The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the CORINTHIANS Chapter 1
1 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,
2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Corinthians 1:1-3
Paul visited Corinth on his second missionary journey. He stayed there eighteen months building the Church. Corinth was an important port and a centre of commerce. It lay in a narrow stretch of land between northern and southern Greece and between the Aegean and Adriatic seas, a distance of four miles across. Ships would unload their cargo and transport it over this narrow stretch to another ship, avoiding a long and perilous sea journey around the Cape of Mathene, at the southern tip of Greece. Corinth was a rich city and a very promiscuous place.
Sosthenes was the leader of the synagogue when Paul arrived and initially caused Paul grief. But, it appears he subsequently became a leader of the church. How often the Lord uses unlikely people who may be initially antagonistic. We never know what the Lord is achieving in a person’s heart.
Paul calls the church sanctified, a godly perspective of the finished work of Christ. As we will find out later there was some very unrighteous behaviour going on. This port could be seen as an allegory for our human heart, full of wickedness and greed. But, thank God we are seen “just as if we never sinned”, totally righteous before our loving Father because of the faithfulness of Jesus Christ, our Lord.
4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus,
5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge-
6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you-
7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,
8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord – 1 Corinthians 1:4-9
The Lord gives: grace, enrichment, knowledge, confirmation, gifts, sustainment and freedom from guilt. What blessings we receive in Christ. Paul gives thanks for this church that he was part of establishing. Yet he has been made aware that there are difficulties. Why do we so easily step off the path of grace either into legalism or liberalism, rules or sin? Yet the Lord finds pleasure in us and wants our company on the narrow path to glory. May we be faithful today in all we think and do. May the Lord dwell in the new heart He has given us by His Spirit. Let’s purpose to stick to the path.
10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.
11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers.
12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? – 1 Corinthians 1:10-13
Paul speaks in Ephesians, in a bit more detail, about the need for unity:
1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,
2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,
3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
4 There is one body and one Spirit-just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call-
5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. – Ephesians 4:1-6
Verse 2 is a key: living with humility, gentleness, patience and bearing each other’s burdens in prayer in the Spirit of love brings peace. We are one in Christ and should not boast on our human leaders or even our personal walk with the Lord (I follow Christ). Seek peace with our brothers and sisters, live in Christ, for:
“‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ – Acts 17:2
14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius,
15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name.
16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.)
17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. – 1 Corinthians 1:14-17
It is interesting to consider that people were baptised into “religious” sects. If you remember Paul found a group, in Acts 19, who did not know about the Holy Spirit. They said they had received the “baptism of John” (a phrase used at least six times in the New Testament.) They were then baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. Here Paul goes to some length to say he only baptised a few people and the His calling was to preach the gospel. He humbled himself to the power of the Holy Spirit, knowing that nothing would be achieved without the leading of the Spirit. We think of Paul as a man with a brilliant theological mind, able to reason and debate, but his human abilities were of no effect without the anointing of the Holy Spirit. In Exodus 31 there is the account of Bezalel being given the Holy Spirit in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge and in all manner of workmanship, to build the tabernacle. I am sure he was already a skilled craftsman, but he was given the anointing to do the work of God just as the priests were anointed before they offered sacrifices and just as Jesus was anointed at His baptism. Let’s ask for the Spirit to anoint us in all we do.
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? – 1 Corinthians 1:18-20
Paul quotes Isaiah 29:
13 And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honour me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,
14 therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.” – Isaiah 29:13-14
Interesting that this is in the context of those who say the right words but do not know the heart of God, not unbelievers. Yes, the non-believers’ science and knowledge wonderful and impressive as it seems is blinding the foolish to the truth. But even more insidious is the preacher who speaks from the bible with knowledge and wisdom but does not know God.
22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’
23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ – Matthew 7:22-23
Let’s strive to know the One who created us and believe in Him who He sent.
21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,
23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,
24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. – 1 Corinthians 1:21-25
Oh man, how foolish we are…. we preach folly: Believe in a God you cannot see, a man we have never met, who was crucified 2000 years ago…oh… and was raised from the dead; and a Holy Spirit which is like the wind:
The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” – John 3:8
So why do we believe? Because it is the power of God unto salvation. Faith saves those who believe. Our Lord is the power of God and the wisdom of God. Those who believe in His name He gives the right to become children of God. He who believes is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already. The work of God is to believe in Him who He sent. The things Jesus did bore witness to Him doing the work of His Father, which led people to believe. Whoever lives and believes in Jesus will never die but have everlasting life. As we are one in Him, united in love, so the world might see and believe that The Father sent Jesus to save us. Not a sign, not wisdom but a person, Jesus Christ, sent that we might believe. Why do we believe? Because Jesus is more real than the world we inhabit, and we know that because of our relationship with Him. Believe in God, believe also in Jesus and do not let your heart be troubled.
26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.
27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;
28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,
29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. – 1 Corinthians 1:26-29
None of us can boast before God. We were created by Him, He provides all things for us and He knows what plans He has for us. What does it matter what level of society we were born into. We are all equal before God. God has chosen us and that is the most important point. With the Lord the things that are not: like the loaves and the fishes, to be multiplied; the rocks to cry out praise to the King of Kings; the sand to draw in and confound the Pharisees; the storm that obeys Him; the grave that could not hold Lazarus; everything obeys Him. Except rebellious, proud, disobedient man. And yet it is man He pours out His love on, poured out His precious blood for and pours out the Holy Spirit – to comfort, protect and empower all those who believe on Him. No, we cannot boast in ourselves, but we can boast in God, our Lord, our redeemer, our refuge, our Rock, our Saviour, our all.
30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,
31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” – 1 Corinthians 1:30-31
These finishes of yesterday’s thoughts. We can boast in the Lord because He has become for us our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification and our redemption. There are four weeks’ worth of Sunday morning messages in these verses: to look deeply at each of these four topics would cover most of Christian theology. God became our wisdom because we gave up wisdom (seeking the heart of God) at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil when man chose to listen to Satan and mistrust God. God became our righteousness which is now imputed to by faith in Jesus, who through His sacrifice on the cross redeemed us from the power of death and sanctified us through the washing of the blood. Some verses in the bible are real diamonds with so much packed into a sentence or two. And we know someone who loves diamonds! The word diamond comes from the Greek word unbreakable. Formed under unimaginable pressure deep in the earth they become a beautiful treasure when cut in a master’s hands. A bit like redemption really: Jesus under indescribable pressure died and went to the pit, to form wretched people like us into unbreakable diamonds, cut to His design, to give Him pleasure.