Articles

First Corinthians - Part 1

Introduction

Why study the book of First Corinthians? This book gives a good look into the Acts economy and to the personality of Paul. When we study this epistle we will appreciate many issues of the first ministry of Paul during a time when Israel was first and God was respecting and honouring his covenanted people, the nation of Israel. Many issues of today relate directly to the topics addressed in this epistle such as speaking in tongues 1Cor 12-14; factions within the church 1:11,12; abuses of the Lord's supper; taking of blievers to law before the unbeliever  6:1-8;  food and idols 8:1-3;  marriage and how it should work in the "time is short" age of the Acts 7:1-40 and the issue of people denying the resurrection 15:12.

The context of these issues and how Acts 28 clarifies these problems will be of import to all of us. There are many histories written concerning the ancient town of Corinth and it's immoral temple. We will skip over this for now and discuss only those issues from ancient history as they impringe on the context of the passages we discuss.

Structure

This structure was taken from CH Welch The Berean Expositor Volume 45 Page 57. We will find this very discrete structure of some help in viewing the scope and interpretation of the epistle.

  • A| 1:1-9 Waiting for the coming of the Lord
    • B| 1:10-4:21 "It hath been declared unto me"
      • C| 5:1-14:40 The body, physically, spiritually and ecclesiastically
    • B| 15 I declare unto you -- the gospel and the resurrection
  • A| 16 Maranatha. The Lord Cometh

Acts 18:1-17 introduces us to Paul's visit to Corinth during his second missionary journey. We will need to look at this a little later to get further light concerning people and events as they relate to the epistle.

Chapter 1:1-9

1 ¶  (AV) Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,
1  (TR) παυλος κλητος αποστολος ιησου χριστου δια θεληματος θεου και σωσθενης ο αδελφος

Notice that the greek text says παυλος κλητος αποστολος - Paul was certainly called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ -- and as the text shows was a "called apostle" , κλητος αποστολος, he had a definite calling on his life which related to a specific ministry during the acts period. God's will demanded that he was called and as such he became a called apostle of Jesus Christ. What was his calling? What did it entail? Sosthenes is not given this description. He may be the same person mentioned in Acts 18:17. In which case was the chief ruler of the synagogue.

Ac 18:17  Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. And Gallio cared for none of those things.

It must be important to discern the different callings of Paul and other people and groups and to distinguish and clarify our own distinctive calling. The word κλητος is used in only 11 verses in scripture, see the study on "Ye see your calling".

Paul was not the replacement for Judas, that job was taken by Matthias Acts 1:26. Paul had a special Acts ministry to provoke Israel to jealousy through the inclusion of the Gentiles Rom 11. What is not commonly acknowledged however is that he had another calling as PAul the prisoner of Jesus Christ for the Gentiles after the defection of Israel.

2  (AV) Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:
2  (TR) τη εκκλησια του θεου τη ουση εν κορινθω ηγιασμενοις εν χριστω ιησου κλητοις αγιοις συν πασιν τοις επικαλουμενοις το ονομα του κυριου ημων ιησου χριστου εν παντι τοπω αυτων τε και ημων

There are churches of different descriptions in scripture. We should not assume that they all include us or relate to us in this age. This "church of God" was at Corinth, there the believers were sanctified (perfect passive participle), or separated to Christ, they too had a calling and became "called saints" κλητοις αγιοις, we also as Christians are called saints. They were not waiting to become saints they were made saints and were at the writing "saints". Again we must ask how did this separation to Christ manifest to observers? What would you see different about these believers? As we will see these Corinthian believers had their problems but they also had Grace given them. The nature of this grace is instructive, do we have the same grace given us today? We need to know our calling Eph 1:18, 4:1, 4;Philip 3:14; 2Tim 1:9. Lets read on.

With all in every place, not just in Corinth -- some might like to argue that since the epistle is addressed only to the Church at Corinth that which was manifested by the Spirit was localized. This is contrary to the Acts record and the calling of the saints here both theirs and ours. Possibly a remark of the close relation between families in home churches.16:19. These in every place who call receive a call, so the communication is reciprocal.

3  (AV) Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
3  (TR) χαρις υμιν και ειρηνη απο θεου πατρος ημων και κυριου ιησου χριστου

The apostle called of the Lord and granted with apostolic authority can easily address these believers with such a meaningful formula. A wonderful truth of peace from God. Peace from God is also delivered to us in this age - with some additional embellishments. For example we have peace instead of the enmity associated with the middle wall of partition between jew and gentile Eph 2:14

4  (AV) I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;
4  (TR) ευχαριστω τω θεω μου παντοτε περι υμων επι τη χαριτι του θεου τη δοθειση υμιν εν χριστω ιησου

Paul thanks God παντοτε περι υμων "always concerning you". Why does he give thanks? For the grace which was given to the Corinthians by Jesus Christ. He does this on behalf of the Corinthians. Paul does this in other places in a different context and especially in regards to the church of which we are members see Col1:24, where PAul says he fills up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in his flesh for the body's sake which is the church.

5  (AV) That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;
5  (TR) οτι εν παντι επλουτισθητε εν αυτω εν παντι λογω και παση γνωσει

The Corinthians were enriched επλουτισθητ -- so are we today  -- but in a different way, further our riches are unsearchable:

Eph 3:8  Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches <4149> of Christ;.

The Corinthians were to be enriched in all utterance and knowledge.  These are at the heart of the cardinal gifts of prophecy and knowledge. Do we have these gifts today? Do we manifest these Gracious gifts of the Lord? Some will say yes and point to their experience or others. The problem with that is that such experience is molded by desire and emotion backed up by incorrectly dividing Gods word. We need to gather contextual understanding, see God's will through time and in order. The big question is what were the signs for? This question will ultimately lead to the conclusion that I came to as a younger Christian many years ago.

6  (AV) Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:
6  (TR) καθως το μαρτυριον του χριστου εβεβαιωθη εν υμιν

The testimony το μαρτυριον  of Christ, was confirmed in them. Grace -- Utterance and Knowledge -- Testimony of Christ confirmed. The word used here is the verb βεβαιόω which comes from  the adjective βέβαιος  meaning fast or firm which in turn comes from βάσις ( a noun) which means foot. The witness of the Lord, its truth and validity was made firm and a sure footing by these signs. They were powers of the age to come.

 

Concordance of the word for "Confirm"
Comments Passage
This is typical of the Lord's ministry -- signs and wonders a direct confirmation of His messianic ministry to his people Israel Mr 16:20  And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming <950> the word with signs following. Amen.
The Lord built directly on the foundation of the prophets and fulfilled their promises Ro 15:8  Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm <950> the promises made unto the fathers:
This Acts epistle is also filled with a confirmation of the lords witness through the instrument of signs and wonders see vs 7 1Co 1:6  Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed <950> in you:
The "also" connects an additional confirmation. That what was begun would be perfected 1Co 1:8  Who shall <950> also confirm <950> you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The confirmation and anointing go together 2Co 1:21  Now he which stablisheth <950> us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God;
We in this age, consequent to the defection of Israel at the conclusion of Acts 28, can be rooted and established (confirmed) in the faith. But this must be by acknowkledging the revelation given to PAul the prisoner. Col 2:7  Rooted and built up in him, and stablished <950> in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
This is the ministry of Paul to the Hebrews. A ministry that continued and sorced from His testimony

Heb 2:3  How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed <950> unto us by them that heard him;

4  God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?

 

Practical deportment that we all can learn from Heb 13:9  Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established <950> with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.

Please read also Matt 11:1-5, John 5:36, Mk 16:17-20.

7  (AV) So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:
7  (TR) ωστε υμας μη υστερεισθαι εν μηδενι χαρισματι απεκδεχομενους την αποκαλυψιν του κυριου ημων ιησου χριστου

Verse 7 is a consecutive clause and comes as a consequence of the previous verse (confirmed testimony) with ωστε and the infinitive υστερεισθαι  and the double negative μη υστερεισθαι εν μηδενι. The confirmation of the testimony was so that the Corinthians would not be late in having gifts while they wait for the revelation την αποκαλυψιν of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Do we have this confirmation today and if you agree with me that we do not is it not natural to ask if the hope of the revelation has atleast changed in some way also. It is not that signed gifts are not in operation today which is uppermost in my mind -- the question must be WHY have things changed whay momentous event occured that made the economy of 1 Coriinthians to change?

The coming of the Lord was in that time imminent see these passages Acts 3:19-26; 1Cor.7:29;10:11;16:22;1 Thess.1:9,10;4:15-17; 2Thess.1:7; Heb.10:37;1Pet.4:7;James 5:7-9; 1John 2:18. of which we will but mention the last passage:

1Jo 2:18  Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.

The last days were present in the time traversed by the book of Acts -- As Paul says to the Hebrews 1:2  "Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;" therefore Christ' return was imminent  

8  (AV) Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
8  (TR) ος και βεβαιωσει υμας εως τελους ανεγκλητους εν τη ημερα του κυριου ημων ιησου χριστου

The little word  και which in this context means "also" shifts one usage of  "to confirm" to another. Security is important to any Christian and here the Corinthians have a standing that is by Grace ( see also their sanctification above).

9  (AV) God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
9  (TR) πιστος ο θεος δι ου εκληθητε εις κοινωνιαν του υιου αυτου ιησου χριστου του κυριου ημων

This section of our structure ends with the calling εκληθητε by God to the fellowship εις κοινωνιαν of his Son. The fellowship rejoices in what is made common. Ther context here is the testimony of the Lord, the signs confirmed the veracity of the Lords witness which they were enjoying and manifesting. The earthly ministry of the Lord continued vicariously through his holy ones while He was in heaven even as Paul said to the Hebrews

Heb 2:3  How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed <950> unto us by them that heard him;
4  God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?

Conclusion

The first 9 verses comprise the first part of our outline above and are in structural alignment with chapter 16 "Maranatha the Lord cometh". This is one of the great themes of this epistle and reflects the hope prevalent during the book of Acts. The context reveals an important calling of Paul to the Jew first ministry of Acts as an out growth of the Jew only ministry of the Lord as well as the sanctification of the Corinthians. The testimony of the Lord was confirmed in them with signs and wonders. The ministry was a continuance of what the Lord began and NOT the out pouring of a ministry based on "The mystery" hid in God. The basis that defines the Acts economy was the testimony of the Lord. We shall continue our study of 1 Corinthians by investigating chapters 1:10-4:21.