1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians

1 Κορινθίους

Reading 1,00 - 16 Chapters - 437 verses - 9,489 words

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Author and Date

Paul is acknowledged as the author both by the letter itself (1:1-2; 16:21) and by the early church fathers. His authorship was attested by Clement of Rome as early as A.D. 96 and today practically all NT interpreters concur. The letter was written C. 55 toward the close of Paul's three-year residency in Ephesus (see 16:5-9; Ac 20:31). It is clear from his reference to staying at Ephesus until Pentecost (16:8) that he intended to remain there somewhat less than a year when he wrote 1 Corinthians.

The City of Corinth

Corinth was a thriving city; it was at the time the chief city of Greece both commercially and politically.

1. Its commerce. Located just off the Corinthian isthmus, it was a crossroads for travelers and traders. It had two harbors: (1) Cenchrea, six riffles to the east on the Saronic Gulf, and (2) Lechaion, a mile and a half to the north on the Corinthian Gulf. Goods were transported across the isthmus on the Diolkos, a stone road by which smaller ships could be hauled fully loaded across the isthmus, and by which cargoes of larger ships could be transported by wagons from one side to the other. Trade flowed through the city from Italy and Spain to the west and from Asia Minor, Phoenicia and Egypt to the east. 2. Its culture. Although Corinth was not a university town like Athens, it was characterized nevertheless by typical Greek culture. Its people were interested in Greek philosophy and placed a high premium on wisdom.

3. Its religion. Corinth contained at least 12 temples. Whether they were all in use during Paul's time is not known for certain. One of the most infamous was the temple dedicated to Aphrodite, the goddess of love, whose worshipers practiced religious prostitution. About a fourth of a mile north of the theater stood the temple of Asclepius, the god of healing, and in the middle of the city the sixth-century B.C. temple of Apollo was located. In addition, the Jews had established a synagogue; the inscribed lintel of it has been found and placed in the museum at old Corinth.

4. Its immorality. Like any large commercial city, Corinth was a center for open and unbridled immorality.The worship of Aphrodite fostered prostitution in the name of religion. At one time 1,000 sacred (priestess) prostitutes served her temple. So widely known did the immorality of Corinth become that the Greek verb "to Corinthianize" came to mean "to practice sexual immorality." In a setting like this it is no wonder that the Corinthian church was plagued with numerous problems.

Occasion and Purpose

Paul had received information from several sources concerning the conditions existing in the church at Corinth. Some members of the household of Chloe had informed him of the factions that had developed in the church(1:11).There were three individuals—Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus-who had come to Paul in Ephesus to make some contribution to his ministry (16:17), but whether these were the ones from Chloe's household we do not know.

Some of those who had come had brought disturbing information concerning moral irregularities in the church (chs.5-6). immorality had plagued the Corinthian assembly almost from the beginning. From 5:9-10 it is apparent that Paul had written previously concerning moral laxness. He had urged believers "not to associate with sexually immoral people" (5:9). Because of misunderstanding he now finds it necessary to clarify his instruction (5:10-11) and to urge immediate and drastic action (5:3-5,13).

Other Corinthian visitors had brought a letter from the church that requested counsel on several subjects (see 7:1;8:1; 12:1; 16:1).

It is clear that, although the church was gifted (see 1:4-7), it was immature and unspiritual (3:1-4). Paul's purposes for writing were: (1) to instruct and restore the church in its areas of weakness, correcting erroneous practices such as divisions (1:10-4:21), immorality (ch. 5; 6:12-20), litigation in pagan courts (6:1-8) and abuse of the Lord's Supper (11:17-34); (2) to correct false teaching concerning the resurrection (ch. 15); and (3) to answer questions addressed to Paul in the letter that had been brought to him (see previous paragraph).


The letter revolves around the theme of problems in Christian conduct in the church. It thus has to do with progressive sanctification, the continuing development of a holy character. Obviously Paul was personally concerned with the Corinthians' problems, revealing a true pastor's (shepherd's) heart.


This letter continues to be timely for the church today, both to instruct and to inspire. Christians are still powerfully influenced by their cultural environment, and most of the questions and problems that confronted the church at Corinth are still very much with us—problems like immaturity, instability, divisions, jealousy and envy, lawsuits, marital difficulties, sexual immorality and misuse of spiritual gifts. Yet in spite of this concentration on problems, Paul's letter contains some of the most familiar and beloved chapters in the entire Bible—e.g., ch.13 (on love) and ch. 15 (on resurrection).

How to read 1 Corinthians

Fights. Rumors. Factions. It’s all here in 1 Corinthians. Few other passages of scripture reveal the weaknesses of Christians as vividly as this book does. Some other topics include: Dealing with a sex-crazed society. Divorce—when is it justified? When Christians can and cannot sue. Get ready! You’re about to encounter God’s perspective on some hot topics. And in the process you will see how to encourage believers to make a godly impact on today’s world.

Notice how Paul sees believers as ones who are holy and called—in spite of their sometimes unholy behavior. Watch how he skillfully strives to wake them up to the fact that they are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit (1Co 3:16; 6:19). Look for the obvious emotions that filled Paul’s heart as he wrote this letter. You will observe a wide range of moods expressed here, from anger to shame to sorrow to tenderness. He longs for believers to adjust their behavior to reflect the righteousness of Jesus. Paul’s words correct jealousies and pride, steering people away from extremes that undermine Christian unity and love. This book deserves repeated readings. Your time will be well spent as you examine areas in your own life where you may need to make a change.

1 Corinthians Interpretive Challenges

By far the most controversial issue for interpretation is that of the sign gifts discussed in chaps. 12-14, particularly the gifts of miracles and tongues-speaking. Many believe that all the gifts are permanent, so that the gift of speaking in tongues will cease (13:8) only at the time the gifts of prophecy and of knowledge cease, namely, when that which is perfect has come (v.10). Those who maintain that tongues and miracles are still valid spiritual gifts in the church today believe they should be exercised with the same power they were in NT times by the apostles. Others believe the miraculous sign gifts have ceased.

The issue of divorce is a troubling one for many. Chapter 7 addresses the subject, but calls for careful interpretation to yield consistent biblical doctrine on the matter.

Advocates of universalism, the idea that all men will eventually be saved, use 15:22 in support of that view, claiming that, just as every human being died spiritually because of Adam’s sin, they will all be saved through Christ’s righteousness.

From that same chapter, the obscure phrase “baptized for the dead” (v.29) is used to defend the notion that a dead person can be saved by being baptized vicariously through a living Christian. There have been over 40 suggested explanations for this baptism. Regardless of how that particular verse is interpreted, the falsehood of dead people having the opportunity to be saved is proven by many other texts that are indisputable clear.

A much less serious issue concerns the meaning of 6:4, which pertains to Christians taking other Christians to court before unbelievers. The resolution of that problem lies primarily in being obedient to a verse that is unambiguous.


1 Corinthians Horizontal

God's character in 1 Corinthians

  1. God is faithful - 1:9; 10:13

  2. God is glorious - 11:7

  3. God is holy - 6:9-10

  4. God is powerful - 1:18, 24; 2:5; 3:6-8; 6:14

  5. God is unified - 8:4, 6

  6. God is wise - 1:24; 2:7

  7. God is wrathful - 10:22

Christ in 1 Corinthians

Paul's letter to the Corinthians helped the believers mature in their understanding of Christ and corrected some of the false teachings that had flourished. Paul stressed the reality of Christ's death and resurrection to people who had begun to deny the resurrections of the dead (15:12-28). Sanctification through Christ is also portrayed as an ongoing process by which believers strive for godliness in their daily lives (1:2, 30)