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Bible Commentaries

Brian Bell Commentary on the Bible

1 Corinthians 1

Verses 1-17

  1. INTRO:
    1. Picture these Tragedy’s:
      1. A bride separating from her groom: only months after their wedding.
      2. Autoimmune Disease: which occurs when the immune system starts attacking healthy cells in the body. (thinking that they are pathogens/germs)
    2. Its the same for a Church? - Imagine finding a church w/o problems…the prefect church?
      1. Of course they say, “if you do find one don’t join it; you’ll ruin it!”
      2. This side of heaven, wherever you go, we live in a world tainted by sin – the work of holiness is an ongoing daily project!
    3. I’m encouraged that even if Paul himself were to come & pastor CM w/all his apostolic authority, we’d still have problems that we have in our church!
      1. I know this for Paul started & ran the Corinth Church for 1 ½ years; yet Satan was able to spoil its fruit, only a little while after he left.
      2. We’ll run across: “Divisions, difficulties, factions, lawsuits, immorality, questionable practices, abuse of the spiritual gifts, even abuse of the Lords Supper!”
    4. Picture you’re an elder in the 1st century church: You have no model to follow, no traditions to draw from. What does your church look like? What problems might you have?
    5. How can a church stand in a very pagan society?
      1. In 1st Corinthians we have Hope & a challenge for “A People in Process!” or, “A Bride in Rehab!”
      2. The Challenge: To reflect a perfect Savior in the way we are living, even though we are imperfect!
      3. The Hope – That one day our struggles will be over & we’ll stand perfected in the presence of our Savior!
      4. “Paul had planted a church in the city,…but the city had gotten into the church!”
        1. Which explains their problems! “…do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
    6. Background on Corinth: (A Roman colony on Grecian soil)
      1. Population: Estimated 700,000.
      2. Location: right on an Isthmus, on a landmass (only 4 miles wide) connecting central & south Greece.​​​​​​​
        1. This was an important trade route (many vessels would save 200 miles of perilous navigation around the peninsula by cutting through Corinth’s isthmus).
        2. It was thus a “2 port town” making it the chief commerce center of Greece.
        3. In this wealthy city were opportunities for exotic goods, entertainment, culture, & where sensual pleasures abounded.
        4. “A bustling hub of world-wide commerce, degraded culture, & idolatrous religion.” (Ken Boa & Bruce Wilkinson; Talk Through The Bible)
      3. Their Reputation: The Greeks had a verb to play the Corinthian”, which was synonymous to Loose Living!
        1. “Pleasure Seekers came there to spend money on a holiday from morality.” (Kennteh Boa & Bruce Wilkinson; Talk Through The Bible)
        2. Corinth had a hill (an Acropolis) which was not only a fortress but also had the famed Temple of Aphrodite. In which boasted at least 1000 priestesses of Aphrodite, who were sacred prostitutes.
          1. Aphrodite = Gk. Goddess of Love - Roman equivalent was Venus.
          2. Interesting, Paul will speak to them on the grandest passage ever on Love (ch.13)
            1. [and the greatest passage on the resurrection in ch.15]
      4. Church History in Corinth:
        1. ​​​​​​​AD 51, the Apostle Paul steps into this population of paganism.
        2. Paul started a church here on his 2nd trip through. He was there for 18 months (Acts 18:11)
        3. He joined Pricilla & Aquila in their Tent-making trade.
        4. Silas & Timothy arrived bringing a monetary gift from Phillipi - Then Paul devoted all his time to preaching the gospel.
        5. Paul after 18 months heads to Jerusalem. Stopping in Ephesus where he leaves A & P to tend to a Pneumatology class w/Apollos...Who eventually went to Corinth to pastor there.
      5. Problems: When he left, big problems arose.
        1. Paul wrote a stern letter to them (1 Cor.5:9)…but to no avail.
        2. Paul had several correspondences with Corinth (probably 4). Only 2 our preserved for us. [1 Corinth is prob the 2nd letter]
        3. While Paul was in Ephesus a delegation from Corinth came w/a letter asking for help regarding specific questions.
        4. 1st Corinthians was his response:
          1. Ch.’s 1-6 Dealt w/sin in the church. (Rebuke for sinful conditions)
          2. Ch.’s 7-16 Answered the questions they’d asked (Reply to specific questions)
        5. Let’s look at the breaks in Ch.7:1; 8:1; 12:1; 16:1 “Now concerning…”
          1. (7) Marriage – (8-10) Idolatry – (11) Public Worship – (12-14) Sp. Gifts – (15) Resurrection – (16) Special Offering.
  2. A BRIDE IN REHAB!
    1. ​​​​​​​Before Paul digs into the different issues he 1st: Affirms their Calling; Expresses Thanks; & Exalts the Faithfulness of God.
    2. PAUL AFFIRMS THEIR CALLING! (1-3)
    3. See called or calling in (vs.2,9,24,26)
    4. (2) Note, “to be” is not in the text, so its “saints by calling”!
    5. (3) Grace - that which brings into our lives everything that delights the heart of God
    6. Peace - doesn’t imply laziness or inactivity. It is movement w/o friction, creating perfect harmony.
      1. These 2 inner powers God has given to each one of His children.
    7. PAUL EXPRESSES THANKS! (4-8)
    8. (4) Paul was always brought to prayer for those he loved!
      1. Which reminds me of a story of a man who encountered a bit of trouble while flying his little airplane. He called the control tower and said, "Pilot to tower, I'm 300 miles from the airport, 600 feet above the ground, and I'm out of fuel. I am descending rapidly. Please advise. Over." "Tower to pilot," the dispatcher began, "Repeat after me: "Our Father Who art in heaven...'”
    9. (7) Paul thanks God for the gifts God has given the Corinthian believers.
      1. They received all the spiritual gifts.
    10. (8) Paul thanks God for the guarantee God gave the Corinthian believers.
      1. Confirm you to the end refers to their eternal security.
    11. PAUL EXALTS THE FAITHFULNESS OF GOD! (9)
    12. Gods is faithful... –
    13. You were called into the Fellowship of His Son – Koinonia, having everything in common. We’re in partnership w/Him!
      1. Your interests are His – your mind & its thoughts; your body & its purity; your spirit & its graciousness.
      2. His interests are yours - His glory, the wonder of His person, the majesty & greatness of His Power.
      3. Alan Redpath said, “All He has is at your disposal now. And His desire is that all you have should be at His disposal now...& always.” (Alan Redpath pg.19)
    14. PAUL ADDRESSES 2 PROBLEMS! (10-17)
    15. Paul addresses 2 of the numerous Problems confronting the Corinthian church in (10-31).
      1. They were elevating human Leaders (10-17).
      2. They were elevating human Wisdom (18-31) [we’ll look at next week].
    16. The Corinthian letter exposes the tragedy of low-level Christian living! (Redpath)
    17. ELEVATING HUMAN LEADERS! (10-17)
    18. Baseball player & manager, Casey Stengel said: "It's easy to get good players. Gettin' em to play together, that's the hard part!"
    19. The Individuals & The Issue: (10-16)
    20. 4 Fan Clubs started: Paul, Apollos, Simon Peter, Christ (10-12)
      1. Christ died for us & lives to help us be all He has designed us to be; & He must have the preeminence.
      2. Paul’s asking...Are you following the man or the message?
      3. Apparently the argument consists mainly of who baptized them.
    21. (11) Chloe’s household wrote to Paul that factions had developed in the church regarding the most important man in the church…was it Paul the founder? Or, Apollos our pastor?(incredibly intelligent ) Or, Cephas the #1 apostle? (aka Peter, the Rock on which church was built on)? Or, Christ? (Jesus only doctrine. They receive their teaching directly from Him! Not from a man)
      1. Let’s do a test, what does it sounds like: “Father, Son & Pauly’s Spirit?”…No!
      2. (Slide #17) Today it sounds more like this, “I was saved by Billie Graham! Or, in our Calvary circle, “I was baptized by pastor Chuckin the days of the tentw/bell-bottoms!”
        1. Some are so proud of their denomination; others(like us) have equal pride being a non-denomination!
        2. They were feeling proud of the teacher they followed.
    22. The Insanity: (17)
      1. Was I, Paul, crucified for you? (13a)
      2. Were any of you baptized in the name of Paul? (13b)
      3. Christ didn’t send me to baptize, but to preach the Good News (17)
        1. Wow! How can Paul say that if Baptism was required for Salvation? (some bel that!)
    23. Paul masterfully turns their attention to Christ & the Cross!
      1. Paul has taken a stand to constantly bring his hearers back to the cross.
      2. "Onward, Christian Soldiers": Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before. Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe; forward into battle see his banners go!
      3. A parody of "Onward, Christian Soldiers": Like a halting caravan, Moves the church of Christ; We are feebly faltering, Toward our timid tryst.
        We are all divided, Many bodies we,
        Kept apart by doctrine, And lack of charity. Careful, Christian pilgrims! Walk in doubt and fear, With the cross of Jesus, Bringing up the rear.
      4. Paul is convinced that the answer in each controversy & to every failure, as well as all hope for the future is...“the word of the cross. See 1 Cor.2:2!
        1. John Bunyan said in his immortal Pilgrim's Progress, "I saw in my dream that just as Christian came up to the cross, his burden loosed from his shoulders and fell from his back and began to tumble till it came to the mouth of the sepulcher, where it fell in and I saw it no more. Then was Christian glad and lightsome and said with a merry heart, "He has given me rest by his sorrow, and life by his death."
    24. Prayer: Lord give me power over myself; power over my sin; power over what I am by nature!

Verses 18-31

  1. INTRO:
    1. Swindoll said, “In the beginning God created man in His own image. The competition began when man insisted on returning the compliment!”
      1. Human intellect vs. Divine wisdom; no comparison.
      2. The mind of an ant to the mind of a dolphin; no comparison.
      3. PC vs. Mac; no comparison.
    2. Corinthians is a church that was struggling with being cool & being w/Christ. Struggling with what others thought & what Jesus taught. A theology of glory & A theology of the cross.
      1. A theology of glory - So many just want to be rich, cool, beautiful, successful, powerful, & desire a relationship with God...to help them achieve this end! They want to be all that they can be! God is like the best Self-Help guru ever. And to quote the philosopher Charlie Sheen, “He’ll make you a Winner.”
        1. Thats often the junk sold as Christianity today!
      2. A theology of the cross - Jesus wasn’t hip, cool, rich, or powerful (politically speaking).
        1. Jesus was humble. He got executed. He suffered.
        2. Jesus doesn’t look like the guy we all want to be!!!
      3. So, will you go with the real Jesus...or the One who you really want Him to be?
        1. Maybe its not about our looks, money, fame, & glory. If Jesus was the perfect human being, then we are really messed up on what we’re going after.
        2. Paul starts answering these questions here…
    3. Title: What is wisdom in Greek? Sophia (σοφία)
  2. SOPHIA MEETS JESUS! (18-25)
    1. The preaching of the cross - is not the act of preaching itself. It is the Word/logos of the cross!
      1. An eminent professor of theology said to his students in his seminary class, “Gentlemen, I ask you to remember that you are called upon to know something of the foolishness of preaching, not the preaching of foolishness.” But he’s wrong.
        1. The word of the cross is foolishness...to those who are perishing.
      2. It stands in contradiction to all the philosophy, education, & knowledge of this world, for the preaching of the cross puts the sentence of death upon them all.
      3. Christianity neither flatters human beings nor presents God in an easily palatable form.
        1. Who would have ever expect or invent: a crucified Messiah & a crucified self as the way to everlasting life?
    2. The story does sound crazy/foolish. It does! (be honest haven’t you ever heard yourself & thought...this IS weird!)
    3. Imagine if the story of Christianity was translated into our modern day:
      1. You go up to share your faith at the gym. They say, “Ok, tell me about your God.”
      2. Well, my God was born in Murrieta. To a sophomore at Vista Murrieta High School who was a virgin. This virgin girl went camping at Lake Skinner campground & gave birth to God in a tent. Her son never made it to college or to the big city. Never wrote a book, because he was busy putting on tires at America’s Tires over on Madison from High school till he was 30. He did miracles, walking across Lake Elsinore. He once stopped in at In-N-Out on Diamond Drive & with his lunch fed all of storm stadium on a packed-out night. He brought a Wildomar man back to life. And then one day they gave Him a lethal injection. But, 3 days later he was seen walking the streets in old town Temecula, then at the Mall, then at the Murrieta library. And...He’s God. Want to accept Him?
    4. But to those who are being saved - Christ’s death is central to salvation, a process which starts with justification, advances by sanctification, & climaxes in glorification.
      1. Here Paul speaks to the 2nd phase - progressive sanctification, where we are delivered from sin’s power through the life of cross-bearing.
        1. Salvation (free from sin [i.e. Orig.sin]); Sanctification (free from sins power); Glorification (free from ever sinning again).
        2. Death to self does not mean a morbid, introspective inferiority complex that leads to insecurity. It just means being truly dead to self by depending solely on God. (Swindoll)
          1. They no longer have to rely on their own plans/intellect to see them through. They become the most secure people on earth.
      2. In the Roman Empire, people sentenced to die by crucifixion had to carry at least a section of their cross through the city to their place of execution.
        1. This practiced demonstrated to all observers that the condemned rebels had finally submitted to the state.
        2. In submission to the Father, Jesus carried His cross to Golgotha & was crucified on our behalf.
        3. Following Him requires a similar crucifixion - the death of our stubborn wills & selfish desires.
          1. Are you shouldering your personal cross?
          2. Are you nailing your selfish desires to that cross & letting them die?
            1. Or do you find yourself feeding your selfish desires like a little puppy you just found & brought home?
    5. (19) Is.29:14 - Why this verse? Context: With the ferocious Assyrians poised on Israel’s border. Instead of running to God for protection, Israel followed human counsel & formed an alliance with Egypt.
      1. Does an Assyria sit crouching on your doorstep of your life…watching…waiting… wondering who you’ll call on for help?
        1. Whether the threat is a rocky marriage, a depleted bank account, endless hospital bills, or an immoral relationship, there is One whom you can turn to for help.
    6. (20) Wise?(unsaved Gentile Intellectual) Scribe?(Jewish Intellectual) Disputer/debater?(Gk Philosopher)
      1. [NLT] So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish.
      2. This is what celebrities are to American Culture. Actors, athletes, music artists, public speakers, etc.
      3. So the pseudo-intellectualism of Paul’s day needed to be stopped & replaced with the wisdom of God.
        1. They needed to come face-to-face with the meaning of the cross.
    7. Don’t be ashamed of Jesus nor proud of yourself.
      1. We are not opposed to Scholarship - but scholarship should lead to Jesus.
        1. Study & love Jesus!
      2. We are not opposed to Truth - but Truth should lead to Jesus.
      3. We are not opposed to Sociology - but Sociology should lead to Jesus.
      4. We are not opposed to Psychology - but Psychology should lead to Jesus.
      5. We are not opposed to History - but History should lead to Jesus.
        1. Any & every discipline should lead to Him!
      6. We’re not saying don’t read - read & love Jesus!
      7. We’re not saying don’t study - study & love Jesus!
      8. We’re not saying don’t be educated - be educated & love Jesus!
        1. Paul is not denigrating philosophers, scholars, & students...but he speaks against those who use the mind God gave them, to argue against the God who created them.
    8. (21) The world through (its) wisdom did not know God –
      1. Brilliant astronomers chart the orbits & shapes of the stars & planets. But their telescopes never lead to God.
      2. Astronauts some of the finest specimens of humanity, explore our universe. But they don’t discover God.
      3. Scientists peer through their microscopes & record the details of a world invisible to human eyes, scrutinizing, analyzing, hypothesizing, theorizing. But their spiritual lenses are also microscopic, so they never see God.
      4. Intellectual Educators read & study & probe the classics. But in all their humanistic research, they, too, never find God.
        1. No, the world through its wisdom has not come to know God.
    9. Wow, so what does it take to find God? (21b)
    10. (22-25) What are you looking for?
    11. The Jews request a sign for verification!
      1. They demand a victorious Messiah, heralded by miracles, who will conquer their enemies & restore the glories of David’s kingdom.
        1. Instead, the Jews are presented with a man who refused to give them the signs they sought. And while claiming to be their king, would up naked on a cross, laid in a borrowed tomb. No white horse. No shining lance.
        2. How could the Jews believe that this Jesus was their long awaited Savior?
    12. The Greeks seek after Wisdom!
      1. They look for a proud philosopher-king who will satisfy their intellectual curiosity.
        1. Instead, they are told about a divine ruler who humbles himself to be born a Jew, grows into manhood virtually unrecognized, & spends 3 years speaking mysterious parables & healing all kinds of illnesses.
        2. He ends his brief ministry betrayed by His own people & executed by crucifixion, the most despised form of death. This scandalized the Greek mind-set.
  3. GLORY IN THE LORD! (26-31)
    1. (26) Who were the Corinthian church made up of? See 6:9,10,11.
      1. We’ve all seen art made from discards. It could be old thimbles, piano strings, rusted clock gears, bent paper clips, scratched door hinges, & cabinet knobs. Each part is virtually worthless. But the hands of a craftsman have turned the useless odds/ends into an extraordinary piece of art.
        1. God is such an artist that He can take & mold our worthless lives & turn them into priceless works of art!
      2. But Paul says sometimes we forget our “junkyard beginnings”.
      3. We think God performed a great work on us because we gave Him high-quality material to work with.
    2. Not many, but not, not any - Lady saved by the letter “m”. She was a noblewoman (highborn).
      1. Out of His grace, God stoops & saves the nobodies, the nothings, the junk.
        1. Thus, the Artist, not the art, should get the honor/glory!
    3. Getting saved is strange, you just all of a sudden “get it!” When someone doesn’t “get it”, it’s not because they are stupid, or because you didn't explain it perfectly. They’re not stupid, they are blind!
      1. But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. 2 Cor.4:3,4
    4. (29) Pride is self-deification.
      1. For God so loved you...but not because you are intrinsically lovable!
      2. As the Lord told Jeremiah Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” 9:23,24
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1". "Brian Bell Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/1-corinthians-1.html. 2017.