1st Corinthians: Transformed Lives
Divisions, Sexual misconduct, Questions.
Background: Paul writes to the Corinthian church from Ephesus around 56 AD Theme: The Gospel is to Transform Lives Outline: Divisions, Sexual Misconduct and Questions Key Verse: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." (1 Cor 6:19-20, NIV)
First Corintians Chapter Index
(Each Chapter has Notes and Questions)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
These notes use and refer to the Bible Knowledge Commentary (Vol 2, New Testament).
The ancient city of Corinth controlled overland access (a 5 mile stretch of land) between the Agean and Ionian seas. Ships would send cargo over land or small ships would be dragged from one sea to another. A great city at the time of the Trojan War (1200 BC), it was destroyed in 146 BC by the Romans. Julius Caesar re-established the city in 46 BC and it was rebuilt beginning in the reign of Augustus (27 BC - 14 AD). It became the capital of Achaia and most of Greece and Macedonia. A famous temple there had over 1000 prostitute priestesses, and to 'Corinthize' (my version of the Greek word) meant to live a sexually loose life.
Paul visited Corinth in 50 AD for 1 1/2 years, and after writing this letter. Chapters 1-6 deal with reports from the household of Chloe, and the rest of the letter answers questions from Corinth that Paul received in a letter.
Chapter 1 - Notes
I. Introduction (1:1-9)
1:4-9 Although Paul will have much to correct in Corinth, he acknowledges that these spiritual infants are enriched by God and that their eternal 'blameless' destiny is secure.
II. Divisions in the Church (1:10-4:21)
1:12 It is not wrong to follow a Godly and gifted preacher, but we must guard against putting any person in hte place of Christ or allowing our respect for a teacher to separate us from other believers.
1:20-25 Natural man considers God's revelation as foolish and does not believe, and yet, the least thought or action of God is beyond the highest wisdom or strongest deed of men.
1:28 "Things that are not" - Some that are chosed by God are overlooked in society. Perhaps homeless, poor, addicts, ... etc., who would not be expected to amount to anything, but who are transformed by the wisdom of God.
Chapter 1 - Questions
- How can we maintain unity in the Body of Christ in a time when there are so many denominations?
- Do we overlook the 'things that are not' or the 'insignificant' people in our church?
Chapter 2 - Notes
2:5 Faith resting on God's power includes the act of believing-trusting and the fact or content of what we believe-trust.
2:6 The 'mature' are the ones who have accepted Christ and have been made 'complete' by Him. It does not refer, in this passage, to the most mature or experienced Christians, but simply Christians complete in Christ as different from natural man who is missing spiritual fulfillment.
2:8 The leaders of this world "crucified the Lord of glory". This is the ultimate contrast of the power and wisdom of men versus the power and wisdom of God, not understood by those who crucified the Lord. The cross is an ultimate expression of the love, wisdom, and power of God.
2:10-16 People cannot understand God without the Spirit teaching. The mind of Christ, which all Christians have, is equated with the Holy Spirit.
Chapter 2 - Questions
- Paul places Christ crucified at the very center of his gospel. Do we? Do cults?
- Do we picture the Lord of Glory when we think of Jesus in our minds?
- How does the Holy Spirit reveal God to you? Can you give some examples of when and what He revealed?
Chapter 3 - Notes
3:1-3 Note that the believers are observed to be 'spiritual infants' by their actions, not necessarily by the level of their intellectual knowledge. Many times our knowledge about the Bible and the Lord will grow faster than our practice. This may be especially true while doing a serious study of the Word. It is important to know that our learning is not complete and we are not mature until the truths we study are put into practice in our lives. Notice that their inability to understand the Word (3:2) was demonstrated by their failure to obey the Word (3:3). This links valid and adequate knowledge of the Bible with godly obedience of the Word. (note by Chad Woodburn of the Disciple's Institute of Biblical Studies)
3:12 The materials represent the quality of work of each builder. This is consistent with the following verses.
3:16 The Holy Spirit is said to indwell even these 'spiritual infants'. All true believers have the Holy Spirit, even those who are not obeying Him and are immature.
Chapter 3 - Questions
- On a scale of one to ten, where do you think you might be on the spiritual maturity scale? What do you use as measures?
- How do you recognize spiritual infants?
Chapter 4 - Notes
4:6 Modern men, as did the Greeks, often believe that humility displays weakness. They are wrong.
Chapter 4 - Questions
- Name three characteristics of a successful man. Was humility or weakness included?
- How can we train our children to be humble?
Chapter 5 - Notes
III. Disorders in the Church (5-6)
5:11 Mr. Lowery, BKC, states that "It is unlikely that the sanctioned individual was barred from all congregational meetings ...". I disagree, as that does seem to be the plain meaning of "you must not associate with". I do concede that the brother would be allowed to approach a church member or leader to express repentance, to seek guidance in what is required, etc. He would presumably be allowed to come before the congregation for this purpose and be restored to fellowship. This is quite different from allowing him to attend congregational meetings or worship apart from a confession of sin. We must also remember that the fellowship of the early church was not the same as the formal worship services of today. Notice 2 Thess. 3:14-15: "have no company with him, yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother." (Chad Woodburn)
Chapter 5 - Questions
- Who makes the decision to 'not associate with' a brother?
Chapter 6 - Notes
6:1 Although many judges are honorable, the essence of a judge in this day is not religious. The legal system represents the state, not the church, and in that sense is ungodly or at least apart from God. Perhaps godless is a suitable word here; the judgment will be rendered without regard to consulting God or His teachings.
6:19 "Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit." Our physical body is important. True spirituality is not escape from the body as some Eastern meditation teaches, but includes using the body to serve God (see Romans 12:1-2). This verse specifically relates to sexual immorality, but is often quoted for diverse topics concerning our health. In this case, the immoral Christian defiles the temple, and we note that even the disobedient Christian's body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.
Chapter 6 - Questions
- What does verse 6:19 teach about marriage?
- What are some implications (other than sexual purity) of our body being a temple of the Holy Spirit?
Chapter 7 - Notes
IV. Difficulties in the Church (7:1-16:12)
7:8-9 An interesting problem in interpretation here! Perhaps these verses contrast 'experienced' unmarried (widow) with the virgins of verse 25; as stated in BKC. Note that the NIV uses the word unmarried twice, once applied to Paul. Does this mean that Paul is also an 'experienced' unmarried (a widower)? In the Greek text the word unmarried is used only once, and Paul simply suggests, "Remain as I am." The NIV supplies the implied 'unmarried', but not in the sense understood by BKC as 'experienced unmarried'. We should not take this as an indication that Paul is a widower.
7:12-13 A strong case may be made for translating 'unbeliever' as 'unfaithful'; leaving open the question of unfaithful to whom? God or one's spouse? 'Unfaithful' is a literal translation. If interpreted and translated as unfaithful to God (unbeliever), this verse stands alone in Scripture in giving an additional reason for divorce (one partner being an unbeliever). If unfaithful to one's spouse, it agrees with other teaching that allows divorce in the case of adultery. It does advise reconciliation in such cases, but clearly states that the spouse is free to remarry if the unfaithful one leaves (divorces). We may presume that a divorce would be obtained and the marriage legally ended.
7:26-28 Verse 26 gives this advice, in part, because of a particular crisis. Although this particular crisis may not apply to us today, the other reasons for remaining single should be carefully considered.
Chapter 7 - Questions
- Is Paul's advice to stay unmarried relevant today?
- Is a Christian free to leave the non-Christian spouse? If so, for what reasons?
Chapter 8 - Notes
8-14 The words freedom and right characterize our culture as well as that of the Corinthians.
8:13 Re-read this paragraph in BKC. Occasionally a fairly strong believer will try to impose his opinions and preferences on others; that is not the brother we give up freedom in Christ for. The imposing brother needs to learn of freedom in Christ and to have tolerant love for others. As the passage presents it, the weaker brother is the one who does not have the knowledge of the truth. We refrain from things which are not wrong in and of themselves for the sake of the innocent, 'ignorant' brothers, not for the sake of the legalist. (Chad Woodburn)
Chapter 8 - Questions
- What are some circumstances when we might refrain from exercising a 'freedom' for the sake of another believer?
- Are there circumstances when we might deliberately exercise a 'freedom' ?
Chapter 9 - Notes
9:16 It is often difficult to determine what constitutes a call to the ministry. Some say having a spiritual gift of teaching or preaching constitutes a call. But does this mean full-time supported service? Most commonly it is a combination of ability, willingness to serve, a desire to serve and a sense of this being God's will. Paul (and Jonah), however, were compelled to preach! In the case of Jonah it was not a desire nor was he willing!!
Chapter 9 - Questions
- What is our responsibility to provide for those who serve the Lord? Are we responsible for everyone who serves the Lord?
- Why did Paul give up his 'right' to receive a living from preaching?
- Is Paul's activity as a 'tentmaker' to be a model for today? In what cases might it be appropriate?
'Chapter 10 - Notes
10:4 "That rock was Christ." There are many opinions about how Christ accompanied the Israelites, and what form he may have taken. What is clear from this verse is that Christ was actively involved; he accompanied them and sustained them ("they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them").
10:11 Mr. Lowery, BKC: "God's dealings with Israel were more than a matter of historical curiosity for Paul." We may ask what purpose the Old Testament serves for believers today. In addition to providing the background for the New Testament, giving further detail on matters not completely covered in the New Testament (such as creation) and revealing much about the nature and character of God and man, it also provides specific examples and warnings to believers. This does not mean that every verse of the Old Testament must contain an example (type) or warning, simply that many types and warnings are contained in the Old Testament and they are for our benefit as believers.
10:13 I suggest adding this to your list of memory verses.
10:19-2 In our twentieth century, and in Paul's time, the ultimate reality behind idolatry and 'spiritism' is demonic. Such practices as palm reading, fortune telling and use of the Ouija board are not harmless, just as idolatry was not harmless. Behind the false premise of these practices lies a demonic reality opposed to God.
Chapter 10 - Questions
- Why do 'modern' people get involved in the occult?
- Are demons active today?
Chapter 11 - Notes
Chapter 11 - Questions
Chapter 12 - Notes
12:7-10 Mr. Lowery, BKC: "With the possible exception of faith, all these gifts seem to have been confirmatory and foundational gifts for the establishment of the church (cf. Heb. 2:4; Eph. 2:20) and were therefore temporary." The references in Hebrews and Ephesians refer to prophecy and miracles, not to 'all these gifts'. In particular, the gifts of wisdom and knowledge are necessary gifts for today in every local church. I do agree that some of the gifts were used to confirm decisions of the early church, such as the inclusion of Gentiles as seen by a visible receiving of the Holy Spirit. That does not exclude other purposes for these gifts.
The fact that the Apostles and prophets were found in the foundation does not exclude them from possibly being involved in the rest of the structure. The fact that a building is built on a foundation of stone and cement does not prohibit those components from being used elsewhere in the structure. Eph. 2:20 only tells us about the nature of the foundation; it tells us nothing about the nature of the rest of the structure of the Church. The fact that something is included in one area does not lead to the deduction (or inference or suggestion) that it is excluded from other areas. Otherwise, if this passage could be used as proof that prophets cannot exist after the church's foundation was laid, then what would that say about the presence of Christ in the Church, since He is the chief cornerstone?
The same fallacy is found in their use of Heb. 2:4. The fact that God bore witness with those who heard Christ by giving them signs, wonders, miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit does not tell us anything about how He will bear witness with others how come along later. The inclusion of something in one period of time does not imply the exclusion of it from other periods of time. If Heb. 2:4 could be used to argue that those things were merely foundational and then passed away, then we would have to say that all gifts of the Spirit were foundational and have gone away.
Rather than dealing with charismatic gifts by categorically rejecting them as not belonging to this period of time, I believe that we are evaluate their occurrences the same way the early church was expected to. (Chad Woodburn)
Chapter 12 - Questions
- Do you think that any of the spiritual gifts mentioned in this chapter are for today? Which ones?
- How should we deal with those who disagree with us over the use of spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues?
Chapter 13 - Summary
Chapter 13 - Notes
13:4 Although some see a description of Christ here (v. 4-6); it is the motivation of love itself that we are told we need in v. 1-3. We may have Christ (be saved) yet not act out of love for others. Paul is not exhorting the Corinthians to have Christ (they already have Christ) but to have and act out of love. Having said that, it is also clear that Jesus was the perfect example of love, and we see the qualities listed here as we read of His life.
Chapter 13 - Questions
- How does this chapter relate to the comparison of worldly and spiritual wisdom?
- What are the signs of spiritual maturity and how do they relate to spiritual gifts?
Chapter 14 - Notes
14:1 We are instructed to "desire spiritual gifts." We should also appreciate these gifts in ourselves and others.
14:12 We are told to 'excel' in spiritual gifts. This indicates a conscious effort to develop and use our spiritual gifts, both as a body and as individuals. This is not simply a passive role.
14:39 Much debate focuses on if 'tongues' is a spiritual gift for today. BKC uniformly takes the position that it is not. Perhaps the best practice in dealing with those who do believe in practicing this gift today is to apply the standards Paul outlined (such as no speaking in public without an interpreter) and to follow this verse which states: "do not forbid speaking in tongues."
Chapter 14 - Questions
- How do we 'excel' in spiritual gifts?
- Does everyone have a spiritual gift?
- Does verse 14:39 "do not forbid speaking in tongues" apply to today? Are there circumstances where church leaders are justified in forbiding speaking in toungues?
Chapter 15 - Notes
15:14-19 The importance of the physical resurrection of Jesus from the dead is stressed as a crucial doctrine. I was once a member of a church where the spiritual significance of the resurrection was always stressed. Our pastor emphasized that the resurrection was a powerful symbol for our new life. Upon careful questioning, he privately revealed that he was not sure that it should be taken literally. Although there is great spiritual significance, and it is a powerful symbol, the faith that does not take the resurrection as an actual historical event is denounced by Paul as useless. Paul does not talk about the faith that makes people better or has a positive influence on society (although it does this), but a faith that absolutely saves from sin and the penalty of sin (death).
15:29 Some cults, such as the Mormons, practice being "baptized for the dead". They believe that one can be saved after death, but unless baptized cannot enter heaven. For this reason, an extensive search of one's family tree is made and one may be baptized many times to give ancestors the opportunity (after death) by a substitutionary baptism to enter heaven. For the same reason, substitutionary marriages are performed. These are certainly false teachings and practices, and may or may not be what is referred to here. I take the view that "baptized for the dead" means "baptized because of (the testimony of) the dead." (Chad Woodburn)
Chapter 15 - Questions
- Put in your own words what Paul stated as being 'of first importance'.
- How important is the doctrine of the physical resurrection of Jesus from the dead? Does it matter if this event really happened?
Chapter 16 - Notes
16:2 BKC: This paragraph is an excellent explanation of the concept of Christian giving. It merits a close second reading. However, remember that this passage is discussing charity giving to the needs of destitute believers, not the giving of offerings to support the work of the ministry. (Chad Woodburn)
V. Conclusion (16:13-24)
Chapter 16 - Questions
New Testament Survey by Merrill Tenney : Highly recommend this book for a good background to the life of Jesus and the New Testament. The first half covers background, what the world was like under Roman rule and what the conditions of the Jews were. The second half gives background, outline, and introductions to each of the New Testament books.
Bible Background Commentary (New Testament) by Craig S. Keener : Printed by InterVarsity Press, this is an excellent one-volume resource for understanding the customs and background (history, language, and geography) behind the verses of the New Testament. It is not an interpretation of the New Testament as are most commentaries, its purpose is to give background information. I highly recommend this to the serious student of Scripture, who already has a good grasp of the meaning and application of the New Testament.
Bible Knowledge Commentary (New Testament, Volume II) by the Staff of Dallas Theological Seminary : Admittedly a 'dispensational' interpretation, meaning that the authors take the book of Revelation very literally and teach that Jesus will take the Church out of the world before the 'Tribulation Period'. Although I do not agree totally with their opinions, I have found this to be a fair commentary, also explaining the views of others which the authors do not hold. If you use my notes you will receive some insight as to where the points of disagreement are. Highly recommended as the best short commentary on the market. I am easily in agreement with 98% of what this commentary teaches, and who knows if I am right about the other 2%??
1 Corinthians, (Expositor's Commentary Series, Vol 10) by Harold W. Mare [bound with Romans by Everett F. Harrison, 2 Corinthians by Murray J. Harris, and Galatians by James Montgomery Boice] : A scholarly commentary for advanced students and trained pastors, College and Graduate reading level. Deals with all major views of each passage of Scripture, along with notes on any textual and translation problems (notes on Greek text are perhaps useable by those without knowledge of that language, but intended for those with at least some familiarity with the language.)
Updated March 2012
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