1. 1 Corinthians 1:1-17
This will be the first in a series of investigations where I plan to nibble through Corinthians in small mouse mouthfuls. If, at any time, you want rather more, then the entire book is already on the site under A Truer Word—just run down to 1 Corinthians + notes. There you can go through at your own pace, or just check the verses you’re interested in. And if you’d rather read the book without my notes, then select 1 Corinthians to find it formatted in paragraphs.
1 Corinthians 1
1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God; and brother Sosthenes,
Paul is just clarifying his function, not claiming any special position for himself.
2 to the assembly of God which is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be saints, together with everyone who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ everywhere, in all their meeting places and ours,
Almost every translation seems to think that Jesus Christ here is described as “their Lord and ours,” but I’m sure it actually speaks of the homes where the believers meet. Not critical, but different.
3 grace and peace to you, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I always thank my God on your account for God’s grace given to you in Christ Jesus,
Everything we receive from God is “in Christ Jesus.”
5 that in everything you were enriched in him in all understanding and speech,
Translation note: I have used the acceptable alternative “understanding” to the more popular “knowledge” since the idea is to come to know Christ Himself and to grasp His moral wisdom in order to successfully live our daily lives, rather than to fill our heads with theology. I also felt that I should reverse the Greek order of “understanding and speech” since our speech is informed by our understanding (unless we are “praying in tongues”), and this speech is the expression of the indwelling Christ.
6 just as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you,
The testimony of Christ being their acceptance of, and commitment to, the gospel of Christ. This was clearly confirmed by the indwelling Christ appearing in their daily lives in the forms of faith, grace, universal love, wisdom, etc.
7 so that you are not lacking in any gift of grace while you wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.
The gifts of grace are partially listed in Romans 12: prophecy, service, teaching, imploring, sharing, presiding, caring, etc. They are not, in any sense, positions of authority, as they would then contradict Jesus’ instruction to not rule over each other like the Gentiles do. Instead they are functions which are to be used among the brethren to build up, encourage and train each other in holy living—eg, the evangelist being the brother who teaches everyone, probably individually, by example out on the street, to share their faith fruitfully, etc. All these giftings the Corinthians had and practised.
8 He will also secure you blameless until the end, on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Almost every translation either states or implies that our blameless state will somehow be achieved on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, but not before. Personally I’m sure, from my grasp of scripture and the word order here in the Greek, that we are to be blameless now, and all the time, right through to the end.
9 for God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
Unlike all the other translations I have linked the previous two verses with “for” as the second is simply the ground for confidence in the first.
It says, “the fellowship of his Son” rather than “fellowship with his Son” (which is the form in almost all the newer translations) because it is referring to the assembly, and therefore the body of Christ, not in this instance to our personal relationship with Him.
10 I implore you brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that your speaking be in accord with each other, without divisions among you, so you will be perfectly united in one mind and one purpose,
11 because some of Chloe’s group have told me that there are disputes among you.
The only way their (and our) speaking will “be in accord with each other,” is when we are all, independently, hearing the same thing from the Holy Spirit. This means that everyone is walking in step with the Spirit, which also means that those who teach have taught enough to make that possible, and that those who lead are encouraging the saints to do so. If we are not united, our witness will be compromised, and at least some of us will be walking away from the Lord.
The “one mind” is agreement on the thought of the Holy Spirit regarding the subject in question, and the “one purpose” is to perfectly obey God’s leadings, instructions and commands; fully trusting Him in all our circumstances. This is why Paul implores them—he knows how important it all is. Looking at “the church” today shows just how damaged is our witness by our divisions.
12 What I mean is that each of you says: “I am a devotee of Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” “I’m a disciple of Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”
Translation note: I have elaborated a little on the structure of this sentence as a straight rendering of the Greek construction into English comes across as a bit boring and thus harder to read aloud.
13 Has Christ been divided? Paul wasn’t crucified for you! Nor were you baptised in the name of Paul!
All the translations assume that there are three questions here, meaning that Paul was challenging them, but he is not giving them the opportunity to come back with the wrong answers—answers which they have already shown they would get wrong—so he makes exclamations of the truths. This may be confirmed by the negative applied to Paul being crucified, and the subsequent “nor.”
If we get our doctrine messed up, we will soon find we are defenceless against the lies of the enemy. Paul is really worried that they are so unprotected. He’s also horrified at the thought that he might be honoured for what Christ has achieved.
14 I thank God that I baptised none of you except Crispus and Gaius,
15 so no one can say that I baptised in my own name.
We cannot baptise into the name of any man without inventing a new, false religion.
16 I also baptised the household of Stephanas; apart from them, I’m not aware of baptising anyone,
17 for Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the gospel – and not with eloquent rhetoric, or the cross of Christ would be nullified.
Paul’s particular calling is to preach the gospel, God providing him with team members who were called to carry out the baptisms.
Simply preaching the gospel with “eloquent rhetoric” or clever words, automatically robs the cross of its power and effect, and consequently, robs the preaching of its power to convict. The gospel is raw and uncompromising, the cross brutal and final, and when these aspects are given their proper value, in the power of the Spirit, sinners’ hearts are laid bare and they find the opportunity to repent or refuse. If, however, we soften and sweeten the message, people are presented with a false gospel and a powerless cross, so they rarely can find repentance or faith.
Bless you folks, Geoff >ᴥ<