In the greeting of 1 Corinthians, Paul introduces 3 themes of the letter: 1) Paul is an authoritative emissary for Jesus Christ; 2) God chose Paul for this role; and 3) speech and knowledge are gifts from God that we ought to view wisely. We’ll also contrast 2 ways to approach studying this letter. One perspective finds little value in some of the practical problems. The other perspective leads to wisdom that can be applied to any situation.
Depending on your view of what the Bible teaches us about the Christian life, you’ll approach a letter like 1Corinthians differently. I approach this book the second way.
Perspective 1: Faith is a settled issue
Under this view, salvation is solely determined by whether and when we accepted Jesus as our Lord and savior and prayed some version of the sinner’s prayer. Having done that, faith is now a settled issued and something we don’t need to think about anymore. What we need to think about now is how we improve the quality of our Christian life and obedience. Therefore, what we worry about now is how we improve our life as disciples of Christ.
Under this view, Paul writes this letter to give the believers in Corinth practical advice on how to handle the various problems they face. From this perspective, we will not find everything in the letter equally interesting because some issues we will never face.
Perspective 2: Faith is a journey toward maturity
From this second perspective, faith in Jesus is not a one-time event that we can settle and forget. Faith is a radical change of heart that we grow to understand and which works itself out into maturity over the course of our lives the way a baby progresses toward adulthood. The choice as to whether I will believe the gospel repeatedly confronts me in various and many ways as I live my life.
Under this view, Paul writes this letter because the way the Corinthians are responding to the practical issues in their lives raises red flags about their faith. For each issue Paul addresses, he explains the implications of believing the gospel in this particular situation, and warns that the way you Corinthians are responding indicates they don’t really believe the gospel.
Under this view, Paul wants to drive home the fundamental principles of the gospel at stake in each issue. Thus, we will find everything in the letter equally interesting because we can apply those fundamental principles to any situation we find ourselves in today.
1:1Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 2To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours: 3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. – 1Corinthians 1:1-3 NASB
- Like most New Testament letters, 1Corinthians starts by identifying the author, then the recipients and followed by a greeting.
- The Apostle Paul wrote the letter to the believers at Corinth.
- Paul reminds them that he is an apostle of Jesus Christ and that he is an apostles of Jesus Christ by the will of God. Paul’s authority will become an issue in the letter.
- This is probably the same Sosthenes we met in Acts 18. Paul is dictating the letter to Sosthenes, but Sosthenes is not contributing to the content.
- The Greek word for church (Strong’s G1577) refers to an assembly of people, not a building.
- Saints are people who are set apart to belong to God. But as we read the letter, we’ll learn that Paul does not believe every member of the Corinthian church is a believer.
4I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, 5that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, 6even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, 7so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. – 1Corinthians 1:4-9 NASB
- Before Paul begins the body of a letter, Paul expresses his gratitude for what God has done in the church at Corinth.
- He thanks God for making them rich in speech and knowledge (1:5). Both speech and knowledge will become issues in the letter.
- He says they are not lacking any gifts (1:7) which will also become an issue in the letter.
- Because they have understood the gospel, they have now set their hope on the day when Christ returns because that day will bring the fulfillment of all the promises of God. The Corinthian church has problems but it also has a foundation of genuine believers who heard Paul teach the gospel and responded to it with genuine faith. God has done this work among them and for that Paul is grateful.
- God is not done with them. He is faithful and will finish the work he began in them.
- Blameless in 1:8 does not mean they have never sinned. It means their sins will not be held against them because of the blood of Jesus.
- Notice the centrality of Christ in everything Paul says.