Paul spent about eighteen months at Corinth during his second missionary journey (Acts 18:1-11). Corinth was a city of approximately 400,000 and a commercial center for the Mediterranean region, located about 50 miles west of Athens. The city was home to the temple of Venus (Aphrodite) which involved prostitution in the name of religion. The immorality of the city made its way into the church, and was part of the reason for Paul's letter. It appears that he wrote an earlier letter regarding sexual immorality, and First Corinthians was written to clarify some of those points.
I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people--
1 Corinthians 5:9 (NIV)
First Corinthians (1 Corinthians)
Paul had heard much about the church in Corinth. They were in trouble, divided, immature. They were involved in abuse of the sacraments, the spiritual gifts, and each other. His response is to write a letter, boldly tackling the issues, both reprimanding them for their shortcomings, and encouraging them to live Godly lives. Throughout the letter, it is obvious that Paul knows the people to whom he is writing.
I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way--in all your speaking and in all your knowledge-- because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you.
1 Corinthians 1:4-6 (NIV)
Paul first addresses the church and appeals for unity to replace the divisions that were plaguing them. That was the message that Paul desired to relate to the church - give God the glory! It is not important who does what (e.g., the Paul versus Apollo conflict - 1:11-16) but rather that everyone recognize that God receives the glory.
I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.
1 Corinthians 1:10 (NIV)
The divisions within the church were not as important as the wisdom and plan of God. Man might think it is foolishness, but even God's foolishness is greater than man's wisdom.
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. ... For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.
1 Corinthians 1:18, 23-25 (NIV)
However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him"--
1 Corinthians 2:9 (NIV) quoting from Isaiah 64:4
The theme verse of First Corinthians is a call for everyone to give God glory through everything they do. If this is the basis on which we live our lives, we will be careful as to what we do in all aspects of our life.
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31 (NIV)
Outline of First Corinthians
|B||Reproof of Their Sin|
|Divisions in the Church||1:10-4:21|
|Lack of Discipline in the Church||5:1-13|
|Litigation in the Body||6:1-8|
|Lack of Purity||6:9-20|
|C||Reply to Their Questions|
|Concerning Meat Sacrificed to Idols||8:1-11:1|
|Concerning Head Coverings and Authority||11:2-16|
|Concerning The Lord's Supper||11:17-34|
|Concerning Spiritual Gifts||12:1-31|
|Concerning Tongues and Public Worship||14:1-40|
|Concerning the Resurrection||15:1-58|
|Treatment of Timothy and Apollos||16:10-12|
|Greetings and Benediction||16:13-24|
Paul emphasizes to his readers how important it was to rely upon the salvation that Jesus Christ alone can give, through the work of the cross. Nothing else can or will compare to this.
For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
1 Corinthians 2:2 (NIV)
Paul had sent his letter to the church at Corinth via Timothy, a young man who Paul often refers to as his son in the faith. He knows that the personal testimony of Timothy about Paul's teaching and consistent lifestyle would be important to the Corinthians.
For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.
1 Corinthians 4:17 (NIV)
One of the most well-known passages of the New Testament is First Corinthians 13, commonly called the Love Chapter. In it, Paul identifies several of the characteristics of love, and stresses its importance. He also relates our growth in the Christian faith to maturing from a child to a man, and how, as we grow and mature, we need to focus on faith, hope and love.
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:11-13 (NIV)
Paul, in his desire to correct and encourage the Corinthian church, stresses the gospel that had previously preached to the church at Corinth, and upon which the Corinthian church was founded. He concisely states that their faith was based upon the fact that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. Paul was a Pharisee, a student of Gamaliel, a doctor of the Law (Acts 5:34-40) so he was well-versed in the Scriptures. He was, as far as appearances would show, an accomplished man. However, he stresses that it is by the grace of God that he became who he was.
Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them--yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.
1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (NIV)
As knowledgeable as Paul was of the Jewish Law, he understood how sin, and its destructive results, had made its way into the human race through Adam. He contrasts the destruction of sin through Adam to the salvation of mankind accomplished through Jesus Christ, whom Paul calls the last Adam.
For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
1 Corinthians 15:22 (NIV)
So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.
1 Corinthians 15:45 (NIV)
After the contrasting of Adam and Jesus, Paul gives the glory and thanks to God, proclaiming the victory that is given to us through our Lord Jesus Christ.
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:57 (NIV)
Paul ends this letter as he often did, with a blessing to the readers.
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.
1 Corinthians 16:23 (NIV)