BOOK BY BOOK BIBLE STUDY
BIBLE STUDY LESSON
THE BOOK OF FIRST CORINTHIANS
A CALL TO UNITY
1 Corinthians 1:10-17
INTRODUCTION TO PAUL’S FIRST LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS
In the biblical Greek, the word translated as “Church” in the English language is “Ekklesia”. Ekklesia is a word that comes from the Greek word “kaleo”, which means “I call”, or “I summon”. In secular Greek it refers to “any assembly or gathering of people for any purpose”, and can be a political gathering, a riot, or even an orgy. That is why Bible translators use the term “Church” instead of the terms “assembly” or “gathering”.
The biblical use of the word “Ekklesia” (Church) refers only to “a gathering of Christians to praise and worship CHRIST”. That is why, in the Bible, GOD specifies that, “When two or more are gathered together in MY name”, a phrase that would distinguish between HIS people, who assemble for praise and worship of HIM, and, any other secular assembly or gathering for worldly purposes, which might include “worship of other gods”.
Before JESUS ascended back into Heaven HE charged HIS disciples to return to Jerusalem and assemble together and wait for HIM to send the HOLY SPIRIT (Acts 1-2). This “gathering in JESUS’ name” quite literally became the birth of the Christian Church in the world. However, it would be a little while longer before CHRIST JESUS would call the Apostle Paul (Acts 9) to pull it all together as he became the face of the Christian movement in the first century.
Corinth was a Greek city located on the isthmus (a narrow strip of land which connected two larger land masses) between Peloponnesus and mainland Greece, about 40 miles west of Athens. It derived its name from the Greek term “korinthiazomai” (kor-in-thia-zom-ahee) which means “fornication”. That should give you some idea of what kind of city it was when Paul first visited there on his second missionary journey.
Paul’s first letter to the Church at Corinth was written to address the many problems that had cropped up, immediately following his founding of the church there, during his second missionary journey (Acts 18:1-8). The believers in Corinth had begun to question Paul’s authority as an apostle appointed by CHRIST. They were also misusing worship, suing each other in court, engaging in all sorts of immorality, and even denying that the resurrection of CHRIST ever took place.
The Apostle Paul wrote this letter circa A.D. 57 on behalf of himself and Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue at Corinth. Sosthenes was the man, who was beaten by an angry mob in the courtroom, while standing before the Roman governor Gallio of Achaia (Acts 18:17). Sosthenes must have converted to Christianity some time following that mob scene in his city.
The obvious purpose of this letter was to correct any damage that had already been done to the Christian belief system in Corinth by anti-CHRIST teachers, and to stave off any further damage that could yet occur in this young Church. You see, it is not enough that we say we are Christian, but rather, we must also demonstrate our beliefs in our lifestyle, lest we dishonor CHRIST JESUS, the ONE WHO sends us to spread the Gospel with dignity and respect for those whom we seek to convert. It is CHRIST’ power in us that makes it possible for us to actually live as GOD wants us to live.
PAUL’S GREETINGS AND OPENING SALUTATIONS
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
In the opening lines of Paul’s first letter to the Church at Corinth (Vs.1-10), we find no less than 10 references to CHRIST JESUS, our LORD. Here Paul begins by presenting himself as an authoritative representative of JESUS CHRIST, the head of the Christian Church. Paul says here that he has been authorized to teach the Gospel to all who have been called to be GOD’s holy people. He reminds them that GOD has decided to make them holy through CHRIST JESUS, just as HE has all the other Christians who have voluntarily chosen to join the Christian movement and network of believers.
In verses 4-9 Paul gives thanks to GOD for all of the wonderful gifts that HE had blessed the Church at Corinth with, in such a short time. GOD had enriched the Church with eloquence and every kind of knowledge, which stood to verify everything that Paul had told them about CHRIST. And even though the Church still had many flaws, they also had gained much strength that would bolster their hope, and keep them strong, until the great day when JESUS CHRIST returns. The GOD of promise, WHO invited us into a right relationship with HIS SON, will surely keep HIS Word and deliver us safely into HIS glorious presence in the end.
DIVISION IN THE CHURCH
1 Corinthians 1:10-17
In the biblical Greek, the word used for “divisions” in verse 10 is “schismata”, and it describes “a condition of tears and splits that divide the wholeness of a unit”. In 1 Corinthians 1:10-17, after giving thanks to GOD, Paul focuses in on the obvious divisions taking place in the Church at Corinth, and he sets out to present his appeal there for unity. The debate in the Church at Corinth over Christian leadership had all but destroyed the unity of that local congregation. They were constantly engaged in heated debate over who they should follow. Some wanted to follow Paul, while others were loyal to Apollos, and Peter, and fortunately, some, who were still in their right mind, were yet willing to follow CHRIST JESUS, the GOD appointed, true HEAD of the Church.
Some people, and understandably so, have come to cite this passage as an argument against forming different denominations within the Christian body. When we separate the Christian church into different factions, we are, in effect, arguing that our group is “best” or “right”, and as a result, we separate ourselves from others who are really equal members in the body of CHRIST.
We all can agree that, here in the twenty-first century, we have become more interested in teaching people about our various denominations (i.e. Baptist, Methodist, Catholic), than we are about teaching GOD’s perfect idea that is now called “Christianity”. However, it would serve us well to always remember that “Christianity” is the only “true” religion, because it is the only religion that is a product of GOD’s mind. Every other religion, sect, or denomination known to man, is quite simply, a product of man’s own mind, and therefore, in essence, is wrong.
The good news is that GOD already knew that this kind of desire, for human superiority, would rise up out of the minds of men. It is GOD’s desire that man leave “human ingenuity” out of the Church that HE has already established for HIMSELF. The only thing GOD needs from man in the Church, and quite frankly, everywhere else, is “obedience”. Our “human ingenuity” can only get in the way of GOD’s plan for the Church, and how GOD has already established the Christian belief system, which does not need to be tweaked by mankind.
JESUS CHRIST states the greatest of all Christian doctrine when HE commands that, we;
“Love GOD with all our heart, soul, and mind, and that we love our neighbor as we love ourselves”. HE goes on to further state, that, “All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments” (NLT).
“Christian unity”, is intended by GOD to transcend all the differences that men may have with each other regarding worship and anything else, and when we follow HIS instructions, those divine directives can bring men together in fellowship and love.
It is that kind of “Christian unity” that JESUS prayed about in John 17, and, that same kind of “Christian unity” that Paul wrote about to the Church, here in this letter to the Corinthians, and indeed, in all of his other doctrinal letters to the various Churches along the newly formed Christian network. It concerns a unity that is not born of bricks and mortar, or human ingenuity, but rather, it is a unity of “personal relationships”, not unlike the one we’ve already seen, between the FATHER and the SON, as an example to us, for all time.
THE WISDOM OF GOD
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
The words and the message of the Christian Bible, sounds foolish to those who are on their way to destruction. However, to those who are being saved, it represents, quite literally, the very essence and power of GOD. The Bible promises that GOD will utterly destroy human wisdom, and discard their most brilliant ideas (v.19), for there is no room, especially in the Church, for human ingenuity, there is only room for obedience.
So where does that leave the world’s philosophers, scholars, and brilliant debaters? Here in verse 20, Paul says that they will be made to look “foolish” (“moros” in the Greek) by GOD, WHO will show their worldly wisdom to be total non-sense. A man will never find GOD through his own human wisdom. In fact, GOD uses the seemingly foolish preaching of HIS servants to save only those who choose to believe in HIM. The very definition of a “foolish” person, “moros”, here in this passage, describes one who looks at reality from a perspective that is distorted, because they fail to take GOD into account.
GOD’s way always seemed foolish to the anti-CHRIST Jews, as they always wanted a “sign” from Heaven to prove it was true. And so GOD used many miracles through HIS prophets, that couldn’t be explained by “human reasoning”. And since they still couldn’t wrap their inferior minds around it, they continued on in their unbelieving lifestyles.
Equally, GOD’s way has always seemed foolish to the Gentile, as they could only allow themselves to believe in what agrees with their own worldly wisdom. When we say things like “JESUS was crucified”, anti-CHRIST Jews are offended and unbelieving Gentiles say, “Go away”, and that, “it is all non-sense”.
The plans and things of GOD that worldly people call foolishness, is far wiser than the plans and things of men that are devised through “human ingenuity”. In fact, GOD often chooses things that the world considers foolish, in order that HE may shame those who think they are wise. He also sometimes uses powerless people to shame or bring down those who are considered powerful. GOD will sometimes even choose things that are despised by the world, and counted as nothing at all, and then, use those things, to “bring to nothing”, those things that the world considers important.
And now, it is GOD alone, WHO has made it possible for us to be saved from ourselves, through CHRIST JESUS, of WHOM HE made wisdom personified. JESUS voluntarily gave HIS OWN life for the lives of we who were still embedded deeply in sin. And so, the person, who is proud enough to boast, can only boast about what JESUS has done for us, and not, what we’ve have done for ourselves.
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website