1 Corinthians (1 Cor)

Book 7 of the NT, having 16 chapters. Time to read: 1 hr. Written by Paul about AD 55 to the believers at Corinth, a major trade centre and seaport.

Key people: Paul, Timothy, Chloe’s household.

Outline: The fledgling church was emerging out of the corruption of the surrounding liberal environment of idolatry and immorality. Paul explained the freedom they had in Christ should not to cause another to stumble but also said let all be done ‘decently and in order’, and so bring glory to God (1 Cor 8:9-13, 10:31-33, 14:40). He gave teaching on various issues that were of concern and needed clarification, such as: the wearing of head coverings (an issue affected by the cultural conditions of the day); the celebration of communion; and disruptions in their services. The women were unschooled in the OT teachings, so when they embraced the NT doctrine they had a lot of questions which they asked during the church services resulting in chaos (1 Cor 11:1-34, 14:34,35).

Main lesson: “Love builds up...Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others” (1 Cor 8:1, 10:24). Then Paul enlarges on this stating unless we have genuine love and demonstrate it by our lifestyle, all our so-called spirituality and actions are futile (1 Cor 13:1-13). Read chapter 13 and let the Holy Spirit bring to mind areas that you need to work on. 

Key verses and thoughts: * “To those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy...” (1 Cor 1:2). God who initiated our salvation experience requires personal responsibility from us to be holy – will we rise to the challenge? We can’t attain this on our own, yet as we make choices in keeping with that pathway, divine assistance will be given to us. Instead of continuing in sin, confront and deal with it (1 Cor 3:16,17, 5:1-13). Even though “everything is permissible” (unless forbidden by scripture) “not everything is beneficial...I will not be mastered by anything”. “The body is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord...he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body” (1 Cor 6:12,13,18-20). All sin is destructive, however the ripples that are of a sexual nature spread out to encompass many.

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Cor 10:13). Praise God we don’t have to sin. Do I choose to take the non-sinning option of yielding to the Lord?

* “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus, 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 Cor 1:10-13). There should be complete oneness in the non-negotiable aspects of Christianity. In areas that the Bible is not specific about we need tolerance to accommodate the opinions and preferences of others. Love is to govern all our dealings and relationships, whether we agree or not. Paul elaborates further that such “jealousy and quarrelling are worldly”. Commitment should be to Christ, with our efforts focused on the main goal of presenting Christ to the lost world.  “Each will be rewarded according to his labour” as together we bring in the harvest (1 Cor 3:3-15). Co-operate with others to present a united case for the gospel rather than allowing small insignificant differences of Bible interpretation to become major barriers to weaken our witness. There is power in numbers as people work together for a common objective. The natural body is comprised of many different parts each having their own distinctive abilities, and yet harmoniously working together for the benefit of the whole; so also the spiritual body of Christ (the church). Am I vitally connected to a local church so I can give of myself as well as receive back blessing from them? Spiritual gifts are given for the benefit of the combined fellowship and to a measure will touch the unbeliever. Such divine abilities are to be employed in an orderly and appropriate way “for the strengthening of the church” always in the context of love (1 Cor 12:1-31, 14:1-39).

* “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” (1 Cor 1:18, 2:14). The spiritual eyes of the unsaved are blinded to the reality and hope that believers have in Christ (Jn 12:40). Even as Christians we live so far below what Christ died to obtain for us and is our right as children of God. How much is the power of God touching our lives and affecting those with whom we have contact?

* “Everything is permissible – but not everything is beneficial or constructive…Whatever you do, do it for the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:23,31). By functioning in our God designed role we will be effective and contributing to the overall mutual benefit of the whole as we in turn are enriched by the contribution of others (1 Cor 12:14-30). If, in all situations, we consistently lived by this rule of endeavouring to honour God to the best of our ability with His help what would be the effect on society?

See also: communion, 2 Corinthians, love, sexual sins, spiritual gifts, temptation, unity.