Translations: Chinese 简体中文 繁體中文

1Corinthians 1 (web)


1:1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,
1:2 to the assembly of God which is at Corinth;
those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints,
with all who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, both theirs and ours:
1:3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
1:4 I always thank my God concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus;
1:5 that in everything you were enriched in him, in all speech and all knowledge;
1:6 even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:
1:7 so that you come behind in no gift; waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ;
1:8 who will also confirm you until the end,
blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1:9 God is faithful,
through whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Divisions in the Church


1:10 Now I beg you, brothers, through the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ
that you all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you,
but that you be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

The folly of relying on worldy wisdom

1:11 For it has been reported to me concerning you, my brothers,
by those who are from Chloe's household, that there are contentions among you.
1:12 Now I mean this, that each one of you says,
"I follow Paul,"
"I follow Apollos,"
"I follow Cephas," and,
"I follow Christ."

1:13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you?
Or were you baptized into the name of Paul?
1:14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, except Crispus and Gaius,
1:15 so that no one should say that I had baptized you into my own name.
1:16 (I also baptized the household of Stephanas; besides them,
I don't know whether I baptized any other.)

1:17 For Christ sent me not to baptize,
but to preach the gospel--not in wisdom of words,
so that the cross of Christ wouldn't be made void.
1:18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are dying,
but to us who are saved it is the power of God.
1:19 For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
I will bring the discernment of the discerning to nothing."
1:20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe?
Where is the lawyer of this world?
Hasn't God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
1:21 For seeing that in the wisdom of God,
the world through its wisdom didn't know God,
it was God's good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching
to save those who believe.
1:22 For Jews ask for signs, Greeks seek after wisdom,
1:23 but we preach Christ crucified; a stumbling block to Jews, and foolishness to Greeks,
1:24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks,
Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.
1:25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men,
and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
1:26 For you see your calling, brothers,
that not many are wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, and not many noble;
1:27 but God chose the foolish things of the world
that he might put to shame those who are wise.
God chose the weak things of the world,
that he might put to shame the things that are strong;
1:28 and God chose the lowly things of the world,
and the things that are despised, and the things that are not,
that he might bring to nothing the things that are:
1:29 that no flesh should boast before God.
1:30 But of him, you are in Christ Jesus,
who was made to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption:

1:31 that, according as it is written, "He who boasts, let him boast in the Lord."

Discussion Questions

vs 4-9 What various emotions do you suppose Paul was trying to invoke in the Corinthians from these verses?

vs 10-12 What kinds of divisions have you seen among Christians and in the history of the Christian church that you feel have simply not been legitimate?
What would you say to people who accept such divisions?

vs 13-16 What Christian do you respect the most? What characteristic of that person stands out to you most? How do they differ from Christ?

vs 17-25 What is the message of the gospel and what role does the cross play?
Why may it be difficult for people to accept the idea that you can simply give them some information and if they respond by believing it, they will be saved from God's wrath and given eternal life?

vs 26-29 How does God prevent the proud from receiving eternal life? Would you characterize most Christians as humble, lowly, weak and despised? And if not, then what does this say about modern Christianity?

vs 31 What are things that people boast about? What are examples as to how we might boast in the Lord?


Called Saints

1Cor 1:1-3 Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ— their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

In his introduction Paul starts off on a positive note. Seeing as much of the rest of his letter is critical of the Corinthians, this is instructive. When correcting others it's good to start off on a positive note.


He's writing to those who have been sanctified. By this he is not referring to some kind elite group among the Corinthians Christians who have attained some sort of  state of perfection, but rather he's talking about the status of which God reckons to all genuine believers. "Sanctify" more generally means to set apart. Those who are in Christ have been set apart for God's special purpose and as such are reckoned by God differently than the world.

Called to be Saints

When he says "called to be holy", he's referring to the ongoing process whereby in each area of life and attitude the believer is becoming more like Christ as he cooperates with the Holy Spirit. "Holy" is also translated "Saints". This is again not referring to an elite subset of Christians as Catholics and Orthodox would have it, but rather this is the term Christians used to refer to one another. In fact it was used as common as the term "Christian" today. While back then the word "Christian" (used only 3 times in the Bible) was used to refer to what outsiders called the saints. However it does get across the idea today when saying to Christians - you are called to be saints. So live up to that status!

Calling on the Lord Jesus Christ

Calling on the Lord Jesus Christ is characteristic of believers from the very start of the Christian life. And there is no difference between Jew and Gentile— the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Rom 10:12,13 Believers are those who pray to Jesus, reckoning him as Lord. What does it mean by Lord? Jesus himself tells us what he thinks it means when we call him Lord when he said, "Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?" Lk 6:46 To call on Jesus as Lord is to communicate the intention of doing what he said. As such, the content of such  prayers are to take into account what the Lord commanded. In other words to simply ask Jesus for whatever you want is to not call on him as Lord.

Consider to what extent Paul's characterization of the Corinthian Christians applies to you.

Do you reckon yourself sanctified or do you feel you have yet to cross that bridge?
Are you in the process of taking on the attitude and attributes of Christ in every area of your life?
Do you feel you've been called to be a saint?
Do you pray to Jesus Christ with his Lordship in mind?

Confirmed Speech

1Cor 1:4-7a  I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way— in all your speaking and in all your knowledge— because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift


In many of his letters Paul speaks of thank God for what God is doing in the life of the saints. Take time now to thank God for the work you've seen him do in other saints. Much of his letter to the Corinthians will be about spiritual giftedness, and in particular those gifts associated with speaking. By their knowledgable speaking Paul felt their salvation was confirmed. How does your speech measure up to your salvation status?

More generally notice that Paul was not simply content at delivering a message, while in fact that was his commission.  He was genuinely concerned about the quality of their response, which was confirmed by their speech, for it revealed they had a proper understanding of Christ. He noticed also their spiritual gifts, as confirming signs of their genuine faith. Church leaders should learn to listen and not just talk.

Persevering to the End

1Cor 1:7b-9  as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.  He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.


Our primary expectations concern the coming of the Lord. But part of what is involved is "to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead— Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath." 1Th 1:10 And "We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." Rom 8:23 So "Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life." Jude 1:21

God has committed himself to sanctifying the saints to the end. This is the basis of the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints whereby the saints will continue to persevere to the end due to God's influence in their hearts. "May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. the one who calls you is faithful and he will do it." 1Th 5:23,24 "May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones." 1Th 3:13

Denominational Divisions

1Cor 1:10-13 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 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. My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?

It is human nature to form groups each of which reckon themselves superior or otherwise distinct from other groups, but it should not be so in the body of Christ. The saints should not pledge allegiance to any denomination or post-Bibilcal theologian. Neither should we claim to follow Christ while rejecting Paul or the other apostles. For to reject what Jesus said through his apostles is to reject Jesus. Unity should be based upon the Jesus of the Bible who is described in the historic record of the gospels and through the teachings of his apostles. The work of Post-Biblical theologians are those of opinion, none of which is to be reckoned above scrutiny.

Denominational Eliteness in the name of "Unity"

Now while there are denominations, like Catholicism and Orthodox, which claim to be the one true Church and demand Christians be united with them, such is not the kind of unity Paul speaks of here.. Those advocating unity around any denomination are not advocating unity but division. While the denominationally elite would claim that to disagree with them is to invite division, such a position is of itself divisive, demanding the saints pledge allegiance to them or be cut off. Anyone who claims that the teachings of their denominational leaders are above scrutinty invite division. And while the many heretical viewpoints of Catholicism and the Orthodox churches illegitimize such claims outright, this same attitude is often found in institutional Christiantiy among Protestant and Evangelical churches. For even among the non-Catholic/non-Orthdox, there are denominations which criticize denominationalism and claim they are the one true church which follows Christ and no man, but in every case turn out to be nothing more than yet another denomination.

The "my church" versus "you church" attitude is that born of institutional allegiance. Biblical Christian unity is not found in the allegiance to an institution, but to a corporate body - the body of Christ, which incorporates all believers who follow Christ and his apostles regardless of what institutional church they attend. Do we all agree? For more see The Shortcomings of Institutionalized Christianity.

Baptismal Eliteness

1Cor 1:14-17a I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel

There were some who reckoned others with prejudice based upon who baptized them. One characteristic of denominational eliteness is over-inflating that which is ceremonial. One such ceremony is baptism. There are groups today that are equivalent to the group of the circumcision in Paul's day. The circumcision viewed salvation as contingent upon a ritual done to the flesh, and likewise today there are Christians who view salvation as contingent upon the ritual of water baptism - that which is done to the flesh. They use such a belief as an illegitimate basis for division so as to view their denomination superior to others. In fact some would go so far as to claim you have to get baptized by them to be saved, so as to make salvation contingent upon denominational allegiance and based upon the work of water baptism. But in saying "Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel", Paul  makes little of water baptism. Yes, it has its place, but not as a means to salvation. Don't over-inflate the role of religious ceremonies. The essence of legalism is the idea that things done to the flesh impart sanctifying grace.

Baptismal Legalism

1Cor 1:17,18  For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel— not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 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.

Salvation is not based upon a ceremony, but upon faith in the gospel. Paul says, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes:" Rom 1:16a It's the common faith in the gospel which is to be the object of unity among the saints, and not ceremonies, nor theologies of which the Bible is unclear.

By "words of human wisdom" Paul is referring to the manner in which Greeks allegedly attain wisdom. Read Plato or Aristole and you'll understand what he means, who attempt to derive truth apart from divine revelation. In contrast the gospel is propositional in nature, and based upon the historical testimony of Jesus' life and ministry. Thus when Paul preached in the Areopagus the Greeks were "turned off" when he spoke of Jesus resurrection from the dead.

Do not be dismayed when people are turned off by a proper presentation of the gospel. Same happened back then. If a person reckons the message foolishness, that does not mean you did a bad job presenting it. It does not mean you need modify your presentation. Rather it likely means that they are perishing. Those who embrace the message will be saved.

Keep it Simple

1Cor 1:19-21 For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate." (Is 29:14) Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

Who did God send to the proud learned scholars of Jesus' day? "When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus." Acts 4:13 Such was also the case when the gospel came to the Greeks. It was not through a scholar or philosopher, but through a herald - a messenger.

Even Jesus was consider crazy by his own family.  When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, "He is out of his mind." Mk 3:21 (Compare also with Mark 3:31 as to which members of his family arrived to take charge of him)
And consider God's chosen method of salvation - belief in a message. That's foolishness to the proud. Yet there's also a danger among Christian theologians over-intellectualizing the message, resulting in bizzare theologies. (And it doesn't take a seminary education to communicate the message, let alone understand it) For some Christians Biblical Christianity is just too simple. Thus Paul later writes to the intellectual Corintians, "I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ."2Cor 11:3

Armchair Philosophers and the Experience-Oriented

1Cor 1:22-24 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

The pursuit of the Jews might be likened to those today who seek an experience. Jesus gave the Jews sufficient evidence by the miracles he did. But that's all they sought, as if the Messiah was simply to entertain them or fulfill their physical desires. But Christ came to deal with their sin, a fact they didn't want to accept. In his parable of Lazarus and the Rich man Jesus concluded, "‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’" Luke 16:31 Those who merely seek an experience will not be satisfied by what Biblical Christianity offers, seeing as experiences are subject to submission to Christ as Lord, and God is primarily concerned not about how they feel but about the matter of sin.

But there are experiences in legitmate Christianity. There is power not only to save but to sanctify. And God does interact personally with the saints.

The Greeks sought a man-based philosophy so as to exhalt human reasoning above divine revelation. The gospel is too simple for such people. And its basis in divine revelation and consequently its presentation as straight forward proposition truth (take it or leave it) fails to satisfying those merely pursuing an intellectual challenge. Such people pursuing Christianity without embracing the gospel end up as Gnostic heretics in their speculations.

But for the saints, there is wisdom in the gospel. There is wisdom whereby  man-based religions and philosophies are foolish in comparison. But attaining that wisdom is contingent upon the fear of the Lord and subsequently upon the embracing of the gospel which reveals both the necessity of salvation and its means. But to the intellectually proud, personal sin in view of God's impending wrath are of little concern and thus they are disqualified from the calling.

God Chose the Lowly

1Cor 1:25-29  For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things— and the things that are not— to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.

The message and the manner in which it was delivered assured that the proud would not accept it as is. And while this was also the case with the Corinthian saints, they lived in an affluent proud society, the worldliness if which had infiltrated the church. This was the source of their disunity.

Part of the ministry of the gpspel is the ministry of humiliation. Throughout the gospels Jesus humiliates the proud. Such is part of Christian ministry. Of course given our sinful nature one could easily "shoot oneself in the foot" in practicing such ministry. But as humility  is prerequisite to entering the kingdom, humiliation is often a necessary step to get some people there.

Boasting of Christ

1Cor 1:30,31  It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God— that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord." (Jer 9:23,24)

Christ our Righteousness
Through him we have been saved from the Penalty of sin.
That is, "Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!"Rom 5:9

Christ our Holiness (Sanctification)
Through him we are being saved from the Power of sin
That is, "No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God." 1John 3:9

Christ our Redemption
Through him we will be saved from the Presence of sin
"For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight." Eph 1:4
"Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life." Rev 21:27

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources

Aug 15,2020