Complete Study Of 1 Corinthians


The Corinthian church remains an example for all times concerning the fact that God does not tolerate sin in His church. The consequence of sin in the body of Christ is disunity, 1 Corinthians 1:10.

Jealousy and strife are always at the heart of disunity in the church, 1 Corinthians 3:3.

Spiritual growth is the remedy for any and all problems among brethren, the church, and the home, 1 Corinthians 3:1ff.

1. A look at the current state of the church, 1 Corinthians 1.

A. The Corinthians are the ‘sanctified’ (1 Corinthians 1:2) and ‘called’ (1 Corinthians 1:2) identified as ‘saints’ (1 Corinthians 1:2).

B. Paul charges that they be ‘blameless’ (1 Corinthians 1:8). C. Paul beseeches the Corinthians to be united in the word of God (1 Corinthians 1:10).

2. Identifying sins that stood in the way of their being ‘blameless’, 1 Corinthians 1-6.

A. Jealousy and strife revolving around measuring self-importance by who taught and baptized them (1 Corinthians 1:12-16 / 1 Corinthians 3:34 / 1 Corinthians 3:21 / 1 Corinthians 4:6).

B. Tolerating sin in the church (1 Corinthians 5:1ff).

C. Brethren defrauding each other in the worldly courts (1 Corinthians 6:1ff).

D. Brethren trying to justify their fornication (1 Corinthians 6:12-20).

3. Paul answers the Corinthian’s ‘concerns’ that were apparently put in writing to him, 1 Corinthians 7-10. The brethren were guilty of unlawful divorce, eating meats sacrificed to idols, and fellowshipping sin:

A. Concerns about marriage, divorce and remarriage (1 Corinthians 7:1-40).

B. Concerns about eating meats sacrificed idols, the use of one’s liberties, and fellowshipping error (1 Corinthians 6-10).

4. More sinful practices of the Corinthian brethren, 1 Corinthians 11.

A. 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 exposes their women as being un-submissive.

B. 1 Corinthians 11:17ff exposes their ultra-liberal and sinful practices upon the first day of the week assembly by perverting the Lord’s Supper. Brethren were having a feast and were drunk with pride upon the first day of the week.

C. 1 Corinthians 11:18 expose divisions among the members.

5. Errors revolving around spiritual gifts, 1 Corinthians 12-14.

A. A lack of love for each other caused division in the church over spiritual gifts. Many Corinthians viewed speaking in tongues as a greater gift. Paul clears the matter up in 1 Corinthians 14:1-3.

B. Chaotic assemblies on the first day of the week; i.e., tongue speakers, prophets, and inspired singers were all speaking and singing at the same time. There was no order in the church (1 Corinthians 14:26-32).

C. Women were addressing the assembly of saints in the church (1 Corinthians 14:33b–36).

6. False teaching on the resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15.

A. Paul writes, ‘how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?’ (1 Corinthians 15:12).

B. Paul reasons that if the dead will not be raised then let us eat, drink, and be merry because when we die that would be the end of the matter (yet we know better than this) (1 Corinthians 15:32).

7. Final Exhortations, 1 Corinthians 16.

A. Paul reveals his projected itinerary (1 Corinthians 16:1-12).

B. The Corinthians are admonished to stand strong and courageous in the faith (1 Corinthians 16:13).

C. Paul reminds them to remain affectionately connected to each other (1 Corinthians 16:19-20).

Introduction To The Book

The City of Corinth is located on an isthmus that connects southern Greece to the Peloponnese (Achaia). The connecting isthmus is five miles across. Sailors, coming from Athens or Asia Minor, often stopped in Corinth walking the five miles rather than sailing around the Cape of Malea.

Sailing around was, to some extent, a treacherous trip due to the strong Mediterranean winds. Because of the geographic location of Corinth, it was perfect for trade and commerce. Ships, on their way westward, would stop here. Quick population and economic growth were the results.

The city of Corinth was a city of great wealth. Wealth and population explosion gave way to an entertainment industry. The Isthmian games were a main source of entertainment to the Corinthians. The games, similar in nature to the Olympic games of neighbouring Olympia, occurred every other year. The apostle Paul referred to these games in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.

A city with economic success, a vast population, and world-renowned Olympic style games would naturally attract a variety of religious movements. Most cities of this day were devoted to a particular god or goddess. Ephesus was devoted to the goddess Diana. The principal deity worshipped in the city of Corinth was Venus, the goddess of love and licentiousness.

Just to the south of the city was a giant rock formation rising 1800 feet above sea level known as the Acrocorinthus. A temple to Venus was erected on the northern side of this mountain. The temple employed 1000 female prostitutes for the worship of Venus.

Barnes notes that many merchants lost everything they had in the city of Corinth ‘worshipping Venus’. A common proverb of their day was: ‘It is not for everyone to go to Corinth.’ The city of Corinth reminds us of our modern-day Las Vegas, Nevada. It was the ‘sin city of their day.’

The apostle Paul came here around the year 51AD, preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ, and establishes a thriving church, Acts 18:1-4. Paul’s visit to Corinth was on his second tour of preaching. He had entered the city alone awaiting the arrival of his travelling companions Timothy and Silas who were to strengthen the churches in Philippi and Thessalonica, Acts 17:10-15.

Paul remained in the city of Corinth for about 2 years and then left for Ephesus eventually making it back to Judea, Acts 18:18-19. While Paul was in Corinth, he wrote the epistles to the Galatians and the Thessalonians and upon his second visit, he wrote the epistle to the Romans. The epistle to the Corinthians was written by Paul while at the city of Ephesus on his third tour of preaching.

1 Corinthians 16:8-9 states, ‘But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.’

The date was likely AD 55-56. The letter to the Corinthian brethren was an obvious response to two letters Paul had received during his three-year stay in Ephesus, Acts 20:31 / 1 Corinthians 16:8-9. Paul refers to a letter he had received from the ‘household of Chloe’ explaining the contentions among the brethren there, see 1 Corinthians 1:11. Again in 1 Corinthians 7:1, he alludes to a letter that had reached his hands that was written by the church in Corinth.

These two letters outlined the sinful direction the Corinthian church was headed. Paul was well informed of the problems that were occurring among the brethren in Corinth before writing this first epistle.

Paul’s previous time in Corinth afforded him first-hand knowledge of what the brethren were faced with in their everyday affairs. The dissolute condition of immorality within the city of Corinth and false teachers brought an evil influence that had far-reaching effects among the brethren.

The church in Corinth had come to be divided with many problems in regards to their following the authorized word of God. Today we may refer to such a church as an open fellowship or liberal congregation. The brethren were erroneously dividing themselves based on who had baptized them, 1 Corinthians 1:12-16 / 1 Corinthians 3:3-4 / 1 Corinthians 3:21 / 1 Corinthians 4:6.

Some Christians were guilty of tolerating sin in the church, 1 Corinthians 5:1ff, defrauding each other in human courts, 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, committing fornication, 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, and not considering each other’s personal conscience, 1 Corinthians 8-10.

Furthermore, Christian women had lost sight of their God-ordained place in public, 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 and among God’s people in the church, 1 Corinthians 14:34-36.

The Corinthians had perverted the Lord’s Supper by dividing up into social classes, 1 Corinthians 11:17ff and faction was running rampant, 1 Corinthians 11:18. The Corinthians were performing spiritual gifts for selfish reasons rather than for the profit of the whole church and thereby causing schisms in the church, 1 Corinthians 12:14.

The assembly of saints had come to be chaotic, 1 Corinthians 14:26ff and there were false teachers telling people that there would be no resurrection of the dead, 1 Corinthians 15:12.

The apostle Paul could have easily given up on these brethren due to their multitude of problems; however, due to a great love for their souls, he systematically deals with each sinful issue. We can do no less today when it comes to the body of Christ.

Though a church may have a multitude of ‘issues’ we nonetheless have the responsibility to systematically deal with each one. We can only meet our own personal responsibility. Change must ultimately come from the erring.

Paul’s Trip To Corinth

You may remember that it was in the course of that 2nd missionary journey that began at Antioch in Pisidia. And we have to say that it did not begin very well!

Perhaps it was because, whilst the first journey was undertaken under the direction of the Holy Spirit, the 2nd was the suggestion of Paul. They did not wait for the leading of the Spirit.

What we can say with certainty is that it got off to a bad start because there was a terrible dispute between Paul and Barnabas because Barnabas wanted to take with them his nephew, John Mark, and Paul objected to the suggestion in no uncertain terms, because that young man was to have gone with them on their first journey, but turned back before it had barely started.

He deserted them and went home. And Paul evidently did not think the young man had the stomach for the journey. Perhaps the lad wanted his mother! The dispute was no mild disagreement, the word used to describe is the word that gives us the words ‘paroxysm’ and ‘earthquake’.

And the outcome was that these two fine men went their different ways. Barnabas took John Mark and went to his native Cyprus whilst Paul took Silas and shortly after, Timothy, and travelled North, Acts 15:36-40. The sad fact is that Paul and Barnabas never worked together again.

So that was a depressing start to the 2nd journey, and it did not improve! We are told that Paul wanted to go into Bithynia, but the Holy Spirit forbade him, Acts 16:6. He wanted to preach the Gospel in the province of Asia and the Spirit said ‘No!’ again, Acts 16:7.

So Paul found himself travelling North and West, without any idea what lay in store for him. Eventually, he and his companions reached Troas (Troy) on the coast of the Aegean Sea, quite bewildered, because they could go no farther.

Then, in the night he had a vision in which a man of Macedonia, northern Greece, stood by his side saying ‘Come over into Macedonia and help us!’

and Paul knew what he had to do. Out there, across that narrow stretch of ocean, he could see the towering Mount Athos, in Europe, and he knew that the Gospel had to be taken there. Acts 16:6-10.

But, here again, the work did not go smoothly. They came to Philippi, a Roman colony, and thanks to the opposition of the Jews in that city, they were arrested, beaten, and thrown into prison with their feet made fast in the stocks, Acts 16:16-24.

When they were released from prison Paul and his companions continued to travel westward. They passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia without preaching, because these were two Roman Military towns, full of Roman soldiers, and continued until they reached Thessalonica a town given the name of his sister, Thessala, by Alexander the great, Acts 17:1.

And, at Thessalonica, they had some success, until the militant Jews once again stirred up the citizens so that Paul was again, taken by friends under cover of night, to a small own off the main highway, to Berea, Acts 17:5-10.

But the Jews of Thessalonica heard this and determined to follow him so that the brethren in Berea took him as though they were about to put him on a ship and send him home to Caesarea, Acts 17:13-15.

What those new converts did was tremendous! They escorted him 200 miles south to Athens, where they left him and made their way home again!

So Paul arrived in Athens but he was anxious about Timothy and Silas, who had remained in Berea. Having been instructed to come to him in Athens as soon as possible, now we see a weary Apostle there in the Agora, the marketplace, confronted by more altars and images than he had ever seen before in his life!

Some of those altars bear the names of several so-called gods, Acts 17:16-21. In fact, there were so many gods in Athens that they said it was easier to find a man than to find a god in the city!

And Paul was so disturbed by what he saw, especially when he saw an altar inscribed to ‘THE UNKNOWN GOD’ that he was moved to speak about the one true God, Acts 17:22-23.

It was then that he came to the attention of the Areopogites. These were an elite group of philosophers and rulers who were officially retired but who formed a society that met regularly on the Areopagus which we call Mars Hill, although it is nothing more than a little mound in the shadow of the Coliseum, to discuss and hear and tell some new idea.

They heard that this new fellow had been speaking about the resurrection from the dead, and so they send and had him brought not the Areopagus to explain what he was preaching.

Now, you might have thought that this would have a great opportunity to present the Gospel to the leaders and thinkers of Athens, but surprisingly, he never mentioned Jesus, he did not preach the Gospel but appears to have tried to meet them on their own ground, even quoting one of their poets, Acts 17:28.

He spoke about God, judgment and resurrection and they mocked him, they laughed at him and dismissed him saying, ‘We’ll hear you again on this matter’, and Luke tells us, ‘Paul departed from them’ Acts 17:32-33

Timothy and Silas had not yet come, and Paul was anxious and departed from Athens. His visit was not altogether fruitless, there were some converts, two of whom are mentioned by name. One man, Dionysius, was an Areopagite and the other a woman named Damaris, Acts 17:34. But we do not read in the New Testament of a church being established in Athens.

When he arrived in Corinth, after all the stress and tension of the journey up to that point, and the fact that his two companions had still not come although he had ‘given a command’, that they should come without delay, Acts 17:15, and the unsatisfactory experience he had had in Athens, he must have been a weary man.

It is my view that he probably regretted having dealt with the wise men of Athens the way he did, and the way the discussion had gone.

We should not think that, because he was an Apostle he was infallible or inspired every time he opened his mouth because that would not be true. Although we are inclined to put him on a pedestal and look up to him as something of a superhuman being.

He seems capable of anything. No hardship he is not willing to bear. No danger that he will not face, No problem he cannot solve! But he was not superhuman, as we shall see as we read through this letter.

The first evidence of the humanity of Paul is seen in Acts 18:9-10, after he arrives in Corinth he has a vision in which God says to him,

1. Do not be afraid, but speak and do not hold your peace.

2. For I am with you, and

3. No one shall set on you to harm you

4. I have many people in this city!

The first fact that we should notice is stated in these verses is that when Paul arrived in Corinth he was afraid because he was human, he could misjudge situations, he could experience physical weariness, and he could feel intimated!

As he looked back over that journey that had begun with his parting from Barnabas, nothing, absolutely nothing had gone smoothly. And now, here he was, in one of the most wicked cities of the Ancient World.

And the stress and strain and physical and mental weakness were making itself felt. It is a fact that spiritual vision often breaks down as the result of physical weariness and we would do well always o remember this.

The problems at Corinth

Paul knew about the reputation of Corinth, as did most of the Roman world. The morality of Corinth was infamous. Every sin and vice known to mankind could be found there. It was a city with two seaports, one on either side of the narrow neck of land on which it was situated.

And because of this association with the sea and shipping and sailors, just like any major seaport today, it attracted a certain kind of women who were prepared to accommodate the seamen, and others, of course, who arrived at Corinth with money to spend after long periods at sea.

Drunkenness was commonplace so that whenever a Corinthian was represented on the stage or in the theatre, it was as a drunkard. In fact, there was a well-known saying in those days which was used to describe a person living a wild, reckless life. ‘He lives as they live in Corinth’.

Under normal circumstances, Paul would have been ready for any challenge that Corinth could present. But he came to Corinth after a long journey of stress and danger.

And, in a word, he was not himself! Weary, probably depressed by the way things had gone in Athens, and anxious because Timothy and Silas still had not joined him, as he had instructed.

That is why Luke tells us, in Acts 18:9-10 that Paul received a very significant and important vision, and Luke must have been told about it by Paul himself.

But, before I speak about it, let me point out that the vision did not come immediately on his arrival in the city. At first, Paul remained uncharacteristically silent! That is, he did not immediately begin to preach the Gospel.

Instead, he met two Jews, who had been turned out of Rome by Claudius, who had banished all Jews from Rome. And, because they were tent-makers, like Paul himself, he stayed with them and worked with them, Acts 18:2-3. Like any good Jew, he attended the synagogue regularly, and, like any devout Jew, he discussed the scriptures, Acts 18:4.

Remember that the Synagogue was at the heart of any Jewish community in the Empire. It was the centre for social contact, benevolence and discussion of the Scriptures. So, those whom he met in this Synagogue did not know him as Paul, the leading exponent of what they would have considered a new, false religion that was said to be ‘everywhere spoken against’.

To them, Paul was just a tentmaker who was remarkably well-versed in the Scriptures and had some strange ideas. And who argued very convincingly! And they saw nothing wrong in that!

This continued until Timothy and Silas eventually came to Corinth and found him, probably after searching for him in Athens, and it was after their arrival that he changed his presentation. He felt ‘constrained in the spirit’, compelled by his heart, to openly testify ‘that Jesus was Christ’, Acts 18:5

His message was radically different from what he had presented at Mars Hill in Athens. In this letter, you will see that he changed his method, his approach, and his message!

He says, in 1 Corinthians 2:2 ‘When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.’

And, as we proceed through this letter, we shall see how often he criticizes worldly, human wisdom, and worldly-wise men, contrasting the wisdom of the world with the wisdom of God.

He says, for example, in 1 Corinthians 1:21, that ‘The wisdom of the world is foolishness with God, and that the world, with its wisdom, does not know God’.

Just lookout for this in the first few chapters! Because we see a Paul who is very different from the Paul whom we saw in Athens! Also, as we read this letter we see just how many problems had developed in the Church at Corinth within a short time after Paul’s departure.

1 Corinthians Outline

1-4. Division. Declaring themselves followers of the various preachers and teachers who had visited Corinth, or about whom they had heard.

5. Immorality. One man was having an affair with his stepmother.

6. Litigation. They were taking each other to Court;

7. Marriage Problems about Christian Marriage.

8. The eating of meat from Pagan Temples.

10. Their abuse of Christian Liberty.

11. Their abuse of the Lord’s Supper

12-14. Spiritual Gifts; their purpose and their proper use.

15. Doctrinal Problems Resurrection from the Dead.

Significantly, Paul introduces his letter by reminding the Corinthians of his apostolic authority and mentions it repeatedly throughout the letter. For example, he says in 1 Corinthians 4:21 ‘Shall I come to you with a rod….’ If such a troubled church existed today I would not want to be a member of it!


From Paul, even the greatest of men are not immune from the stressful experiences of life. They can make errors when physical weakness or tiredness affects their judgment. But like Paul, they learn from experience and become better people.

From the church at Corinth, because the church consists of human beings, no congregation is ever perfect! ‘Too many hypocrites in the church!’ come inside! There is always room for one more.

The Letter is divided into two parts.

1. 1 Corinthians 1-6 / 1 Corinthians 1:20.

Matters about which Paul had received information from ‘the household of Chloe’.

2a. 1 Corinthians 7ff.

Questions were raised by the Corinthians in their letter to Paul (1 Corinthians 7:1). These included instructions concerning the Collection, which congregations in other places, were taking up for the benefit of the poor saints in Judea. (See Acts 15). How to deal with Marriage to a pagan. The eating of meat that had been offered in pagan sacrifice. ‘Christian Liberty’.

2b. And! Those matters about which they were, understandably, silent! The Evidence of Division, ‘Party Spirit’ among them. The Immorality that was being tolerated among them. Their willingness to resort to Litigation, in courts controlled by Pagans. Their Abuse of ‘Agape’ fellowship-meals which lead to the abuse of the Lord’s Supper. Their failure to understand the purpose and use of Spiritual Gifts. Their ignorance of the Importance of the Doctrine of the Resurrection of the Dead.

1 Corinthians 1, the seriousness of division in the church. The four parties in the Corinthian church. 1 Corinthians 1:12 “What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

1. Party of Liberty. (Paul) Free from the Law.

2. The Intellectual Party. (Apollos) The Greek Christians.

3. The Judaizing Party. (Cephas) The Jewish Christians. Note that Paul always calls him ‘Cephas’, his Hebrew name.

4. The Exclusive Party. ‘I am of Christ’.

Note on Apollos, he was a Greek intellectual from Alexandria, North Africa. Trained in Orator and Rhetoric.

Probably also trained in graceful oratory, which the Greek Corinth would make him ‘one of their own’, which could not be said of either Paul or Cephas.

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Complete Study of 1 Corinthians