What did Paul write in the first epistle to the Corinthians?

  • Reports from Chloe's People (1 Cor. 1-4)
  • Further Reports (1 Cor. 5-6)
  • A Response to Their Letter (1 Cor. 7-16)


  • Reports from Chloe's People (1 Cor. 1-4) back to top

    After a brief salutation and thanksgiving, Paul turns to a report that came to him from Chloe's people. Chloe was probably a woman of wealth in Corinth whose servants were thought to have been among Paul's first converts. Paul was very concerned with some of the tendencies of the Corinthian people especially in regards to leadership, divisions in the church, and personal wisdom. There seemed to be some people who were claiming allegiance to Paul, some to Apollos, and still others to Cephas. This seemed to create some division among them and Paul decided to set the record straight. By claiming, "I belong to Christ" he was attempting to show them that they are in united in Christ. Neither Paul, nor Apollos, nor Cephas were crucified for their salvation, therefore the banner that they ought to claim allegiance to is that of Christ. Paul stresses the need to become fools for Christ because even God's folly is wiser than our wisdom. Their quest for wisdom had gone against their own personal confession as Christians, showed their lack of reliance upon the divine revealer of true wisdom - the Spirit, and furthermore had proven their infant nature. He reminds them that even their leaders were ultimately accountable to God and they ought to live as one people who are all of one inheritance. They are not to judge one another because God is the only valid judge who possesses the right to assess their deeds. In summation of this section, Paul exhorts them to live according to his example in Christian conduct. He says in essence, "follow me as I follow Christ."


    Further Reports (1 Cor. 5-6) back to top

    Paul receives report of some horrific immorality that was taking place among the Corinthian believers that goes beyond even that of the pagans. Their distorted view of Christian liberty had led to offenses such as a man who was having sexual relations with his father's wife, this kind of corruption was accompanied by a spirit of arrogance and the church had not gone about any disciplinary measures. Paul had instructed to them in an earlier letter regarding associations with immoral men. They were not to share the status or privileges of the body of Christ, particularly pointing to the Lord's supper, with those who are guilty of fornication, greed, idolatry, drunkenness, etc. In addition, Paul had received word that the Corinthian believers were going before pagan counsel in order to resolve suits against one another. He is giving a subtle reminder of the source of wisdom again here in his instruction regarding proper authorities in litigation. They are to cease the trivial cases among them, but in the case of legitimate disputes, they are only to come before those who are justified in Christ having access to the wisdom of God through the Spirit. He also addresses the supposed spirituality of men who thought they were free to exploit prostitution. The misconception began with their understanding of the way in which all things are lawful. Paul attempts to clear up their confusion by adding that while all things are lawful, not all things are beneficial. That is, the gospel of liberty is by nature free unless we allow those things that are not profitable to the Christian life to enslave us.


    A Response to Their Letter (1 Cor. 7-16) back to top

    In this the largest section of Paul's letter to the Corinthians he attempts to answer some of the questions they raised in their earlier letter to him. He begins with a long section giving advice regarding the many different facets of marriage. He speaks to the diverse situations of: the married, unmarried, those facing divorce, mixed marriages, virgins, and widows. He answers the question of meat sacrificed to idols, and the sanctity of the Lord's table. Paul identifies his apostleship with a commitment to self-denial. The Christian walk is to be characterized by this kind of self-sacrifice and must be accompanied by a conscious self-control. There were 3 problems Paul seeks to resolve: Relationships between men and women, abuses of the Lord's supper, and the distribution and exertion of Spiritual gifts. He then talks about diversity in unity, the supremacy of love, and more on spiritual gifts as essential attributes of the body of Christ. Paul concludes this section with a theological look at the resurrection of the believer. Among his detailed explanation of its importance Paul stresses its historicity, its first fruit and harvest, the believers participation, and it efficiency in salvation.