THE BOOK OF ACTS
PAUL WRITES 1 CORINTHIANS - Part One
From the NKJV Persoanl Study Edition -
Nelson publishers, 1990, 1995
First Corinthians is Paul's instruction to his most problematic
church. The abiding principles in this letter are helpful in
solving problems of churches in every age. Paul's great hymn of
love (ch.13) and his lengthy treatise on the Resurrection
(ch.15) are two of the best known passages in this book.
AUTHOR AND DATE
The apostle Paul is almost universally recognized as the author.
He identifies himself both at the opening of the epistle (1:1)
and in his closing signature, "The salutation with my own hand -
Paul's" (16:21). The early church accepted the letter as Pauline,
confirming its authenticity.
The epistle was probably written about A.D.55 during Paul's third
missionary journey. In 16:8 he remarks, "I will tarry in Ephesus
until Pentecost." Since he was planning his departure, he
probably wrote 1 Corinthians during the last of his three years
in Ephesus (Acts 20:31).
Paul had established the gospel in Corinth during his second
missionary journey (Acts 18:1-17). Arriving there, he lodged with
Aquila and Priscilla and began preaching to both Jews and
Gentiles. Many were converted, including Justus and Crispus. Paul
remained for about eighteen months, ministering fervently in
spite of great opposition. Apollos continued the work at Corinth
after Paul left (see Acts 18:24-19:1).
The Corinth which Paul knew had been founded as a Roman colony
during the century before Christ. It was strategically located in
the Roman province of Achaia on a narrow strip of land between
the Aegean Sea and the Adriatic, with two adjoining ports.
Corinth's location made it a center of the trade routes passing
from east to west.
Prosperity brought luxury and immorality. "To live like a
Corinthian" meant to live in gross immorality. Many pagan temples
located in Corinth encouraged this licentious way of life
by keeping prostitute priestesses.
Some of Paul's converts may have been Gentiles attracted to
Judaism. They were interested in monotheism but unwilling to be
circumcised. Others evidently came directly from a pagan
background. He warns them against idolatry (10:14-22) and reminds
them that they once lived in gross immorality (6:9-11) so typical
of their city. The Corinthian church was very diverse, including
men and women, rich and poor.
First Corinthians addresses serious doctrinal and ethical
problems that had arisen after Paul had founded the church on his
second missionary journey. (1) The Corinthian Christians
developed conflicting loyalties to different human teachers. (2)
They believed that spectacular grits were the sign of true
spirituality. (3) Some thought it did not matter what one did
with his body, because the spirit was the important thing. (4)
Perhaps they thought it was unspiritual to believe in a
resurrection..... (5) Others believed that Christians must
abstain from sex even in marriage. These beliefs led the
Corinthians into pride, lack of concern for each other,
immorality, and the danger of falling back into idolatry.
In 1:1-4:21 Paul deals with the report from Chloe's household
that there were divisions in the church. He wants them to
understand that salvation is not based on human wisdom or
personalities, but on Christ crucified and the work of God,
building His church. In 5:1-6:20 Paul addresses questions of
immorality at Corinth. It was shame for them to allow a person
living in gross immorality to continue in the church (5:1-13).
They disgraced the name of Christ by taking their fellow
Christians to court (6:1-11).
Their bodies belonged to the Lord and were not to be used for
sexual immorality (6:12-20).
In 7:1-16:12 Paul answers the questions raised in their letter to
him. He instructs them on Christian marriage and sexual practice
(7:1-40). They might eat meat that had been offered to idols, but
they should do nothing that gave even the appearance of idol
warship (8:1-11:1). Church worship should be conducted decently
and with consideration for others (11:2-34). Spiritual gifts
should be used for the building up of others (12:1-31) in true
Christian love (13:1-13). Prophecy is better than tongues because
it edifies (14:1-40). Because Christ has risen (15:1-11), we too
will rise (15:12-34) with anew spiritual body (15:35-58). As is
typical of his letters, Paul concludes with final instructions a
OUTLINE OF 1 CORINTHIANS
I. Introduction 1:1-9
A. Salutation 1:1-3
B. Thanksgiving 1:4-9
2. Divisions in the church 1:10-4:21
A. Divisive parties 1:10-17
B. The power of the gospel 1:18-2:5
C. Divine revelation 2:6-16
D. Carnal Christians 3:1-23
E. The faithful preacher 4:1-21
3. Moral failure in the church 5:1-6:20
A. Refusal to discipline an offender 5:1-13
1. The problem 5:1,2.
2. The solution 5:3-8
3. Separation from immoral people 5:9-13
B. Lawsuits among Christians 6:1-11
C. Misuse of the body 6:12-20
4. Marriage in the church 7:1-40
A. Marriage and sexuality 7:1-7
B. Marriage and celibacy 7:8,8
C. Marriage and divorce 7:10-16
D. Spiritual contentment 7:25-40
E. Marriage for virgins and widows 7:25-40
5. Christian liberty 8:1-11:1
A. Principles of spiritual liberty 8:1-13
1. Knowledge and love 8:1-6
2. Conscience and liberty 8:7-13
B. The example of Paul 9:1-17
C. The example of the Israelites 10:1-13
D. The christian and idol feasts 10:14-22
E. Applying christian liberty 10:23-11:1
6. Public worship 11:2-34
A. Women in public worship 11:2-16
B. Conduct during the Lord's Supper 11:17-34
7. Spiritual gifts 12:1-14:40
A. Spiritual gifts differ 12:1-11
B. Spiritual gifts produce unity 12:12-31
C. Love is better than spiritual gifts 13:1-13
D. Prophecy superior to speaking in tongues 14:1-40
8. The resurrection 15:1-58
A. Christ's resurrection and ours 15:1-34
1. The resurrection of Jesus 15:1-11
2. The resurrection of believers 15:12-34
B. The resurrection of the body 15:35-58
9. Conclusion 16:24
A. The nature of Christian giving 16:1-4
B. Paul's future plans 16:5-12
C. Concluding instructions and greetings 16:13-24
End of Quotes
Paul gives thanks to God for the brethren at Corinth and
their abundance of spiritual gifts. He then goes on to say they
have stepped over the line in "party spirit" and developing
"religious cell units" around certain "favorite" apostles they
had formed themselves around and made their captain. He asked
them if Christ is divided, or was any of their favorite apostles
crucified for them. No, it was Christ, and He is not divided was
Paul's intimated reply. He tells them he is thankful that he was
not sent to baptize people but to preach the Gospel.
And then he says the Gospel is to the "wise of this world"
as foolishness, but its simple message, the power of God to those
who are called. And this thought of "calling" triggers the
comment that it is not the mighty and the wise of the world who
are called, not many of those "educated" and of high positions in
the world's systems are called, but it is the relatively "weak"
of the world that God is mainly calling. And so in the end the
weak figuratively, will be used to bring down the mighty to
humble repentance and salvation one day.
In God's plan of salvation for the world, and the way He is
bringing it to pass, no one will be able to glory in themselves,
but everyone will have to glory in the Lord.
Paul reminds them that when he preached among them it was
not as a polished "university" PhD of speech and debate, but he
preached only the simple message of Jesus Christ and Him
crucified for the sins of the world. He preached to them the
Messiah as personal Savior. Paul said he did not use "enticing"
words, or we may say today, he did not use fancy, complicated
high-and-mighty and politically correct jargon, that only lawyers
can understand. Paul preached Christ and Him crucified to them,
but that does not mean Paul did not preach other things at other
times to other people. We see this truth brought out in the last
words of the book of Acts, where he taught also the Kingdom of
What Paul preached to them was the wisdom of God, in a
mystery to the world, not understandable to the unconverted,
unrepentant minds of the vast majority of people. Yet, this
hidden mystery was revealed to them by the Spirit. It is only the
Spirit of God that can understand God much like the mind of man
is only able to understand the mind of man, no animal can
understand man. So the mind of God was passed on to them
through the Spirit of God, and the Holy Spirit leads to teach and
understand God's mind, which only those who have the Spirit of
God can comprehend. No man can instruct God, yet Paul finished
with wonderful words that Christians "have the mind of Christ."
After stating what he just told them, Paul must put it all
in perspective with the present facts of what he has been told is
going on in their congregation. There was strife, envy,
divisions, and so to Paul this was evidence that they were yet
"babes in Christ" - not even "spiritual teens" but still little
"babes." He was pulling no punches here, yes, at times Paul could
get very blunt, telling it like it was, laying the cards on the
table. He goes back to commenting on how they had stepped over
the line of "friendship" and "I enjoy his way of teaching" to
making teachers like Apollos and himself, into little or we
should say big, idols, like swooning over a Hollywood star. Each
group within the church had their 'hollywood idol" we might say.
Paul tells them that all apostles and ministers of God are
laborers together with God, really the Lord's servants and
everyone, all Christians, are the building of God. The foundation
of the building is Christ Jesus. We might say that one does the
laying of the cement, another puts up the wooden frame, another
after that comes along and does the decorating work, but it is
all built on the bedrock of Jesus Christ, and God is the overall
foeman guiding it all, providing all the materials and tools.
But Paul says those who work on the construction of the
house do need to take care how they construct and do their work.
It needs to be done correctly so it will stand the test of
judgement, for we must all appear before Christ to give account
of what we did with what we were given to do.
Paul continues his thought. Stewards are to be faithful, but
will have to give account in the end. Paul says he will have to
give account to God. And so they should not try judging. They
were judging apostles by taking "sides" with this one or that
one, as making "idols" of them, and so in essence saying this one
was "good" and this one "not good" in the work of God. Paul said
this kind of judging was not good or proper at all.
Then they were making merchandise of each other, puffed up
against one another. Each little sect within the congregation
with their man-made "Hollywood idol apostle" was acting vainly
towards the other little sects with their "Hollywood idol
apostle" - saying and acting like all others outside their little
group were "the pits."
He tells them with tongue in cheek, that while they were
wise and lofty, the apostles were low and made a spectacle to the
world. He tells them they were often close to death, often
hungry, and thirsty, not well dressed, often physically
mistreated, and had no certain "put down roots" home.
He wrote these things not to shame them but to give them a
"loving warning." And the bottom line he told them is that Christ
may have ten thousand instructors doing His work, but only ONE is
our Father, for all Christians are begotten to the Father through
Paul says he is sending Timothy to them to back up all that
he has written and is writing as he pens this epistle to them.
And to those who are "puffed up" in attitude because they think
he will not personally come to them...well they had better
watch-out, for if the Lord will, he tells them he will come to
them. But in coming he will come with the "power" of the Kingdom
of God, and as we know Paul did have much power of miracles at
So he finishes that thought with asking them what way they
wanted him to come - with a rod, like a task master, or with the
spirit of meekness.
He was no doubt hoping they would repent of their errors and
so then desire him to come with softness and meekness.
Oh, yes, Paul could get very thorny and abrasive when the
situation called for it. But as we shall see from other parts of
his epistles, he could also be very kind, very gentle, and most
loving and encouraging, and so thankful to people for their
service in the Lord's work, and service to the brethren. Many
think Paul was "against women" but nothing could be further from
the truth, as we shall see in future chapters.
There was sexual misconduct in one specific instance of note
in Corinth, which we read about in the first verses of chapter
five. A man was having sex with his father's wife. The
congregation as a whole was looking the other way, taking on note
of it, or certainly not doing anything about it. They were just
letting the fellow do this sin, while everyone knew about it, it
was open knowledge what he was doing. Paul said though he was not
with them in person, he had already judged this matter, and so he
was pointing out to them that they needed to judge it also.
We see here immediately that in some situations God's people
are to "judge" some matters. The key is having "righteous
judgement" as Jesus said His disciples needed to have. Paul
instructed them that when they all came together there should
only be one way to judge this gross sin, and that was to
disfellowship, or put out of their fellowship the man who was
obviously un-repentant of this sexual sin. Their glorying as
thinking it was very gracious of them to look the other way
concerning this man's sin, was NOT good, and the man if put out
of their fellowshipping, may come to repentance as he is
"given back to the world" in a figure of speech. At any rate it
was clear to Paul that allowing such sin would lead to other sins
just as bad, in their congregation, until the whole group of
them, like a piece of bread dough, would be infested with the
leaven of wickedness.
Verses 7 and 8 are important teachings of the Passover and
feast of Unleavened Bread. The Corinthians were to put out this
leaven of gross sins and wickedness that they were allowing, and
be spiritually unleavened as they were physically unleavened.
Yes, this very letter that Paul was going to send them was
written during the feast of Unleavened Bread.
The comments by Conneybeare and Howson in their famous old
work called "The Life and Epistles of Paul" gives us the true
insight of these verses.
"The date of this Epistle can be fixed with more precision
than that of any other. It gives us the means of
ascertaining, not merely the year, but even (with great
probability) the month and week, in which it was
written.....He wrote during 'the days of unleavened
bread' ....1 cor.5:7...and intended to remain at Ephesus
till Pentecost (16:8, cf, 15:32).....
In spite of the opinion of some eminent modern commentators,
which is countenanced by Chrysostom, we must adhere to the
interpretation which considers these words as written at the
Paschal season, and suggested by it. The words 'leaven' -
'lump' - 'Paschal Lamb' - and 'feast' all agree most
naturally with this view. It has been objected, that
St.Paul would not address the Corinthians as engaged in a
feast which he, at Ephesus, was celebrating; because it
would be over before his letter could reach them. any one
who has ever written a birthday letter to a friend in India,
will see the weakness of this objection. It has also been
urged that he would not address a mixed church of Jews and
Gentiles as engaged in the celebration of a Jewish feast.
Those who urge this objection must have forgotten that
St.Paul addresses the Galatians (undoubtedly a mixed church)
as if they had all been formerly idolaters (Gal.4:8); and
addresses the Romans, sometimes as if they were all Jews
(Rom.7:1), sometimes as if they were Gentiles (Rom.11:18).
If we are to take 'as you are unleavened' in a metaphorical
sense, it is scarcely consistent with the previous 'cast out
the old leaven;' for the passage would then amount to
saying, 'Be free from leaven (metaphorically) as you are
free from leaven (metaphorically;' whereas, 'Be free from
leaven (metaphorically) as you are free from leaven
There seems no difficulty in supposing that the Gentile
Christians joined with the Jewish Christians in celebrating
the Paschal feast after the Jewish manner, at least to the
extent of abstaining from leaven in the love-feast. And we
see that St. Paul still observed the 'days of unleavened
bread' at this period of his life, from Acts 20:6....."
Very sensible and logical words and thoughts from those two
old Bible scholars.
Verse 8, Paul tells them to CONTINUE observing (the Greek is
in the "present" tense - action continued) the "feast" or as the
margin says, "holy day" with the putting out of the leaven of
malice and wickedness, and continue it with the unleavened bread
of sincerity and truth.
In verse 9 we see the truth that Paul did write more
epistles than what we have preserved in the New Testament. God
has preserved for us what is necessary for this Christian age.
Paul instructs them that they are not to fellowship with
gross open sin, and gives a list of what some of those sins might
be. This is the context of that type of sin talked about in the
first verses of this chapter. Such out in the open sins cannot be
allowed to operate in the church without the church taking some
action on those openly practicing such sins. Paul is writing to
tell them that the action to be taken is to disfellowship such
sinners, from their congregation, and not to have "social
buddy-buddy" friendship with them until they have repented, and
then of course spiritual and social ties can again be practiced.
He explains that this type of judging cannot apply to those
in the world, the unconverted outside the Church of God, for then
they would have to live as hermits. Sometimes in your secular
work you have to work with and maybe sit and eat meals with
someone who is known by all as sexually immoral as a way of life.
He says we judge and must judge at times, those in our Christian
community and congregation, but God will judge those outside in
the unconverted none-Christian world.
Now Paul's mind in talking about "judging" goes to another
problem the Corinthians had, and that was the situation that some
brethren were taking other brethren to the courts of this world,
for one reason or another. He tells then quite frankly that that
situation should NEVER be done or practiced inside of the Church
of God. He reminds them that the saints are one day to rule and
judge the world. All the prophets and all the Scriptures foretold
this age when God's children will rule and judge the nations of
the earth under the Messiah. Jesus you will remember told his
twelve disciples that they would in the Kingdom of God, sit on
twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
So, Paul argues, if we are to judge the world one day, then
we should be able, within the church, to judge certain matters
between brethren, and not take each other to secular law courts.
It was to Paul an outright shame that they were acting like
there was not one single person in their congregation spiritually
wise and mature enough to judge these secular matters, that were
arising between themselves. It was a shame to Paul that those
people that Christians often and basically looked upon as really
"least wise" and "least esteemed" in spirituality, the
unconverted, were ending up as judging secular matters between
It simply was not to be done, taking brethren to secular
courts of law. Paul was quite emphatic on the matter.
He finishes this chapter by laying the cards on the table,
pulling no punches, with certain sins, and especially the sexual
immoral sins. A good modern Bible translation will make it all
The sexual immoral sins effect the very physical body, and
Paul tells them that the physical body of the Christian is the
very Temple of God. It is to be taken care of in physical ways,
and immoral sexual sins are not the way to take care of the
temple where the Holy Spirit dwells. He reminds them that they as
a whole person, body as well as mind, had been bought by God. We
know from many of Scriptures that God bought us by the death of
His Son Jesus Christ.
And so we really do not belong to ourselves to practice
The Corinthians had written to Paul concerning some matters
that they needed guidance on. And here he answers them with,
sometimes the very written word of God on the matter, and
sometimes with his own wisdom and guidance, yet he would classify
his guidance as being from God, as he was inspired by the Holy
Spirit (see 1 Cor.14:37). And the Lord had Paul's council written
down and part of the New Testament inspired words of God, so
Paul's advise was inspired Scripture.
We need to "context" much of chapter seven within the 26th
verse. Very important to context a lot of what Paul said here
with verse 26th. It was a time of "distress" in some way for the
church at Corinth, we are not told what this was in any specific
He tells them that sexual intercourse should be continued on
a regular basis, and only not, in times of fasting and prayer
He implies that he was at this time of his life a single
man, not married, and that "for this present distress" (v.26) the
unmarried and widows should remain unmarried, but if they were
deeply in love, they could marry, so they would not "burn up"
(mentally and emotionally) with love and sexual desire for the
one loved (verses 7-9).
To the married (couples - both being members of the church)
he writes that it is God's command to remain married, and no
divorce should be thought as okay under "the present distress"
(v.26). If they did separate they should remember they were still
married to each other, and should come together again (verses
Paul gives his judgment (but it is as chap.14:37) on one
mate being converted and the other not. If the unconverted
desired the marriage to hold, then the converted should not seek
divorce, but if the unconverted left and divorced the Christian,
then the Christian was not bond to the marriage, and could
re-marry (verses 12-17).
Paul addresses the various "callings" or "secular positions"
one may be living or working in, when called by God to His way of
live and to salvation (verses 18-24). Here is a key verse
concerning "physical circumcision" - verse 19. It is in the
Gospel age...NOTHING! We have already seen all this issue in
previous chapter. Physical circumcision was not necessary to be
saved. So if you were circumcised when called of God, okay, don't
try to become uncircumcised (and in deed there were methods
invented to un-do it, to stretch the skin once more to cover the
head of the penis), and if uncircumcised when called of God,
don't think of becoming circumcised.
There are many situations in life that a person could be
living in as to secular vocation, i.e. a servant, or butler, is
one used by Paul. Paul's teaching would be that when called by
God you are to obey the commands of God (v.19, they were still
the important thing) and do your job. If you could be freed from
your secular job, because in the long run it would be better for
you and for your employer, who now has this "odd Christian
fellow" working for them, with odd and strange customs to
observe, the employer might well think, then GO FREE, Paul said.
Take the example of being a "butler." You are called of God,
to serve Him and obey His commandments. Now you tell your
employer that you cannot work as doing butler duties on the
weekly Sabbath. He may agree to let you have the Sabbath hours
off. All is then well and fine. Your occupation is one that does
not violate any of God's other laws. You may want to continue in
that occupation as you serve God. On the other hand, your
employer may not be willing to let you have the Sabbath hours
off, it just would not "work" for him, he has too many business
deals and too much entertaining to do on weekly Sabbath, so he
"lets you go free" or he "fires you" - then Paul instructs,
that's okay also, you are free from that occupation, but you are
still God's servant. If you can stay in an occupation that is not
against God's way of life (working as a printer for a
"pornographic" magazine would be against God's commandments to
start with, and a new Christian would have to leave anyway), say
as a "servant" and you can serve God, then you are God's servant
within that occupation, you are a "freeman" spiritually
speaking. Then on the other hand, if being called to God's way
you are set free from your occupation, then you are still
The bottom line again with Paul was "You are bought with a
price; be you NOT the servants of men." God must come first, His
commandments come first (verse 19). Yet if you can "work it out"
(and the occupation is not against God's laws) with your
employer, so you can serve God, then stay in your occupation
Of course all this has nothing to do with "you must stay in
your occupation" after being called by God. Any Christian can at
any time move to work in other occupations, or move to a better
secular job, for better pay, or whatever other legitimate reasons
there are to consider in changing jobs, or changing employers, or
moving to another part of the country.
Paul gives his judgments at that "present distress" for
virgins in verses 25-26. He saw it better to stay single, but if
deeply in love, it was not wrong to marry. Yet for that present
distress, in an over all way, he thought is better not to marry
if you were not married, but single (verses 27-28).
He puts in perspective the life of the married and life of
the un-married, as under the time of "present distress." It would
be easy in a physical way to just have to care for yourself, just
having to think about yourself. When times are difficult, the
stress can be even more stressful if you have to think about more
persons than just yourself. As being married you have other
responsibilities to think about other than focussing on just
God's will and way, under a time of stress and difficulties,
which can distracts us. Being single under those times, we have
less to distract us from attending to God's work.
But he finishes again by saying even under times of
difficulty and distress, if anyone believes it is not right for
the one they love, or for their daughter (or I suppose son - God
is no respecter of person) to not marry, when they really should
be marrying, they could marry. It was not a sin to marry. But
"for the present distress" they were overall better off to wait
until a later time (verses 36-38).
As for widows (verses 39-40) they could re-marry, but ONLY
"in the Lord" - to a Christian man. Yet once more, under "the
present distress" Paul taught is would be better for them not to
So we can see the importance of CONTEXT. Verse 26 is the
context of many of these directives that Paul is giving. We know
that the whole Bible teaches that marriage was created by God,
and that in the main God says, "it is not good that man should be
alone." But there are times in life when the external situation
of a Christian group of people may be such that those not married
should put off marriage until later. Yet, as Paul said, if people
do marry under that hardship circumstance, they have not sinned.
TO BE CONTINUED