Survey of 1 Corinthians 1

Survey of 1 Corinthians 1

Paul had received a report from a family in the Corinthian church about the existence of contentious divisions in the church. After a brief salutation and greeting, the apostle gets to the business of addressing this dangerous situation. Following is an outline and brief summary of the chapter.

Salutation (1:1-3)

When Paul identifies himself, he establishes his authority in some very concrete language. First, he was called by the will of God. He did not take the apostolic office on himself. To the contrary, his calling came directly from the mouth of Jesus himself (cf. Acts 9, 22, 26). Second, his calling was to the apostolic office. He was an official representative of Jesus. He wore the same title as those who walked with Jesus personally. Since Paul was going to be handling some sticky situations and giving some specific instructions to the church, he wanted to remind them at the beginning that he had the authority to do so.

The recipients are called “the church of God…those sanctified in Christ Jesus…saints together with all” the others.

Gratitude (1:4-9)

As is typically the case, Paul expresses thanksgiving for the recipients of his letter while offering insight into the contents of his prayers for them. Yes, there is something even in Corinth for which he can be grateful.

Specifically, he is grateful for their reception of God’s grace. “Grace” is probably not being used in the typical sense of God’s unmerited favor bestowed at the time of conversion. Rather, Paul’s own amplification of what he means reveals that he has spiritual gifts in mind. The gifts are the particular manifestation of God’s grace for which he’s thankful.

They were “enriched” (made wealthy) in all speech (probably tongue-speaking, a gift very prevalent there and one they were proud of) and in all knowledge (another miraculous gift in their possession). Through these gifts, the testimony of Christ was confirmed among them (cf. Mark 16:20), and they are not lacking any such gift.

Another interesting thought regarding these gifts: Paul is thankful for that which was at the center of many of their problems (as we will see in chapters 12-14). This shows that the gifts, as such, were not the problem. They needed the gifts. But they also needed to use them properly.

In one of the more amazing parts of the letter, Paul affirms that he has confidence in them. Yes, Paul has confidence in this troubled church. He expresses his conviction this way: they are awaiting Christ’s return (7); Jesus will sustain them to the end (8); they will be guiltless at his coming (8); and the faithfulness of God is the foundation of this confidence (9).

Division Over Preachers (1:10-17)

Here Paul begins addressing the problems in the Corinthian church. The first of these problems is division. Having heard from Chloe’s family of their disunity, Paul appeals to them to be unified (10-11). Though they were dividing based on personal loyalties to preachers involved in their conversions, Paul takes their focus to Christ, the gospel, and the cross (12-17).

God’s Wisdom in Christ (1:18-25)

The cross is foolishness to those who don’t understand it. But for those who do, it is God’s power to save (18). God’s plan for the redemption of man – a plan with the cross at its center – may seem foolish to some, but it is actually the embodiment of God’s power and wisdom (19-25).

Jesus: the Only Ground for Boasting (1:26-31)

Paul reminds them that they were not among the wise, powerful, or upper classes. Yet God called them in the body of Christ (26-28). There is nothing in the gospel message, properly understood, that would lead one to boast in himself. Our only grounds for boasting is in what Jesus has done for us (29-31).