1 Corinthians Overview

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An Overview of the First Epistle to the Corinthians

Tod Kennedy, 1988

Introduction

Theme: The Corinthianís were an established church, taught by Paul, yet they had not responded well to his ministry (authority and Bible doctrine). They were carnal. Their carnality showed up in many forms. Paul wrote to correct the basis for their carnality and the various expressions of it.

1. Author: Paul the apostle (1 Corinthians 1.1-2).

2. Date: About AD 56, from Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16.5-9; Acts 19-20.3).

3. Historical background of Corinth:

3.1. General Background:

3.1.1. Corinth was an ancient city. It occupied a strategic location at the western end of the isthmus between Greece and the Peloponnese. The isthmus was 4 miles long, and saved a dangerous 200 mile sea voyage. The west harbor on the Isthmus was Cenchrea, and the east harbor was Lechaeum.

3.1.2. Corinth was a center of commerce and trade. It "...was a wide-open boomtown. San Francisco in the days of the gold rush is perhaps the most illuminating parallel" (Jerome Murphy-O'Connor. "The Corinth that Saint Paul Saw." Biblical Archaeologist 47.3 [September 1984]: 147).

3.1.3. Corinth was destroyed in 146 BC by the Roman general L. Mummius in revenge for an anti-Roman revolt. Julius Caesar had the city rebuilt in 46 BC. It became the capital of the Roman province of Achaia in 27 BC. The city rapidly regained her previous commercial prosperity.

3.1.4. Corinth also had a reputation for sexual liberty. "In classical Greek korinthiazw (literally `act the Corinthian') means to practise fornication; korinthia `etairai or korinthaia korai (`Corinthian companions' or `Corinthian girls') are harlots. The temple of Aphrodite on the Corinthian acropolis gave religious sanction to licence of this kind" (F.F. Bruce. The Book of the Acts. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980: 367n4). Jerome Murphy-O'Connor (BA 152) questions the sexual exploits and says, "From the point of view of sex, Corinth was no better or worse than any other Mediterranean port-city."

3.2. Political background:

 

3.2.1. The first century church was under Roman rule. God used Roman rule to protect, to consolidate, to extend, and to test His young church. Nero was the emperor at the time Paul wrote 1 Corinthians. Nero ruled from A.D. 54-68. He became the emperor at age 17 and committed suicide at age 31. The first part of his reign was adequate. The severe excesses for which he is remembered did not come until later.

3.2.2. While Paul was at Corinth during his first visit (about AD March 51 to September 52), Gallio was the procounsel there (Acts 18.12). A proconsul was a governor of a province which the Roman Senate administered. This type of province did not need a standing army. "Gallio was a son of the elder Seneca, the rhetorician (c. 50 B.C. c. A.D. 40), and brother of the younger Seneca, the philosopher (c. 3. B.C.-A.D. 65). He was born in Cordova shortly before the beginning of the Christian era, and his name originally was Marcus Annaeus Novatus, but after he came to Rome with his father in the reign of Tiberius, he was adopted by the rhetorician Lucius Junius Gallio, and thereafter bore the same name as his adoptive father" (Bruce, Acts 373). Gallio possessed wit and charm. He became procounsul in AD 51. He later left because of poor health. Gallio, Seneca, and other family members became victims of Nero's suspicions in AD 65. Gallio is important for at least two reasons: first, the mention of him in Acts 18 gives a specific date for Paul's visit; second, Gallio dismissed a case brought against Paul by Jewish antagonist to the gospel. The ruling had a far reaching effect because it set a precedent for other magistrates and assured imperial neutrality toward Paul's ministry for several years (F.F. Bruce. New Testament History. Garden City: Doubleday, 1972: 316-317).

3.2.1. The first century church was under Roman rule. God used Roman rule to protect, to consolidate, to extend, and to test His young church. Nero was the emperor at the time Paul wrote 1 Corinthians. Nero ruled from A.D. 54-68. He became the emperor at age 17 and committed suicide at age 31. The first part of his reign was adequate. The severe excesses for which he is remembered did not come until later.

3.2.2. While Paul was at Corinth during his first visit (about AD March 51 to September 52), Gallio was the procounsel there (Acts 18.12). A proconsul was a governor of a province which the Roman Senate administered. This type of province did not need a standing army. "Gallio was a son of the elder Seneca, the rhetorician (c. 50 B.C. c. A.D. 40), and brother of the younger Seneca, the philosopher (c. 3. B.C.-A.D. 65). He was born in Cordova shortly before the beginning of the Christian era, and his name originally was Marcus Annaeus Novatus, but after he came to Rome with his father in the reign of Tiberius, he was adopted by the rhetorician Lucius Junius Gallio, and thereafter bore the same name as his adoptive father" (Bruce, Acts 373). Gallio possessed wit and charm. He became procounsul in AD 51. He later left because of poor health. Gallio, Seneca, and other family members became victims of Nero's suspicions in AD 65. Gallio is important for at least two reasons: first, the mention of him in Acts 18 gives a specific date for Paul's visit; second, Gallio dismissed a case brought against Paul by Jewish antagonist to the gospel. The ruling had a far reaching effect because it set a precedent for other magistrates and assured imperial neutrality toward Paul's ministry for several years (F.F. Bruce. New Testament History. Garden City: Doubleday, 1972: 316-317).

3.3. Corinth at the time of Paul:

 

3.3.1. The length of the city wall was about 10 kilometers. The area inside was about 4 square kilometers (Murphy-O'Connor 149).

3.3.2. By the time of Paul it had a population of over 500,000.

3.3.3. Corinth had a stadium where athletic games were held every other year (Isthmian Games). They were held in the spring of A.D. 50, and Paul may have attended. The temple there was dedicated to Poseidon (Murphy-O'Connor 149).

3.3.4. The Acrocorinth on the southern edge of the city was the most imposing landmark. It was a 513 meter climb from the agora (market place). The temple of Aphrodite was on the summit.

3.3.5. The bema of Acts 18.12-17 was "a large platform in the middle of the shops that bisected the agora. Dominating the lower agora from a height of 2 meters, it was the rostrum from which magistrates addressed the city and had public proclamations read" (Murphy-O'Connor 154).

3.3.6. "As Paul glanced down the Lechaeum Road he would have seen the shops on either side and might have caught a whiff of the meat and fish markets further along. These are mentioned in a Latin inscription [Kent 1966: 127] containing the term macellum, `meat market,' which in Greek dress is the word used by Paul when he advises those who had scruples about eating meat offered to idols, `Eat whatever is sold in the meat market' (en makelloi...") (Murphy-O'Connor 153).

4. The events leading up to this letter:

4.1. Paul made his first stop at Corinth about March of AD 51 during his second missionary trip. He stayed until about September of 52. He witnessed and taught for 18 months (Acts 18.1-18).

4.2. Paul made an important stop at Ephesus about September of AD 53 during his third missionary trip. He remained until about May of AD 56, a stay of almost 3 years (Acts 19.1-20.1,31). Before Paul arrived in Ephesus Apollos had already been there and had gone on to Corinth (Acts 18.24-19.1).

4.3. Apollos returned to Ephesus discouraged over the Corinthian church while Paul was still in Ephesus (Acts 18.23-19.1; 1 Corinthians 3.4-9; 4.6; 16.12).

4.4. Paul apparently wrote a letter to the Corinthians (letter 1) from Ephesus that did not become a part of the Bible (1 Corinthians 5.9, 11).

4.5. While Paul was in Ephesus he learned from people associated with a person named Chloe, from Apollos, and from Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus about the turmoil in Corinth (Acts 19; 1 Corinthians 1.11; 16.12,17).

4.6. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians (letter 2) in response to what was happening in Corinth and probably entrusted the epistle to Timothy and the others when Paul sent them on ahead from Ephesus to Corinth. Paul planned to follow later (Acts 19.22; 1 Corinthians 4.17; 16.10).

4.7. When Paul wrote 1 Corinthians he planned to visit Macedonia and Greece, including Corinth, before he returned to Jerusalem (Acts 19.21; 20.1-2; 1 Corinthians 16.5-9). He later would return to Jerusalem from Corinth by way of Macedonia, Troas, Assos, Miletus, and on to Tyre, Ptolemais, Caesarea, and finally to Jerusalem (Acts 20.3-6, 13-14, 17; 21.3-19).

5. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians he was correcting problems and answering questions. Many of the Corinthians were confused, rebellious, and making wrong applications of Bible doctrine. Paul had to address such issues as position in Christ, mental attitude sins, factions, carnality, spirituality, arrogance, authority orientation, the ministry of the communicator, God's power in the believer, lawsuits, sex, marriage, divorce, status quo, doubtful things, spiritual freedom, the law of love, the law of liberty, the law of profit, the law of sacrifice, headship and authority, the Lord's table, the body of Christ, spiritual gifts, divine love, preparation of the believer, spiritual growth and the church assembly, physical resurrection, and orderly grace giving.

1 Corinthians  Outline

 

Section 1, Chapters 1-2

Foundation for Church Life

 

Chapter 1: Positional unity is by faith in Christ; experiential unity is by faith application of Bible doctrine

Chapter 2: God revealed and now teaches His wisdom through the Holy Spirit

 

Section 2, Chapters 3-11

Carnality in Church Life

 

Chapter 3: Carnality, spiritual production, and God's temple

Chapter 4: Antagonism and criticism toward the communicator of Bible doctrine is sin

Chapter 5: Separation from one characterized by consistent and well known sin

Chapter 6: Lawsuits, sin patterns, and the temple of the Holy Spirit

Chapter 7: Sex, marriage, and the status quo

Chapter 8: Knowledge and love, sacrificial food and the weak believer, the law of liberty and the law of love

Chapter 9: God's communicator should be well paid, but the ministry, not money, must motivate him

Chapter 10: Israel an example, idols and demons, the law of liberty and the law of profit

Chapter 11: Headship and authority, orderliness, and the Lord's table in the church assembly

 

Section 3, Chapters 12-14

Edification in Church Life

 

Chapter 12: God gives every believer a spiritual gift for necessary service in the church

Chapter 13: Love that God produces 

Chapter 14: The purpose of the communication gifts is edification (spiritual growth) of the church

 

Section 4, Chapter 15

Resurrection, Victory for the Church

 

Chapter 15: Christ's physical resurrection ensured the believer's resurrection

Section 5, Chapter 16

Personal Instructions to the Church

 

Chapter 16: Orderly giving, ministry instructions, and greetings

 

1 Corinthians Expository Outline

Section 1, Chapters 1-2

Foundation for Church Life

 

Chapter 1: Positional unity is by faith in Christ; experiential unity is by faith application of Bible doctrine

1. Every believer in Christ, no matter what his present spiritual condition, is a sanctified saint and the object of God's grace (1.1-3).

2. God provides the necessary spiritual gifts to churches so that each will have the means for spiritual growth and effectiveness in time while awaiting Christ's return. During this time Christ maintains believers in God's eternal plan so that each will be accepted before God as blameless (1.4- 9).

3. Believers should agree with and apply the Bible doctrine which God's appointed communicator teaches. This practice will produce genuine harmony and also settle present problems due to arrogance, quarrels, and factions (1.10-17).

4. God's salvation message and Christ the savior are powerful and wise, though unbelievers consider both to be weak and foolish (1.18-25).

5. God treats mankind in grace. Man can do nothing to earn a place in God's grace plan. Man's wisdom, power, and nobility stimulate human pride with the result that man tends to depend upon these relative merits and reject God's grace (1.26-31).

 

Chapter 2: God revealed and now teaches His wisdom through the Holy Spirit

1. The message which Paul witnessed and taught the Corinthians was not a human message delivered by human ability or persuasiveness, but he witnessed and taught God's message with humility, with God's power, and by the Holy Spirit's direction (2.1-5).

2. God's message, hidden wisdom from God, is more wonderful than man can imagine. God revealed it by the Holy Spirit to the apostles. Man by himself can never get or understand this message (2.6-10).

3. God's message, Bible doctrine, comes from God's thinking. Just as a man's thinking is his own secret, so Bible doctrine is God's secret, and the Holy Spirit must reveal this secret, and then teach it. The Father sent the Holy Spirit to do these things (2.10-13).

4. The natural man (soulish, unbeliever) will not and cannot understand spiritual truth by himself. Only the spiritual believer (the one who is walking by means of the Holy Spirit) is able to understand Bible doctrine (2.14-16).

 

Section 2, Chapters 3-11

Carnality in Church Life

 

Chapter 3: Carnality, spiritual production, and God's temple

1. The Corinthians' carnality or control by the flesh (which is a word used for the old sin nature) limited their ability to receive more than baby doctrine. Therefore their spiritual growth and spiritual options were limited. Their carnality expressed itself through jealousy, conflicts, criticism of Paul, and other problems noted in this epistle (3.1- 4).

2. Paul and Apollos were servants of the Lord. God used them to accomplish His purpose with the Corinthians and others through their spiritual gifts, authority, preparation in Bible doctrine, and through the Holy Spirit's ministry and power (3.5-10).

3. Jesus Christ (salvation gospel) is the foundation that Paul and every believer must first put down. Each must then build upon Jesus Christ by the agency of the Holy Spirit using Bible doctrine. The result is divine good production, lasting quality service which God the Holy Spirit produces in the believer as a result of the application of Bible doctrine. The foundation which each builds will be tested by God at the judgment seat of Christ. God will reward quality production (divine good), and destroy worthless production (human good--what man produces through his old sin nature and often based upon human viewpoint). Yet each believer will still enter into eternal life (3.10- 15).

4. The church is the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit, the place where the Holy Spirit lives during the church age. The Holy Spirit lives and functions there so that spirituality and divine good service and production are possible. Believers are forbidden to destroy (phtheirw corrupt, spoil, ruin) this temple through carnality, wrong foundations, and human good (3.16- 17).

5. Human wisdom (viewpoint) is foolishness to God, so believers should not follow it and consequently brag about men and their human wisdom. Instead, believers should apply the doctrine of spiritual blessings, which says that all of the plan of God (Bible communicators, the physical world, and other details) belongs to God, and that all spiritual blessings are grace gifts to believers (3.18-23).

 

Chapter 4: Antagonism and criticism toward the communicator of Bible doctrine is sin

1. Authoritative communicators of the Word are servants of Christ and stewards of God's mysteries. They are to be faithful to the Lord. God has prohibited others from examining, criticizing, or judging them. Furthermore, God forbids introspection by these communicators. The Lord Himself will examine, judge, and reward them at the judgment seat of Christ (4.1-5).

2. Do not place your own Bible understanding above God's gifted men (apostles and pastor/teachers) so that you criticize and judge them and other believers. This comes from arrogance and breeds more arrogance. The gifted communicators are among God's many grace blessings. All believers have graciously been given God's blessings. Arrogance, judging others, rejecting the ministry (authority and doctrine) of God's gifted men, and boasting contradictís God's grace blessings (4.6-8).

3. Apostles and all communicators are far removed from the world system's wisdom, power, honor, wealth, and practice. It is as though God has paraded them before the world like condemned men (4.9-13).

4. Paul has accepted this God-given position common to all communicators. What he does want is for the Corinthians to imitate his knowledge, certainty, and faith application of the plan of God. To assist the Corinthians in doing this Paul sent Timothy to refresh their memories (4.14-17).

5. God has supplied His power in order for believers to live the Christian way of life. Paul depends upon this power. Some of the Corinthians are arrogant, negative to Paul's ministry (authority and doctrine), and spiritually powerless. They talk behind his back, but are powerless face to face. If necessary, Paul will visit them and powerfully correct the trouble makers (4.18-21).

 

Chapter 5: Separation from one characterized by consistent and well known sin.

1. There is a continuing case of immorality by a church member, which the church and the public know about. The Corinthianís have become arrogant about it and flaunted it. The case and the reaction to it has been damaging to the church. Because the Corinthianís have had a wrong attitude toward the issue and the one involved, Paul must intervene through his apostolic authority. And so Paul authorizes Satan to carry out the sin unto death judgment against the one involved (5.1-5).

2. The Corinthianís are in Christ, and therefore by position unleavened. Paul tells them to not let leaven (a figure for sin and evil) affect them (5.6- 8).

3. Paul had written in the past about separation from those characterized by consistent and well-known sin. He was referring to believers, not nonbelievers. This separation requires Biblical thinking, authority, and decision (5.9-13).

 

Chapter 6: Lawsuits, sin patterns, and the temple of the Holy Spirit.

1. Since believers, by the very fact that they believe in Christ, will one day condemn the world (nonbelievers) and angels (fallen), they should not go to the world's legal system for judgments on matters between themselves (6.1-3).

2. Believers should not engage unbeliever law courts to settle disputes between believers. If there must be an authoritative decision, then believers should ask a qualified wise (mature) believer. The best solution is to leave these matters with the Lord. When believers take each other to court, it damages their Christian witness and each other (6.4-8).

3. Believers should not act like nonbelievers, people who are not members of God's kingdom. Nonbelievers are characterized by certain sin patterns. The Corinthianís, because they are believers, are different. They have been washed, sanctified, and justified through faith in Christ (6.9- 11).

4. Believers have the liberty to do or to have anything that is not prohibited by God (Paul is an example of this principle). But beware: Not everything is profitable or beneficial, and believers should not allow details of life (things which are allowed) to master them (6.12-14).

5. The body (which consumes details and is often controlled by them) is really for the Lord's use as the temple for the indwelling Holy Spirit. Immorality with a harlot is sin against the body because it brings a person's body under the harlot's control, and therefore the body is not mastered by the Lord (6.15-20).

 

Chapter 7: Sex, marriage, and the status quo

1. Paul now answers questions put to him about sex and marriage. He understands God's design for right man and right woman in marriage, and the Corinthian religious scene. Paul says that sex has its proper place in marriage, while lasciviousness in or outside of marriage is wrong. On the other hand, celibacy is also good if God has given one the ability for it. Asceticism in marriage is a wrong reaction to the Corinthian religious scene, or to the added time and responsibilities that marriage brings. If two people know they are right for each other, then they ought to marry. Within the marriage setting the man and the woman have physical responsibility to and authority over each other (7.1-7).

2. Widows and those who have never married may marry, but Paul believes that it would be more profitable for spiritual service for them to remain unmarried as he has (7.8-9).

3. The dissatisfied wife should not leave (separate from or divorce) her husband. If she does, she is to remain unmarried, or to reconcile with him. The dissatisfied husband is not to send away (divorce) his wife (7.10-11).

4. The believer who is married to an unbeliever that agrees to stay in the marriage should not divorce the unbeliever. This status quo sets the unbeliever and the children aside so that they may be influenced by the gospel. However, if the unbeliever wants to leave (divorce) the believer, the believer may let him/her go, and begin anew (7.12-16).

5. Believers are not to make sudden changes in their status (for example: circumcision or uncircumcision, slave or free, married or unmarried) simply because another choice appears better at the moment. Believers are to follow the will of God based upon Bible doctrine. This is the status quo principle (7.17-24).

6. Marriage or non-marriage is an illustration of the status quo principle. Because of the responsibilities that go with marriage, marriage will divide a believer's interests and time (7.25- 35).

7. Because of the time and responsibility that goes with marriage, it is better for a daughter to remain single, but her father has not sinned by giving his daughter in marriage (7.36-38).

8. If a woman chooses marriage, she must realize that she is bound to her husband until he dies, and that marriage will restrict her service to the Lord (7.39-40).

 

Chapter 8: Knowledge and love, sacrificial food and the weak believer, the law of liberty and the law of love

1. Knowledge that is not believed and used makes people arrogant, while Christian love sets up an environment that allows edification to take place (through knowledge of Bible doctrine combined with the practice of that Bible doctrine). The law of liberty states that the believer has the freedom to do things that are not forbidden by God in the New Testament epistles, and that he can do them without hurting his spiritual life. The law of love states that the believer should refrain from any activity which an untaught/weak believer does not understand is all right for him to do, so that this activity will not confuse and hinder the untaught/weak believer's spiritual growth (8.1-3).

2. There is only one God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), so we know that idols and so-called gods are nothing. God the Father has established His plan, and is the source of all blessing. The believer's mission is to live for Him and His will. God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the creator, savior, head of the church, and mediatorial ruler. He is the agent of all blessing, and the believer lives (eternal life and CWL) through Him (8.4-6).

3. Some believers did not understand the doctrines about God, idols, doubtful things, and liberty. They ate food that had been sacrificed to idols while not convinced in their own minds that it was all right for them to do this, and so they violated the false norms in their consciences (8.7-9).

4. Believers must be careful in the application of the law of liberty when with an untaught/weak believer who honestly does not have a Biblical understanding of the issue at hand and is confused. In this case the law of love will supersede the law of liberty. This caution is given so that the untaught/weak believer will be able to experience spiritual growth instead of spiritual regression (8.10-13).

 

Chapter 9: God's communicator should be well paid, but the ministry, not money, must motivate him

1. Paul and other Bible communicators have the authority and right to participate in normal activities of life such as eating, drinking, marrying, and expecting monetary support from those to whom they minister (9.1-6).

2. The soldier, farmer, and shepherd are paid for their work. Even the ox eats what he threshes. The plowman, thresher, and Hebrew priest receive pay. The Bible communicator has a greater job, and should be well paid for his ministry. However, he may apply the law of sacrifice, which states that a believer may set aside normal things in life so that God's grace will not be confused, and therefore the communicator will not take monetary support (9.7-14).

3. The Bible communicator does not proclaim the message in order to be paid; he does so because of divine compulsion. His reward is to offer the free gospel without charge. Giving money must never be confused with the gospel in the mind of the nonbeliever (9.15-18).

4. Paul found a point of contact or common ground with those to whom he witnessed. He did this so that they would listen and be able to better understand the message (9.19-23).

5. Paul compares the believer living the CWL to an athlete training for the Isthmian Games. In living the CWL there is a purpose (to accomplish the mission in the plan of God), training (preparation in the local church), competition (practicing what God has said), a place or environment for all of this to occur (the divine love environment), and a reward (the imperishable future rewards which God gives to His faithful servants) (9.24-27).

 

Chapter 10: Israel an example, idols and demons, the law of liberty and the law of profit

1. God greatly blessed Israel, the covenant priest nation, but Israel failed to believe and apply God's word. God recorded in the Bible His blessings to Israel, Israel's failures, and His discipline of Israel so that the church would have an example and a warning. Even though God's people fail Him, as Israel did, He has promised that He will never permit believers to be tempted beyond their spiritual ability to resist; He will provide the spiritual resources to the believer that are necessary to bear up under whatever he faces. When a believer fails, it is by his own choice (10.1-13).

2. Demonism and idolatry use and support each other. Idols are nothing, but demons get to people through idols. It is not possible to participate in any form of idolatrous activity without participating in demonism. Therefore, believers are warned to flee from idolatry (10.14-22).

3. The law of liberty states that the believer has the freedom to do things which are not forbidden by God in the New Testament epistles, and he can do them without hurting his spiritual life. The law of profit states that the believer should forego a correct action if it confuses the issue of Christ to the unbeliever. A believer has freedom to eat anything, even food offered to idols, but if doing this will confuse the unbeliever about Christ and free salvation, then the law of profit supersedes the law of liberty, and the believer should abstain (10.23-33).

 

Chapter 11: Headship and authority, orderliness, and the Lord's Table in church assembly.

1. The head-cover for the woman demonstrates acceptance of God's authority and order. The doctrine of headship/authority teaches that men are to teach and pray in the local church assembly with uncovered heads, and if women teach or pray, they are to cover their heads. Improper conduct in this matter brings disgrace upon the head/authority (11.1-6).

2. The man's head is to be uncovered and the woman's covered while teaching in the church assembly because the man is the image and glory of God, while the woman is the glory of man; because the woman was created from man and for man's help; because angels observe the assembled church; and because of the natural order of creation (11.7-16).

3. When the Corinthians gathered as a church they had divisions (schismata). This was sin. These splits showed up when they met together for the Lord's supper. They were selfish, and some became drunk (11.17-22).

4. The Lord's supper consists of the bread,which represents Christ's body or perfect humanity, and the cup, which represents Christ's blood or death as a substitute for sinners. The Lord's Supper is a memorial to Christ and a proclamation of His death, resurrection, and return (11.23-27).

5. Participation in the ritual of the Lord's Supper requires worthiness (fellowship with the Lord, the One this ritual honors). To participate while not worthy (out of fellowship with the Lord because of sin in the life) scorns the death and resurrection of Christ. Therefore a brief examination and self-judgment by confession of the sin is necessary, or God will administer divine discipline (11.28-34).

 

Section 3, Chapters 12-14

Edification in Church Life

Chapter 12: God gives every believer a spiritual gift for necessary service in the church.

1. A spiritual gift is the special ability given by God to each believer for ministry within the body of Christ. Paul wants believers to be knowledgeable about spiritual gifts. When they were unbelievers they were directed to speechless idols and the demonic mysticism behind the idolatrous cults. Now that they are believers, the Holy Spirit works through them with spiritual gifts to declare clearly the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ (12.1-3).

2. The Holy Spirit dispenses different spiritual gifts for the benefit of the church; the Lord Jesus Christ rules over the ministries; God the Father has established the plan for the accomplishment of all the activities that result from the gift and its ministries (12.4-7).

3. Temporary spiritual gifts were those given to the church in order to carry the church through its pre-canon or infancy period. The spectacular temporary spiritual gifts that the Corinthians abused are 1) word of wisdom (ability to put divine revelation into divine life situations, spiritual insight), 2) word of knowledge (ability to express the pertinent doctrine that was needed), 3) faith (ability above normal faith to trust God for the miraculous), 4) gifts of healing (ability to heal those who were sick), 5) effecting of miracles (ability to do something that is contrary to normal physical law), 6)prophecy (ability to receive God's Word and then to communicate this to people), 7) distinguishing of spirits (ability to distinguish demonic activity, which was often a spiritual counterfeit, from the Holy Spirit's activity), 8) kinds of tongues (ability to speak God's message in a language which the speaker had not learned), and 9) interpretation of tongues (ability to interpret the language spoken). Because of the mystical nature of these gifts, they would tend to be compared to the pagan mystical religious activities (12.8-11).

4. The church is called the body of Christ. All believers are baptized (identified with) into this body by the Holy Spirit at the time of faith in Christ. Christ is the head; believers make up the body (12.12-13).

5. This baptism produces a oneness, yet there is also diversity, because believers in the body possess different spiritual gifts. Each believer has a part to play, and each is necessary. There is teamwork and interdependence (12.14-27).

6. God has selected certain gifted men, the communicators of Bible doctrine, to have priority and authority in the church: 1) apostles (men chosen, given the highest spiritual authority, and gifted to communicate the Word of God before the Bible was completed, and to establish and organize the beginning church), 2) prophets (men gifted to communicate the Word of God before the Bible was completed), 3) teachers (men gifted to teach the Word of God). These men spiritually equip, lead, and protect the church. All believers are to be eager to benefit from their priority ministry (greater gifts). The other spiritual gifts function better when these three correctly fulfill their ministry. (Of these three, only the teacher [pastor/teacher and teacher] remains today in the period after the Bible has been completed.) The others include 4) miracles (ability to do something which is contrary to normal physical law), 5) gifts of healings (ability to heal those who were sick), 6) helps (ability to help, aid, assist those in church), 7) administrations (ability to steer, guide, implement a policy so that the objective can be accomplished), and 8) kinds of tongues (ability to speak God's message in a language which the speaker had not learned). Apostles, prophets, miracles, healings, and tongues were temporary spiritual gifts (12.28-31).

 

Chapter 13: Love that God produces

1. Divine love (Christian love or source-dependent love) is a fruit of the spirit, and therefore only God can produce it. Divine love is necessary even though a believer possesses spiritual gifts and makes personal sacrifice. Paul points out that divine love is the extraordinary quality that must combine with spiritual gifts and God's plan in order to yield effective service (divine good production). Without divine love all service is incomplete; the believer does not participate with the Lord in that service, and the one serving does not profit (13.1-3).

2. There are 15 characteristics of divine love. Love: 1) is patient (makrothumew, soul steadiness under pressure to react) 2) is kind (chresteuomai, gracious and beneficial) 3) is not jealous (zelow, upset that someone has something which you want) 4) does not brag (perpereuomai, talk about yourself and your accomplishments) 5) is not arrogant (phusiow, swelled head, big ego) 6) does not act unbecomingly (aschemonew, act with bad manners, embarrass someone) 7) does not seek its own (zetew, occupied with self) 8) is not provoked (paroxunw, easily irritated) 9) does not take into account a wrong (logizomai + to kakon, not accept as true or think about another's evil) 10) does not rejoice in unrighteousness (chairw + adikia, happy when evil or human viewpoint triumphs) 11) rejoices with the truth (sugchairw + te aletheia, happy when truth, divine viewpoint, truimphs) 12) bears all things (stegw + panta, cover over silently, keep bad things about self and others confidential) 13) believes all things (pisteuw + panta, believe the best, not the worst) 14) hopes all things (elpizw + panta, Biblically optimistic), 15) endures all things (`upomenw + panta, persevere under pressure to quit) (13.4-7).

3. Divine love will never fall from its position of extraordinary importance during human history. But Paul said that the temporary spiritual gifts (prophecy, word of knowledge, tongues, and other temporary spiritual gifts not mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13) would not continue on in history. The spiritual gifts of prophecy and word of knowledge would be abolished. The gift of tongues would cease. This reduction of the spiritual gifts which God gave out was to occur when the purpose for the temporary gifts had been accomplished. Their main purpose was to authoritatively witness to the new church age and to carry it through its infancy. Prophecy and knowledge provided partial divine revelation until the complete revelation was written down ("the perfect" [13.10] is the New Testament). The gift of tongues signified that a change in divine administration had occurred. The child-man illustration demonstrated that the complete would replace the partial, while the mirror illustration established that partial knowledge based upon temporary spiritual gifts gave an unclear understanding of the whole (13.8-13).

 

Chapter 14: The purpose of the communication gifts is edification (spiritual growth) of the church

1. The spiritual gift of prophecy was a more valuable and important spiritual gift for the early church assembly than the gift of tongues, because prophecy served to bring about the spiritual edification of the church, while the gift of tongues did not (14.1-5).

2. In order for a person to communicate for the benefit of others, or for a musical instrument to convey its message, each must produce distinctive sound and meaning. Each of the different languages in the world has its own meaning. If the language is heard by someone who does not know its meaning, there is no understanding and benefit. The same is true with the gift of tongues: unless the listener understands the language, he cannot benefit from the message (14.6-12).

3. If the gift is used where there are people who do not understand the language spoken, then there must be an interpreter present to translate, because if no one translates the language, the listeners do not understand the message, and so are not edified. And unless someone translates, the one speaking knows in his spirit that a spiritual gift has functioned, but he cannot engage in productive meditation about what he has said. Paul had the gift of tongues, and he knew that five words of instruction in a known language were better than thousands of words in an unknown language (14.13-19).

4. Around 720 B.C., God signaled Israel through the Assyrian people and language that He was judging Israel because of their unbelief. Very early in the church age, God again used that same kind of sign (God's message given in a Gentile language--this time through the gift of tongues) to signal the non-believing Jew that the nation Israel was under His judgment because of unbelief, and had been temporarily replaced by the church as the administrator of His plan (14.20-22a).

5. In contrast to the gift of tongues, the gift of prophecy was given for the benefit of the assembled church. This temporary spiritual gift was the ability to communicate God's Word to assembled believers for the spiritual growth or edification of the individual believers and the church as a body. When the prophet taught Bible doctrine, he spoke in the language of the audience. Everyone present could understand what he said. If a stranger or an unbeliever came and listened, he would also be able to understand the words. The prophet (the gifted man) functioned until the Bible was completed and the foundation of the church was laid (14.22b-25).

6. The Corinthian church was arrogant. The people emphasized the temporary and sensational gifts, especially the gift of tongues. In the assemblies, each person wanted to speak, and confusion and disorder prevailed. Paul declared that if they insisted on using the gift of tongues in the church meeting, only two or three people were to be allowed to speak in tongues, and then only if there was a translator. It was preferable to have the prophets teach. Two or three of them could instruct the congregation. Paul set out three points of policy: 1) the purpose of communication in the church was for edification, 2) women were not to teach doctrine in the church assembly, and 3) there must be order, not confusion (14.26-40).

 

Section 4, Chapter 15

Resurrection, Victory for the Church

Chapter 15: Christ's physical resurrection ensured the believer's resurrection

1. The gospel consists of this: Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He was raised and seen by many people. This is the message to proclaim and which people need to receive by faith in order to be saved. Paul was the last to see the resurrected Christ (15.1-8).

2. God graciously made Paul the most tireless and effective apostle to the church. He did this even though Paul had persecuted the church in the name of religion while an unbeliever (15.9-11).

3. If there is no resurrection as some claim, then Christ was never raised and we shall never be raised; we have lived a lie. The Christian message is then false, and all believers have a worthless faith and have no hope for eternal life (15.12-19).

4. Christ really did arise from physical death, and thus He defeated both physical and spiritual death. Christ's resurrection guarantees that God will raise every believer from physical death. After God the Father subjects all creation to the resurrected Christ's rule, and after all of the resurrections, and after death is abolished, then Christ will return God's kingdom back to the Father. Christ will continue to rule as the King for God the Father (15.20-28).

5. Resurrection affects present living for the believer: new believers take the place of believers who have died; believers endure danger and possible death because they remain faithful to the resurrected Christ; and they desire to live holy lives in the world. Why? Because resurrection is a fact; it stimulates believers to put God's plan into practice (15.29-34).

6. God resurrects believers from physical death. The new body which He will give will be from the old body and like the old body, yet will be different. The new body will be like Christ's: a heavenly body (eternal, sinless, fit for God's glory) and a spiritual body (without the physical limitations we now have) (15.35-50).

7. When God announces with the trumpet the resurrection of the church, every believer--those physically dead and those still physically alive--will be instantaneously changed. Each will have a resurrection body. God will do this because of the death and resurrection of Christ. At that time death will have been completely vanquished. This truth ought to encourage believers to remain faithful to the Lord because the Christian way of life does have purpose (15.51-58).

 

Section 5, Chapter 16

Personal Instructions to the Church

Chapter 16: Orderly giving, ministry instructions, and greetings

1. Grace giving should be planned, regular, orderly, and according to the prosperity which God has given. Sunday was the day which Paul suggested for giving, probably because it was one of the days that believers assembled for church. One of the purposes for grace giving was to help out believers under spiritual persecution (16.1-4).

2. Paul hoped to be able to visit Corinth again after his ministry in Ephesus and Macedonia during the third missionary trip. At the present time God had opened the door for ministry in Ephesus, so Paul could complete that assignment (16.5-9).

3. Paul instructed the Corinthians about several things: to respect Timothy's ministry, to stand firm in the Christian faith and act like believers should, and to submit to men in the ministry like Stephanas and others. Paul informed them of Apollos' decision to stay away from Corinth for the present, and he also told of his joy because Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus visited him (16.10-19).

4. Paul closes his letter to the Corinthians with greetings from himself and believers in Asia. He includes a warning, statements of grace from Christ, and of love from himself (16.19-24).

3.3.3. Corinth had a stadium where athletic games were held every other year (Isthmian Games). They were held in the spring of A.D. 50, and Paul may have attended. The temple there was dedicated to Poseidon (Murphy-O'Connor 149).

3.3.4. The Acrocorinth on the southern edge of the city was the most imposing landmark. It was a 513 meter climb from the agora (market place). The temple of Aphrodite was on the summit.

3.3.5. The bema of Acts 18.12-17 was "a large platform in the middle of the shops that bisected the agora. Dominating the lower agora from a height of 2 meters, it was the rostrum from which magistrates addressed the city and had public proclamations read" (Murphy-O'Connor 154).

3.3.6. "As Paul glanced down the Lechaeum Road he would have seen the shops on either side and might have caught a whiff of the meat and fish markets further along. These are mentioned in a Latin inscription [Kent 1966: 127] containing the term macellum, `meat market,' which in Greek dress is the word used by Paul when he advises those who had scruples about eating meat offered to idols, `Eat whatever is sold in the meat market' (en makelloi...") (Murphy-O'Connor 153).

4. The events leading up to this letter:

4.1. Paul made his first stop at Corinth about March of AD 51 during his second missionary trip. He stayed until about September of 52. He witnessed and taught for 18 months (Acts 18.1-18).

4.2. Paul made an important stop at Ephesus about September of AD 53 during his third missionary trip. He remained until about May of AD 56, a stay of almost 3 years (Acts 19.1-20.1,31). Before Paul arrived in Ephesus Apollos had already been there and had gone on to Corinth (Acts 18.24-19.1).

4.3. Apollos returned to Ephesus discouraged over the Corinthian church while Paul was still in Ephesus (Acts 18.23-19.1; 1 Corinthians 3.4-9; 4.6; 16.12).

4.4. Paul apparently wrote a letter to the Corinthians (letter 1) from Ephesus that did not become a part of the Bible (1 Corinthians 5.9,11).

4.5. While Paul was in Ephesus he learned from people associated with a person named Chloe, from Apollos, and from Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus about the turmoil in Corinth (Acts 19; 1 Corinthians 1.11; 16.12,17).

4.6. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians (letter 2) in response to what was happening in Corinth and probably entrusted the epistle to Timothy and the others when Paul sent them on ahead from Ephesus to Corinth. Paul planned to follow later (Acts 19.22; 1 Corinthians 4.17; 16.10).

4.7. When Paul wrote 1 Corinthians he planned to visit Macedonia and Greece, including Corinth, before he returned to Jerusalem (Acts 19.21; 20.1-2; 1 Corinthians 16.5-9). He later would return to Jerusalem from Corinth by way of Macedonia, Troas, Assos, Miletus, and on to Tyre, Ptolemais, Caesarea, and finally to Jerusalem (Acts 20.3-6, 13-14, 17; 21.3-19).

5. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians he was correcting problems and answering questions. Many of the Corinthians were confused, rebellious, and making wrong applications of Bible doctrine. Paul had to address such issues as position in Christ, mental attitude sins, factions, carnality, spirituality, arrogance, authority orientation, the ministry of the communicator, God's power in the believer, lawsuits, sex, marriage, divorce, status quo, doubtful things, spiritual freedom, the law of love, the law of liberty, the law of profit, the law of sacrifice, headship and authority, the Lord's table, the body of Christ, spiritual gifts, divine love, preparation of the believer, spiritual growth and the church assembly, physical resurrection, and orderly grace giving.