Central interest: The implications of the unity, in Christ, of
all believers. "Did they not realize what their party loyalties in effect
signified? Namely, that the unique and glorified Christ could be parcelled out
among rival groups as though he were a mere thing and not the sublime being who
alone had made them what they were by his sacrificial death on their account"
Various refs to Num: Paul's authority was being challenged by
some in Corinth: as Moses' authority had been challenged by Aaron, Miriam,
Korah, etc, and nation as a whole (Tes 49:409-411).
How many Corinthian letters? WFB suggests 4 (pp 18-29):
An early letter: referred to in 1Co 5:9-11.
intermediate letter, which Paul wrote "out of much affliction and anguish of
heart" (2Co 2:4) -- a drastic, severe letter lest, when he came, he would have
sorrow (2Co 2:1-4).
CALLED TO BE AN APOSTLE: Called in Acts 26:17 (cp Rom
1:1; Gal 1:15). The 12 were called (Mar 1:7; Luk 6:13), and Paul was no less
called (1Co 15:8).
BY THE WILL OF GOD: God's will was particularly
manifested in Paul's case. His preparation was from birth. He was a microcosm of
all believers, combining Hebrew, Greek and Roman in himself.
SOSTHENES: "Safe strength", poss the same as the chief
ruler of the synagogue (Act 18:17) -- who later became a Christian.
CHURCH: Gr "ecclesia". The believers are the church.
"Church = building" is not a NT idea! "Ecclesia" = assembly (see Act
CORINTH: "The ancient city of Corinth was located on
the isthmus between Attica to the northeast and the Greek Peloponnesus to the
south and had controlling access to two seas -- the Aegean, about five miles to
the east, and the Ionian on the west. Its eastern port was Cenchrea, located on
the Saronic Gulf (Acts 18:18; Rom 16:1), its western harbor was at Lechaeum on
the Corinthian Gulf. This proximity to the seas and its nearness to Athens, only
45 miles to the northeast, gave Corinth a position of strategic commercial
importance and military defense. It lay below the steep north side of the
1,800-foot high fortress rock, the Acrocorinth with its temple of Aphrodite.
Thus located, the city received shipping from Italy, Sicily, and Spain, as well
as from Asia Minor, Syria, Phoenicia, and Egypt. Instead of going 'round the
horn' at Cape Malea at the south end of the Peloponnesus, ships either docked at
the Isthmus and transported their cargoes by land vehicles from one sea to
another, or if the ships were small, they were dragged the five miles across the
isthmus. Today there is a canal running through the narrowest part of the
isthmus near Corinth.
"Corinth was called 'the bridge of the sea'. It was considered
a prosperous and rich city... 'always great and wealthy.' At the peak of its
power and influence the city probably had a free population of 200,000 in
addition to half a million slaves in its navy and in its many colonies.
"During the Roman period and in its position as a political
center, Corinth flourished, with vast income coming from its sea trade and from
the development of its arts and industries. Its pottery and Corinthian brass (a
mixture of gold, silver, and copper) were world famous.
"The celebration of the Isthmian games at the temple of
Poseidon made a considerable contribution to Hellenic life. This temple was
located about seven miles east of Corinth, not far from the eastern end of the
isthmus. But with the games there came an emphasis on luxury and profligacy,
because the sanctuary of Poseidon was given over to the worship of the
Corinthian Aphrodite (probably a counterpart of the Syrian Astarte), whose
temple on the Acrocorinth had more than 1,000 'temple prostitutes'. Many people
came to Corinth on account of these priestesses, and the city grew rich.
Korinthiazomai (meaning 'to live like a Corinthian in the practice of sexual
immorality') was the expression used to describe a person of loose life.
"Paul probably came to this important but immoral city in the
fall of AD 50, after having preached the gospel to the highly intellectual
"In the Corinthian church were both Jews and Gentiles, as
inferred from Paul's reference to them in 1Co 1. This is also attested by Latin
names, such as Gaius, Fortunatus, Crispus, Justus, and Achaicus (1Co 1:14;
16:17) and by the mention of the Jews, Aquila and Priscilla (Act 18:14) and of
Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue (Act 18:8). Sosthenes, another synagogue
ruler there (Act 18:17) -- if he is the Sosthenes of 1Co 1:1 -- also became a
member of the congregation. But no doubt the greater part of the church was
composed of native Greeks; cf Paul's reference to the Greeks who seek after
wisdom (1Co 1:20-24) and also his reference to the congregation being Gentiles
(1Co 12:2)" (EBC).
CALLED TO BE HOLY: For this Jesus prayed: Joh
HOLY: Or "saints". Gr "hagios", the holy ones! As God
"set apart" or "sanctified" or "made holy" His people in Egypt (Exo 13:2; Lev
11:44), so NT believers were "made holy" in Christ.
All believers are "saints" through their spiritual union with
Christ, a fact Paul often expressed by the phrase "in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:1,2;
Eph 2:6,10,13; 3:6) or "in Christ" (Rom 12:5; 2Co 5:17). This use of the term
emphasizes not so much personal holiness, though the believer's conduct should
correspond increasingly to his standing (2Co 7:1; 2Th 5:23), but the objective
"set apart" status each believer possesses because of the grace conferred upon
him or her through Christ.
WITH ALL THOSE: This position was not the exclusive
privilege of Corinthians, but of all "who call upon the name', ie, all those who
have faith in a divinely sent message.
EVERYWHERE: "In every place". The letter is not
addressed to all saints everywhere. But the saints in Corinth, even if meeting
in different places, were called to become part of one universal body! Cp phrase
in 2Co 2:14; 1Th 1:8; 1Ti 2:8.
LORD: Kyrios, used 7 times in 1Co 1:2,3,7,8,9,10,31. A
reminder that we all have the same Lord!
LORD JESUS CHRIST: This name concerns a Messiah
(Christ) and Savior (Jesus) who has bought us (and thus he is also Lord, 2Pe
GRACE: Gr "charis" = the favor of God (Act 11:23;
PEACE: The usual Jewish salutation, but here given
absolutely sincerely (cp Joh 14:27).
TO BE REVEALED: "Apokalupsis".
"Unto the end": "I am with you unto the end": Mat 28:20. "He
loved them unto the end": John 13:1. "Who shall confirm you unto the end": 1Co
1:8. "The rejoicing of hope firm unto the end": Heb 3:6. "Beginning of our
confidence steadfast unto the end": Heb 3:14. "Full assurance of hope unto the
end": Heb 6:11. "Keepeth my works unto the end": Rev 2:26.
BLAMELESS: The testimony was confirmed (v 6), and God
would confirm or establish to the end. Thus established, they could not be
reproached -- they were blameless or unreproveable (RV); unimpeached -- one
against whom no charge could be sustained (Rom 8:33).
The name of Jesus Christ is used 9 times in first 9
See Lesson, One mind. A sectarian spirit threatened to destroy
I APPEAL: An appeal and a rebuke wrapped up
BROTHERS: Occurs 39 times in this letter, more than in
IN THE NAME: The name of Christ is an incentive to
unity, for it will be fully realized in a unity (Joh 17:1).
THAT ALL OF YOU AGREE WITH ONE ANOTHER: The basis of
Scriptural oneness: the unity of teaching.
DIVISIONS: Gr "schismata", lit dissensions. The forming
of cliques in the midst of the one body.
PERFECTLY UNITED: "Katartizo" = joined together,
mended, made complete. Cp Mat 4:21; Mar 1:19 (sw, sig mending their nets); Gal
6:1 (sw sig restoring to unity); Heb 10:5 (sw sig Christ being
Quarreling: the root malady of all the other problems that
WHAT I MEAN IS THIS: All these, a "figure" (1Co 4:6).
There were sections in the ecclesia and Paul does not name the leaders, but to
show the futility of it all he gives to the sections the names of the apostles
and Apollos (1Co 4:6). The groups doubtless corresponded to fancied differences
in the leaders named.
I FOLLOW CHRIST: In this case, poss implying "you
others do not!" (ie 1Co 2:10).
As there is only one head (Christ), there can be only one body
Many times we read Paul's question here as we do other
Scriptures, without considering that it may have application to ourselves.
Mankind always has a tendency to worship itself, a tendency which often
manifests itself in the slavish adherence to the dictates of some other man.
Even Paul acknowledged and used to good purpose this human tendency -- as all
good preachers must -- when he encouraged these same Corinthian brethren to be
imitators of him (1Co 11:1, RSV). He was in their presence, he was visible, his
words and examples were forceful; and it is true that most men are like sheep
looking for a shepherd. But the difference between Paul and some leaders was
this: that he always kept Christ in the forefront: 'Follow me, but only insofar
as I follow Christ.'
The apostle must have realized that the tendency to believe
and follow that which is visible, to follow other men more readily than an
unseen Christ, would lead to serious and far-reaching consequences, and result
in believers becoming estranged and the Brotherhood divided. The condition of
the Corinthian ecclesia presented an opportunity for the suppression of this
tendency in its beginning, and to point a warning for all time. The Corinthians
were in a dangerous position: While all professed the name of Christ, a
sectarian spirit had definitely risen in their midst, threatening to destroy
their unity as a part of the Body of Christ:
"Some boasted in Paul, others in Apollos, others in Cephas,
and others in Christ. Hence the question: 'Is Christ divided?' The anticipated
answer is, of course, 'NO.' Yet there must be division. It is Christ who says
so: 'Henceforth there shall be division' (Luk 12:51-53). 'But did he mean among
the elect of God? No. Is it right among them then? It will not happen among
them, brother. The saints are of one mind. But who are they? Leave that. The
judgment will decide.' This last quotation is from the late editor RR. The
present editor endorses his words absolutely, because, on the most careful study
of the NT, he believes they breathe the spirit of Christ and Paul" (CCW, Xd
The exhortations of the apostles require us to face the facts,
to recognize them, and to act with wisdom. We do not hesitate to invite our
unbaptized friends to face the facts of our message to them; should we not
follow the same principle of guidance for ourselves? Our answer must be in the
affirmative. This matter should be brought home to us in the further question:
"Of what body am I a member?" Would not all unhesitatingly answer: "We belong to
the Body of Christ"? This is as it should be; but are we prepared to face the
fact that in so answering we commit ourselves to a condemnation of the present
disrupted state of Christadelphia? Certainly we cannot in reason justify it.
Christ is not divided. "Doth not even nature itself teach us" that it is not
possible that members of the same physical body can be separated from one
another, and the body structure still retain its form and function? As the
Creator has designed both the natural body and the spiritual body (His
ecclesia), their adaptation to His purpose in their respective unities must
necessarily follow His design. Thus should the Brotherhood, notwithstanding the
varied character of its membership -- young and old, rich and poor, "liberal"
and "conservative" -- be one body in Christ, in which there should be no
All who are agreed upon the simple first principles of the
Faith, and have been truly baptized into the name of Christ, have acknowledged
Christ as their "Head". To be consistent, we should therefore confess that the
present condition of Christadelphia proves false our profession. What is the
matter? Who is in the wrong? Should not the whole body of believers be unitedly
holding to the "head"? The "head", "from which the whole body fitly joined
together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the
effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto
the edifying of itself in love" (Eph 4:16)? The apostle Paul in yet another
place calls attention to "Christ our life" (Col 3:4). Can Christ be the "Life"
of a mutilated body, whose members are not only severed but also in active
opposition to one another?
" 'Is Christ divided?' Paul asked in amazement; that is, did
they not realize what their party loyalties in effect signified? -- namely, that
the unique and glorified Christ could be parcelled out among rival groups as
though he were a mere thing and not the sublime being who alone had made them
what they were by his sacrificial death on their account! Then, to drive the
point home, come two equally decisive questions, 'Was Paul crucified for you? or
were ye baptized in the name of Paul?' " (WFB 68).
What then is our position as the Body of Christ? Most surely,
brethren, we should come together, and in all humility and brotherly love have
these matters set right, before the day of opportunity passes forever, so that
all who truly belong to Christ may be a united, living band, awaiting his
Just think how it would be -- speaking of his return -- if the
Lord were to appear incognito in our midst at this very moment! Would he be
received by all portions of the Brotherhood without question, or would there be
"righteous" concern that he who is "in fellowship" with one faction cannot be
"in fellowship" with another, for fear of "contamination"? Would such
"contamination" be feared by the One who while yet in the flesh touched
sightless lepers and naked demoniacs and foul corpses? Let us think of two
brethren working side by side, both having been baptized into Christ, and yet
they act as if they were strangers to one another. Circumstances have placed
them in separate "fellowships", and they find between them a great gulf not of
their own making. The situation is painfully embarrassing and unpleasant. How
would it be if the Lord, their Head, were to stand with them one day, his true
identity hidden? He converses with them; he finds (for he knew he would find)
the knowledge of the Truth, much zeal, and love, on both sides. The Master is
pleased, and graciously reveals himself to them. With both joy and regret, and
confusion, these two brethren stand in the presence of their Lord. 'O fools, and
slow of heart to truly believe in me... why have you been satisfied with my body
divided? Did you really think I would be pleased with such a condition? Now I
beseech you, before it is too late, that there be no divisions among you.'
The time to retrace our steps in now! Let us make a special
effort, not just lip-service, to this ideal of unity. Let us not be ashamed when
Christ does come, that he will say, "I have somewhat against thee." Rather let
us reasonably, prayerfully, conscientiously, and in humility of spirit set
ourselves and our house in order, as best we can, before it is too late. Christ
must not be divided among us.
SO NO ONE CAN SAY THAT YOU WERE BAPTIZED INTO MY NAME:
A good reason not to baptize anyone into the "body of the Christadelphians"! Or
-- even more especially -- into a particular "fellowship"! True baptism is INTO
CHRIST, and not into some "subset" thereof!
Paul has no concern for "statistics"!
NOT... TO BAPTIZE: Lesson: There is no special virtue
in the baptizer! (Jesus did not baptize: Joh 4:2.) Baptism, however, is
essential: Rom 6:3-5; 1Co 12:13; Gal 3:27-29; Eph 4:5; Col 2:12. Also, note the
context in 1Co 1:13-16 -- where baptism is spoken of quite positively.
NOT WITH WORDS OF HUMAN WISDOM: Any attempt to square
the cross with human conceptions of rightness is foredoomed to
MESSAGE: "Word" (RV): discourse or
FOOLISHNESS: To proclaim salvation through a crucified
man was folly to those who were lacking in the moral ability to discern. But to
others, it was God's power, in that (1) God's power was seen in it, and (2) it
was the efficient means God employed (Rom 1:16), and (3) it was effective in
them (Gal 2:20).
Isa 29:14 -- see context (vv 9-14): Israel turned to their own
devices, and God destroyed their wisdom.
The world did not by its wisdom arrive at knowledge of God;
God chose to employ the means man regarded as foolish.
Signs // power in v 24. Wisdom // wisdom in v 24.
BUT TO THOSE WHOM GOD HAS CALLED, BOTH JEWS AND GREEKS,
CHRIST THE POWER OF GOD AND THE WISDOM OF GOD: If Christ had come with
worldly pomp, only the rich could have received him; if as a philosopher, only
the schoolmen: but coming as he did he is available for all, whether Jew or
Greek, who will humble themselves and accept God's way which exceeds human
boasting. To such, Christ is the wisdom of God and the power of God: exhibiting
in himself God's wisdom and power: and in what was accomplished also. Only God's
wisdom could find a way for forgiveness; only God could provide power to triumph
Vv 27-29: One of the fundamental messages of the Bible, and
shown in practice a hundred times: (1) God saves a nation through one man, after
first selling him into slavery, and casting him into prison. (2) God rescues
that same nation through one little baby destined for death, but plucked out of
his burial coffin on a whim by a king's daughter. (3) God sends home 30,000
troops, and wins a great victory with 300. (4) Another army cringes in their
tents at the threats of a giant warrior, who blasphemes the name of the God of
Israel, but a little boy -- rejecting all the armaments of a soldier -- goes out
to "fight" him with a shepherd's sling... and faith. (5) A whole nation is
brought to the brink of ruin, and extinction, with a huge army surrounding its
capital city -- and then, to top it all off, its king is smitten with a deadly
disease -- but God answers his prayers and the threat is wiped out in a single
night. (6) Thousands of Jews die ugly, horrible deaths on Roman crosses, but one
of those poor suffering "criminals" turns out to be the Saviour of the world.
In our Father's world, a still, small whisper of wind shakes
the earth; a tiny cry in a lonely manger introduces a new world order; a
microscopic seed grows into a great tree; and a little stone becomes a great
mountain to fill the whole earth..."so that no flesh may boast before
REDEMPTION: "Apolutrosis" = to be bought away from. See