1 Corinthians 1: The Word of the Cross
The message of the cross of Christ has been seen as both powerful and disputed from the beginning. Paul wrote, “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” (1 Cor 1:18). The cross puts all of us at a “crossroads,” wherein we must choose between trying to do things our own way or submitting to the will of God. The message of the cross will not let us be neutral about what Jesus did. While it will be a stumbling block for many and foolishness to others, those who are being saved will always take comfort in the power of that message. “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” (1 Cor 1:30-31).
1 Corinthians 2: Where Faith Rests
Paul wrote that his speech and message were not about human wisdom, but about God’s wisdom. He was concerned that the faith of the Corinthians “might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor 2:5). This is why he was determined “to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (vs. 2). We can rest assured that when we put our trust in God and the message of the Christ crucified, we are standing solidly on divine wisdom. The message of the cross is not a story that would have been invented in the wisdom of men. When we step back and see how God’s revelation of that great mystery unfolded, we can see His wisdom and power on display for us (see vv. 6-16). Praise God that we have the mind of Christ revealed to us!
1 Corinthians 3: You are God’s Temple
The Corinthians were dividing against the will of God. In doing so, they were showing that they had a fleshly, carnal mindset. By following human leaders, they were missing the greater point of what it meant to united in following Christ. Jesus Christ is the foundation of our faith, and great care needs to be taken by those who would build on that foundation. The warnings are based on the fact that God’s people are His temple under Christ: “Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1 Cor 3:16-17). Let’s remember who we are and why it is so important that build carefully and always seek to maintain the unity of the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 4: Faithful Stewards
Paul wrote, “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful” (1 Cor 4:1-2). In following human teachers, there was a danger of actually discounting the truth because of who said it. Some did not like Paul, perhaps even wanting to do him harm. Yet Paul was simply striving to be a messenger of Christ. The Lord had entrusted him with the message, and it was required that he be faithful to it regardless of how others would treat him. Human judges really do not matter, after all. Paul’s attitude in what could have been very discouraging is exemplary. Do we see ourselves as servants and stewards of what the Lord has given to us? If so, will we be faithful to Him regardless of how others may view or treat us?
1 Corinthians 5: A Little Leaven
Sin is never pretty, and sadly, we are all guilty and affected by it. In Corinth, there were some who were proudly accepting a man who was living in a way that even the world saw as wrong. They needed to deal with that situation so that the man’s influence would not take others away. Yet this did not mean that they could never have contact with other sinners, for then they would have to go out of the world altogether. Yet they did need to make sure that the influences that were impacting them negatively. Christ our Passover was sacrificed to keep us pure. Since “a little leaven leavens the whole lump,” we need to purge out the evil influences and take in the “unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor 5:8). Let us remain faithful to Christ to make sure that He is our primary influence.
1 Corinthians 6: Such were some of you
Some of the Corinthian Christians were not acting properly toward each other. They needed to get back to the foundation of Christ so that they could understand why they needed to treat each other in a godly manner and seek to maintain unity. Sin, of course, will keep us from entering the kingdom of heaven, but the power of the Gospel is also seen in these verses. After listing a number of sins, Paul then writes, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6:11). The Gospel changes us, renews us, and sanctifies us. Thank God that we do not have to remain in such sinful conditions!
1 Corinthians 7: Bought with a Price
Paul gives a number of instruction that impact how spouses ought to act toward one another, as well as how servants, the unmarried, and the widowed ought to behave. There is one statement in this chapter that captures the underlying reason we are to act properly: “You were bought with a price” (1 Cor 7:23). Christ died for us and purchased us with His blood, and this fact should guide every decision we make and every action we undertake. Knowing who we are in Christ will change every relationship with have. Our main concern will always be, no matter what condition in which we have been called in Christ, to remain with God (v. 24).
1 Corinthians 8: Love Builds Up
Treating each other in ungodly ways is a manifestation of selfishness and pride. Even having knowledge in and of itself is useless if there is no love, for “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Cor 8:1). Paul again deals with the way that some were acting toward fellows believers in Christ. It is easy to assert a right that we may think we have, and in doing so we might be running over others who do not have the same knowledge. Never do we want to destroy a fellow child of God for the sake of a right. This chapter forces us to ask ourselves how much we are willing to do for the sake of a brother or sister for whom Christ died? How does love respond?
1 Corinthians 9: All Things to All People
Paul speaks of various rights that he had. For example, he had a right to take along a believing wife in his work if he so chose. He had a right to work with his hands as he preached the gospel, as well as a right to be supported. Yet his greater concern was not about his personal rights. He wanted to preach the gospel in order to win souls to Christ, and this meant that he might forego some of his rights. While he did not want to violate God’s will, where he could become “as a Jew,” “as one outside the law,” or as one who was weak, he would do so. Why? “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (vv. 22-23). How much are we willing to do in order to share in the blessings of Christ with others?
1 Corinthians 10: Flee from Idolatry
The children of Israel serve as a warning to the people of God not to fall into evil desire and idolatry as they did. Since idolatry includes worshipping or serving something other than God, we are all susceptible to it and need pay close attention to our loyalties. We also need to be careful not to think that we would never falter. Rather, we must learn to rely on God. After all, it is the Lord with whom we are to enjoy our fellowship, as is manifested in the partaking of the Lord’s Supper. If we share in the bread (the body of Christ) and the cup of blessing (the blood of Christ), then must not also try to have fellowship with the evils of this world or the “table of demons.” Instead, all that we do need to be to the glory of God. Once again, a focus upon God and others can lead to many being saved.
1 Corinthians 11: Examine and Submit
Two ideas permeate what Paul is saying: examine and submit. God has a particular order for people that is grounded in creation. God is the head of Christ, who is the head of man, who is the head of woman. This is not about superiority or inferiority, but rather function and role. Christ was not inferior to the Father, but submitted Himself in function to carry our God’s purposes. The woman is not inferior to the man, but still functions in a particular role. All are under God’s authority, and all need to be willing to submit to His will. Paul then addresses an assembly in which the Christians are partaking of the Lord’s Supper. They are to examine themselves and make sure that they partake in a way that properly reflects the honor of the occasion. In both scenarios, Christians are submitting to one another and caring for one another so that God’s greater purposes will be fulfilled. Will we examine and submit?
1 Corinthians 12: One Body and Many Members
The body of Christ does indeed function like a body with many members supplying their particular functions. This is why it is vital for the members to work together for unity. There were a variety of spiritual gifts and not everyone had the same abilities. Yet God empowered them all as He willed. One part of the body, then, must not despise or look down upon another part of the body. Nor should one part of the body feel useless because it is not something else. God composed His body in such a way that there would be no division, “but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (vv. 25-26). If we are members of the body of Christ, do we see the need to function according to our abilities and in such a way as to encourage unity?
1 Corinthians 13: The More Excellent Way
It matters not what kind of gift or ability one has if it is not exercised in love. Nothing can be gained by acting out of selfishness without showing love for one another. This is why love is the more excellent way and is greater than any particular gift. Love is patient, kind, does not envy or boast. It is not arrogant or rude. It does insist on its own way, nor is it irritable or resentful. Love rejoices in truth, not wrongdoing. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” While various gifts would cease, and even while faith and hope remained, love would be greater than them all. Are we demonstrating a desire to show this more excellent way in all that we do?
1 Corinthians 14: All Things for Edification
When the church met together as one, those who could exercise miraculous gifts needed to be especially careful not to abuse what God gave them. Paul points out that the purpose of any of these gifts was to build one another up in Christ. They were not to let their assemblies devolve in chaos. They were to maintain respect and decorum, doing all things decently and orderly, so that the church would be edified. Whatever they did needed to be in compliance with God’s will and each needed to “strive to excel in building up the church” (v. 12). Even today, the same principles apply. All that we do as a church should be for edification, and all should be done decently and orderly. The assembly is not the place for selfishness, showing off, or doing anything that distracts from the greater purpose of glorifying God.
1 Corinthians 15: Not in Vain
Paul preached the gospel of Jesus. This was about the death, burial, resurrection, and appearance of Christ. The resurrection of Jesus is paramount to the preaching of the gospel because if it did not happen, then our faith is vain and we are still in our sins. Paul, however, affirms the resurrection of Jesus Christ and shows that His resurrection is the basis for believing that we, too, will be raised. We will all be changed from what is corruptible to that which is incorruptible. At that point, we will fully know the victory that Christ displayed over death. Based upon knowing this, we can also know that everything we do for the Lord will not be in vain (v. 58). Therefore, we need to be steadfast, immovable, and always abounding in His work. Is the work that we do showing our anticipation of the final resurrection?
1 Corinthians 16: Be Strong
Paul encourages the church to collect funds for needy saints so that when he comes through for a visit he can carry the funds to the brethren in need. He speaks of his travel plans and encourages them to help Timothy and Apollos when they come to them. He then issues this encouragement: “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love” (vv. 13-14). This sums up what Paul is doing in the epistle. In a church that had been torn up by division and selfishness, they needed to regroup and seek to understand what they are really supposed to be doing. Loving one another and loving the Lord were paramount. Will we examine ourselves to make sure we are following these instructions, too?