that in verses 4–6 Paul is succinctly introducing his coming argument in 1 Cor. 12:7–30.[3] So, it is vital right at the start to say that every single Christian has been gifted by the Holy Spirit. This leaves no room to claim — as some were doing in Roman Corinth and as some are doing today — that only those with certain gifts, notably tongues, could be considered spiritual.

If taking personal credit is a warped attitude about spiritual gifts, what can we say about the right attitude. Thiselton gives us a treasure when he says, “Jean-Jacques Suurmond sums up this issue well: ‘It is not so much a matter of having a gift, as of being a gift.”[4] That comes close to expressing all that Paul is saying about a Christ-centered life in First Corinthians!

Now it should be clearly stated that since God has graciously gifted you as a Christian with a specific spiritual gift, he is expecting results. You are a steward of all that God has given you, and a day has been set for your stewardship to be evaluated. Since your gift is given “for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7), it is clear what the evaluation will entail. Heads up!

Copyright © 2013 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 [1] BDAG-3, charisma, gift, q.v.

[2] Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William. B. Eerdmans publishing Company, 2000) 933.

[3] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 929.

[4] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 902.

Exposition of 1 Corinthians 4:6–13 Who will reign with Christ crucified?

1 Corinthians 4:6–13

6 Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other. 7 For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?

8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign — and that without us! How I wish that you really had begun to reign so that we also might reign with you! 9 For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. 10 We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! 11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world — right up to this moment.

As stated before, Paul is trying to deal with Corinthian pride and a dangerous reliance on human wisdom. In verse 6 he reveals that his previous statements about himself, Apollos and Cephas — “I follow Paul” (1 Cor. 1:12 and 3:4), “I follow Apollos” (1 Cor. 1:12 and 3:4), and “I follow Cephas” (1 Cor. 1:12) — were actually a polite fiction to avoid naming the real faction leaders in Corinth. Why would Paul substitute for the names of the real faction leaders? David Garland says, “By using aliases rather than fingering the real culprits and by stressing that his deprecation of the role of leaders as servants extends also to himself (“What, then, is Paul?” 3:5), he allays potential resentment and makes it easier to swallow the medicine.”[1] Wise!

What, then, was he trying to say to the leaders and their factions? “Learn from us the meaning of the saying, ‘Do not go beyond what is written.’ Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other.” (1 Cor. 4:6). The phrase “what is written” probably refers to the Old Testament quotations Paul has used in the letter to this point. Those sum up to teach this: “While it is the wisdom of the world to indulge in human boasting, there is a simpler, more perfect kind of wisdom, that of boasting only in the Lord.”[2]

In Roman Corinth the desire to rise higher in social standing than others was exceptionally strong, and this cultural pressure had seeped into the church. In 1 Cor. 4:7, Paul unleashes some powerful questions. Ben Witherington puts the first question into this form: “What makes you think that you are so special that you should be judging God’s agents?”[3] After that crushing blow, the hammer strokes keep falling: “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Cor. 4:7b). You will do yourself a great favor to reflect on those questions! The whole idea of God’s kindness toward us, his grace on our behalf, is that grace is an unexpected gift. No performance earned it, and no relationship required it. God is kind to us in Christ because it pleases him to be so.

You have probably realized that chapter 4 is full of irony and sarcasm to which Paul adds exaggeration in verse 8. Garland explains, “The Corinthians’ basic blunder is that they ‘already see themselves as morally and spiritually perfected, without having to experience the bodily struggles which Paul sees as the sign of life in Christ.’”[4] They imagine themselves to have done all that without Paul!

With tongue in cheek, Paul contrasts the spiritual kings in Corinth (verse 8) with God’s apostles who are led behind a Roman victory parade and have only the expectation of death (verse 9). While the Corinthians are — to their own perception — wise, strong and honored, God’s apostles are foolish, weak and dishonored (verse 10). The painful list of hardships listed in 1 Cor. 4:11–13 recounts all those things Paul and the other apostles have endured to preach Christ crucified to the alleged spiritual champions in Corinth’s divided factions.

In 1 Corinthians 4:13, Paul sums up his apostolic experience by saying, “We have become the scum of the earth” and “the scrapings from everyone’s shoes”[5] — “right up to this moment” of reputed Corinthian spiritual triumph.

Just one question stands: Which of these two groups, the spiritually triumphant Corinthian factions or the mistreated apostles, bears a greater resemblance to Jesus crucified on a Roman cross?

Copyright © 2012 Barry Applewhite. 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) 133.

[2] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 136.

[3] Ben Witherington III, Conflict & Community in Corinth (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995) 141.

[4] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 138, citing D.W. Kuck.

[5] Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William. B. Eerdmans publishing Company, 2000) 365.

Exposition of 1 Corinthians 3:10–15 Grace and a test by fire

1 Corinthians 3:10–15

10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved — even though only as one escaping through the flames.

Paul consistently gives credit to God, but he does not hesitate to speak about the responsibility God has placed on him. When Paul mentions “the grace God has given me” (1 Cor. 3:10), Fee says, it “would refer especially to his apostolic task of founding churches.”[1] The updated NIV says Paul’s role was “builder,” but most other translations say “master builder” (ESV, NET, HCSB, CEB, NASB, NAB, RSV, NEB, KJV) for the Greek architekt?n, a combination of recognized skill and project oversight.[2] In matters of identity, details matter because it is God who has given us our identity in Christ. In relation to the Corinthians, Paul was not merely a wandering teacher, he was the God-appointed master builder.

Paul changes from the metaphor of the church as a field (verses 6–9) to the church as a building. What makes him a “skilled master builder” is that he laid the foundation of Christ crucified (1 Cor. 3:11). Now others are building on that foundation, but with what skill? “Each one should build with care” (1 Cor. 3:10).

Ben Witherington makes the notable point that “Paul’s work could be harmed either by the Corinthians tinkering with the foundation and changing it or by the Corinthians building the wrong sort of superstructure on the right foundation.”[3] The reason to build carefully is based on the certainty that a fiery day of testing is coming to “test the quality of each person’s work” (1 Cor. 3:13). Garland pointedly says, “Whether one’s work will endure awaits more than the test of time; it awaits the test of the end time.”[4]

Whether or not the Corinthians have concern for Paul’s opinion, “the Day” (1 Cor. 3:13) is coming when “the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.” David Garland says, “’The day’ refers to the end-time judgment (cf. Rom. 13:12; 1 Cor. 1:8, 5:5; 2 Cor. 1:14; Phil. 1:6, 10; 2:16; 1 Thess. 5:2, 4; 2 Thess. 2:2).” The more fully expanded name is the Day of the Lord, an Old Testament term that Paul converted into “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:8).

Verse 14 seems plain enough — “if what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward” — and yet it has produced controversy. Gordon Fee says: “The theme of ‘reward’ harks back to v. 8, and suggests that appropriate ‘pay’ will be given for appropriate labor. For some this has been a difficult idea to reconcile with Paul’s doctrine of grace [God’s kindness toward us in Jesus Christ] . . . . How can grace receive ‘pay’?”[5]

Your understanding of grace — God’s kindness — will be greatly enhanced if you pay attention to what it says about God rather than what is says about us. Out of a heart of love, God sent his Son to die for the sins of the world (John 3:16). This act had nothing to do with obligation and everything to do with the merciful nature of God. On this basis of Christ crucified, this gift of grace, God made it possible for us to accept the amnesty he offered and be saved from eternal judgment.

In a similar way, God was not obligated to offer reward for faithful service, but it pleased him to do so. Jesus expressly taught his disciples that he expected their faithful stewardship until he returned and that they would receive reward commensurate with that service, some more than others. See Luke 19:12–27, Matt. 25:14–28 and Matt. 24:45–51 for the details.

There will be some whose work is consumed by the fire of judgment (1 Cor. 3:15), and yet their salvation will stand. Garland aptly summarizes both outcomes by saying, “Brilliant work does not earn salvation; lackluster work does not lose it.”[6]

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



[1] 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) 137–138.

[2] Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William. B. Eerdmans publishing Company, 2000) 308.

[3] Ben Witherington III, Conflict & Community in Corinth (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995) 133–134.

[4] David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003)117.

[5] Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 143.

[6] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 118.

Exposition of 1 Corinthians 1:26–30 God’s grace brings him honor

1 Corinthians 1:26–30

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not — to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

In this section Paul demonstrates his deep insight into the shape of God’s wisdom and power. He asks the Corinthian believers to look around the room and see the kind of people God had summoned into unity with Christ (1 Cor. 1:26). If God operated his eternal kingdom according to the world’s values — the values of imperial Rome — most of them would never have been allowed in it! But Paul calls them “brothers and sisters,” so he is placing himself with them, not above them.

When Paul says, “Not many of you were wise by human standards” (1 Cor. 1:26), the italicized portion translates the Greek phrase that means “according to the flesh” (NIV marginal alternate). Garland explains that “It refers to evaluations made by unregenerate [non-Christian] humans employing criteria that are revealed to be bogus in light of God’s measures.”[1] The Greek word for “flesh” (sarx) generally refers to life and behavior prior to salvation. That is why the flesh is often contrasted with the Spirit, whose presence within a believer is proof that they belong to Christ (Rom. 8:9).

Garland than makes a crucial point: “These worldly norms only factor into the equation those things that can be shown off and admired. They foster boasting and self-reliance, which lead one to spurn God’s truth because it challenges all human illusions.”[2] These concepts will help you understand every part of First Corinthians!

Three times in verses 27–28, Paul speaks of God’s choosing, and three times he uses the phrase “of the world” to speak of the world’s estimation. It was the world that considered foolish and weak and despised those who were willing to entrust their lives to a crucified Christ. But those trusting Christ were the very ones God chose, and the very fact that he chose them will ultimately heap shame on those who clung to the world and its values rather than clinging to Christ.

What, then, do the weak, the foolish and the despised — in the world’s estimation — have to boast about? Only about God! Since God did everything to send Christ and make their salvation possible, he alone deserves the praise. Not one single Christian has anything personal to boast about in relation to their acceptance by God (1 Cor. 1:29). Those who chose the world’s values have even less to say.

God’s grace or kindness is assumed in 1 Cor. 1:30. It is more explicit in Ephesians 2:8–9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.” Our salvation is “from him [God]” (1 Cor. 1:30, HCSB and it is “not from yourselves” (Eph. 2:8, NIV).

God’s wisdom has been expressed for all time in Jesus Christ. We who have trusted the crucified Christ have received the righteousness, holiness and redemption that come only from union with him (1 Cor. 1:30). Since the only basis for our standing with God comes from God’s grace in Christ, it is him who we brag about. (All Texans take note!)

Copyright © 2012 Barry Applewhite. 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) 73.

[2] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 73.

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 Paul’s 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 Paul’s 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 Paul’s 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 Christ’s 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. 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 God’s 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 God’s 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 God’s 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 God’s “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]

Paul’s 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 Testament’s “day of the Lord” (Amos 5:18–20 and Joel 2:31) — a period including God’s 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. 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.