(Read 1 Cor 1:1-3)
Paul begins the epistle by introducing himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God. An apostle is the one who is sent with authority to speak for Christ. Paul’s apostleship was questioned by many in the Corinthian church (1 Cor 9:1-2; 2 Cor 10:10). Paul claims his apostleship on four grounds. He was a chosen vessel of God (Acts 9:15). Secondly Paul was personally commissioned by Christ (Acts 9:6). Thirdly he had seen the risen Lord (1 Cor 9:1-2). Fourthly Paul was the recipient of divine revelation (Gal 1:12). Paul joins his fellow worker of the gospel, Sosthenes to greet the church. The servants of Christ must have the confidence of their calling to become effective in their ministry. Paul identifies this church as the church of God. Church is made up of born again believers who are set apart for God’s special use (Act 20:28). They are called by God and sanctified in Christ Jesus. They receive positional sanctification when they get saved. They are progressively sanctified now by the Holy Spirit and will be perfectly sanctified when Christ returns (Heb 10:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 1 John 3:2-3). It was a church with many flaws yet united in Christ and greatly loved by God. They are expected to live in conformity to the will of God. Paul greets the church with a standard greeting of grace and peace. Grace is the foundation and peace is the result. They come from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace is the unmerited favor of God in Christ Jesus. Peace is the inward calm Christians enjoy in Christ. We can be confident of God's grace and peace because he is faithful in his promise (Is 26:3). They are united to Christ and blessed with all spiritual resources to enjoy God. Do you experience this joy and peace in Christ?
(Read 1 Cor 1:4-9)
Paul never stopped giving thanks for the Corinthian church. Their salvation was an evidence of God’s grace and power. They had been enriched with all eloquence and all knowledge. They did not lack in any spiritual gifts. Paul faithfully preached the gospel at Corinth. They responded to the gospel by believing and eagerly waiting for the return of Christ. They anticipated the day Christ will declare them blameless before God. Their confidence was in the faithfulness of God who saved them (1 Cor 1:7-8; 1 Thessalonians 5:24). God called them to the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ (1 Cor 1:9). Christian fellowship includes both union and communion. The believers had been brought in to union with Christ and communion with one another. The only way we can grow spiritually is by depending upon what God has provided for us in Christ (Ephesians 4:3-6). Are we thankful for Christian fellowship? Thanksgiving is the healthiest of all human emotions (Psalms 107:1, 2, 21). We are commanded to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Thanksgiving is the highest exercise of memory (Psalms 103:1-3). Thanksgiving makes us a much happier people. Lack of thankfulness is the sign of the last days (2 Tim 3:1-2).
Division in the Church: 1:10-17.
(Read 1 Cor 1:10-17)
Paul has received the report that there is division in the church (1 Cor 1:11). The church members were taking sides with their favorite leaders with attractive gifts. He approaches this problem by denouncing their factional spirit and calling them for unity. He exhorts them by the authority of an apostle for unity. He pleads with them to be of one mind and one purpose in Christ. There were four rival groups in the church. Some professed to follow Paul, the great teacher; some Apollos, the gifted orator and others claimed to follow Peter or Cephas who was with Jesus. Then there was a group claimed to follow only Christ (1 Cor 1:12). They downgraded the Lord to the level of human leaders. Paul never favored himself over other godly leaders at the expense of Christ. God’s servants are all on the same level (3:9). They are sent to proclaim the same gospel message. Paul argues against sectarianism in the church. Paul asks,“Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Cor 1:13)”. Paul was thankful that very few believers were baptized by him so that no one could accuse him of influencing people. He was sent not to baptize but to preach the gospel. Baptism was not necessary for salvation, otherwise Paul would have told us. Baptism is the public confession of identification with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection. Those who are saved should testify the Lord in baptism (Mat 28:19). Paul’s preaching was not with words of eloquent, wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power (1:17). The true source of power for ministry does not come from eloquence of the messenger but from the message of the gospel (Rom 1:16). God is the one ultimately saves sinners.
Christ is the wisdom and Power of God: 1:18-25.
(Read 1 Cor 1:18-25)
In the Corinthian church, there was an obsession for wisdom. Paul wants the church to place its confidence on the person of Christ and his accomplishments rather than human wisdom. Only Christ gives us right standing with God. He made our redemption and sanctification possible (1 Cor 1:30-31). Only the risen Christ can provide the transforming power believers needed. Paul singles out two groups; those who perish and those who are saved. Those who perish consider the preaching of the cross is foolishness. They rely on human accomplishment for righteousness. Those who are saved know that only the gospel has the power to save sinners (1 Cor 1:18). True wisdom is seeing life from God’s perspective. Paul argues that God will destroy human wisdom and make the wisdom of the world foolish (Isaiah 29:14). The world by its wisdom is incapable of knowing God (Job 11:7; Rom 1:20-22). God has used the foolishness of preaching of the gospel to save sinners (1 Cor 1:21). Jews seek miraculous sign to prove Christ's authority (Mat 12:38). Greeks seek wisdom (Acts 17:20). The preaching of the crucified Christ was a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Greeks. But to those who believe, it is the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:24). The foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest human plans. God’s weakness is stronger than the human strength (1 Cor 1:25).
Only Christ is Worthy of our Praise: 1:26-31.
(Read 1 Cor 1:26-31)
The factional spirit at Corinth was wrong because it is not consistence with the gospel message. The believers are called into the fellowship of Christ. The Corinthian believers were poor and not wise according to world standards. Many of them were not of noble birth. But God chose them to shame the wise and the strong. The selection of them was designed to silence the wisdom of the world. So that no one would boast in the presence of God. God revealed His wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption in Christ. The wisdom of God is demonstrated on the cross (Col 2:3). Christ is our righteousness (1 Cor 5:21). Someone has said "In justification, the righteousness is applied and in sanctification, righteousness is activated in us" (2 Thessalonians 2:13). Christians are redeemed from the judgment and power of sin (Rom 8:1). When Christ returns they will be redeemed from the presence of sin and their body will be glorified (Rom 8:23). Christ alone made us right with God. No one can boast before God. Christ alone is worthy of our praise (1:31; Jeremiah 9:23-24). When human wisdom becomes more important than Christ, it can cripple us spiritually. We should focus on Christ so that we can love and serve Christ. We should not look to circumstances but rejoice in God and his faithfulness. The hall mark of spirituality is the hunger and thirst to know Christ (Phil 3:10). Is Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior? Only Christ is worthy of our praise.