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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 1

Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentMahan's Commentary

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Verses 1-9

To the church of God at Corinth

1 Corinthians 1:1-9

Paul taught in Corinth for a year and a half (Acts 18:1; Acts 18:11). He left Corinth and sailed to Syria. During his absence false teachers crept in and disturbed the church with false doctrine and unscriptural practices. The church fell into factions and divisions and misuse of gifts. Questions arose about marriage and going to law with one another. The resurrection was doubted by some, and the ordinances were abused. They flaunted their learning, grew careless in their conduct and purity of doctrine began to decline! This epistle deals with these issues and many more problems confronting this young church.

1 Corinthians 1:1-2 . We have the usual salutation or inscription. The writer describes himself by his name and his office: 'Paul, called to be an apostle.’ His call to the apostleship was 'by the will of God.’ No one ought to take such an office or responsibility unless he is called and appointed to it by God (1 Timothy 1:12; Acts 9:15). Sosthenes was the ruler of the Jewish synagogue at Corinth. Luke mentions him in Acts 18:17. Evidently he had been converted and was with Paul, for Paul calls him his brother.

The epistle is addressed to 'the church of God . . . at Corinth' a congregation of believers joined together in fellowship, worship and the preaching of the gospel. Paul's letter is intended for those who are 'sanctified in Christ Jesus,’ set apart from all eternity to grace and glory and justified by the blood and righteousness of Christ (Hebrews 10:10-14). Not only are they chosen and justified, but they are 'called to be saints.’ They are called by his spirit and by his word to repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus. The epistle is intended for all other believers; in all places, who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus! Paul says, 'Christ is my Lord and their Lord!'

1 Corinthians 1:3. Nothing is more desirable than to have God reconciled to us through Christ, and this is signified by the word 'grace.’ Then to have peace with God, peace of heart and conscience and peace among ourselves, even in a world of trial and trouble, is indeed the greatest blessing. The foundation of all grace and peace is the favour of God through the merits of Christ.

1 Corinthians 1:4. 'I always' (as often as he thought of them) 'thank God for you and for the grace of God given to you by Christ.' This includes all sorts of grace (electing, justifying, regenerating and sanctifying grace) and every grace of the Spirit (as repentance, faith, hope, love, etc.); for all are the gifts of God in them (1 Thessalonians 2:13). No work nor gift of grace is by man's free will or merit, but all are owing to God's grace and come through the hands of Christ (1 Corinthians 4:7).

1 Corinthians 1:5. This is a continuation of the thanksgiving. 'In Christ in every respect you are enriched and provided for.' Not only did they have a spiritual, experimental knowledge of the gospel of Christ, but many of them had been richly qualified with gifts to preach and teach the gospel . Some had the gift to speak in other tongues and other gifts of the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 1:6. By the 'testimony of Christ' is meant the gospel (2 Timothy 1:8). This gospel had been preached to the Corinthians and was confirmed and established among them by the signs and miracles with which it was attended and by the Holy Spirit's applying it to their hearts (Hebrews 2:1-4).

1 Corinthians 1:7. The Corinthians were not only honored with the light of the gospel, but God endowed them with many gifts and graces so that they were not inferior to any of the churches. However, Paul does not ascribe unto them such abundance as to leave nothing to be desired, but merely as much as will suffice until Christ comes and they shall be made perfect (1 John 3:1-2; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).

1 Corinthians 1:8. Paul lets them know what hope he has of them as to the future. 'The Lord will never forsake you but will complete what he has begun in you' (Philippians 1:6). The love of God to his people always continues. Their interest in Christ will never be lost. Grace in them is eternal life, and they will never totally be moved away from the hope of the gospel. In the day of our Lord Jesus every believer will be presented blameless, not in themselves, for no man is without fault and sin; but in Christ's righteousness all the elect are blameless, being justified by his blood and clothed in his righteousness (Colossians 1:20-22; Ephesians 1:3-4; Jude 1:24-25).

1 Corinthians 1:9. When the Scriptures speak of God as 'faithful,’ the meaning in many cases (and here especially) is that what God purposes and promises, he provides. He shall not fail (Romans 11:29; Malachi 3:6). 'He has called you into the companionship and fellowship of his Son, and he will faithfully discharge every promise to Christ and to you' (John 6:37-39; John 10:27-29; Romans 4:20-25).

Verses 10-18

Let there be no divisions among you

1 Corinthians 1:10-18

1 Corinthians 1:10 . Up to this point Paul had handled these Corinthians mildly; now he begins to deal with some of the problems that existed among them. 'I urge you and appeal to you by the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.' That name must have had weight and influence among them, for it is by his name they were called, justified and accepted by the Father. Christ is precious to every believer, and it was his honour and interest which was at stake by their divisions and errors. Paul was not acting in his own name, nor seeking to preserve his reputation as a preacher, but he was concerned for the glory of Christ and the testimony of the gospel (1 Timothy 6:1; Titus 2:5; Philippians 3:17-18).

The apostle exhorts three things:

1. 'Speak the same things. Profess the same truths and preach the same message of grace in Christ.'

2. 'Have no divisions and quarrelling among you.' Nothing is more inconsistent on the part of believers than to be at odds with one another.

3. 'Live in harmony together.’ The foundation of harmony is for all to be agreed in mind and judgment, not only on matters of doctrine, but on other matters also.

1 Corinthians 1:11 . Chloe was evidently a woman member of the church whose husband was dead, for Paul refers to the household by her name. They were probably a family of great influence and integrity in the church and had written to Paul concerning the problems in this church. Paul says, 'My information comes from a good source.'

1 Corinthians 1:12 . Some of the church members were divided into factions. One group said, 'We are of Paul. He was instrumental in our conversion. We like his way of teaching. He is our pattern; we won't hear anyone else.' Another group said, 'We don't care for Paul; we like Apollos,' while another claimed Peter as their champion. Still others said, 'We are of Christ; we don't need the pastors and teachers at all.'

1 Corinthians 1:13 . The body of Christ is not to be divided! He is our Lord and Master; he was crucified for us and we were baptized in his name, not in the name of his ministers. We are all one in Christ (Galatians 3:26-28). The minister has his gifts, as all others have theirs, and one is not to be exalted above the other (1 Corinthians 12:12-20).

1 Corinthians 1:14-16 . The apostle did not dislike the ordinance of baptism, nor was he discounting its value or importance. But because he was an apostle and was held in great esteem for his faith and his gifts, he was thankful that he personally baptized so few, lest he be charged with having a personal following, or lest people whom he baptized find some cause for pride or comfort in the fact that they were baptized by Paul himself.

1 Corinthians 1:17 . He anticipates an objection that he was neglecting the Lord's command to 'go and teach all nations, baptizing them.’ So he says, 'Baptism is not the chief and principal business of the ministers, but their main business is to preach the gospel of Christ' (1 Corinthians 2:2; 1 Corinthians 9:16; Galatians 6:14). And that preaching of the gospel was not with man's wisdom, human eloquence and oratory, or in a show of vanity and false piety, but in a plain, humble and modest manner. The method of preaching which he pursued was the opposite of show and ambition; it was very simple and to the point, for which the false teachers despised him. When men's ears and minds are tickled and entertained by our human wisdom and eloquence, the gospel of Christ is pushed aside, and nothing remains but dead theology. The issues are clouded, the simplicity of Christ is misunderstood and the faith of our bearers stands in our wisdom, not in the person and power of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Corinthians 2:4-5).

1 Corinthians 1:18 . The preaching of salvation by the grace of God alone by the crucified Christ, the preaching of righteousness, peace and reconciliation by the blood of his cross, the preaching of a sufficient sacrifice and atonement by Christ offering up himself on the cross in our room and stead is sheer nonsense to those who are perishing, whether they are in the church or the world. But unto us who are being saved by the power and grace of God, this gospel is both the power of salvation and a revelation of the wisdom of God. We see in Christ crucified our deliverance from the curse of the law, and we see in Christ crucified how God can be both just and Justifier of those who believe (Romans 8:1; Romans 8:33-34; Romans 3:19-26).

Verses 19-31

He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord

1 Corinthians 1:19-31

In 1 Corinthians 1:18 Paul declares that the preaching of the gospel of Christ is foolishness to natural men. The mysteries of grace are hidden from the wise and prudent (Matthew 11:25; 1 Corinthians 2:7-8). So it is nothing unusual for men who are distinguished for wisdom in other areas to reject totally and despise the gospel of redemption.

1 Corinthians 1:19 . In a quotation from Isaiah 29:14, Paul shows how unreasonable it is to question the gospel of the cross on the ground that the so-called wise men of the world call it foolishness. God says, 'I will render useless their wisdom, learning and philosophy.' Men who are wise in their own esteem become fools, men who profess to see by the light of human wisdom are struck blind and the wisdom of this world becomes vain and worthless when it exalts itself against God (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12; 1 Corinthians 3:18).

1 Corinthians 1:20 . Where is the wise man, who boasts of his superior wisdom and knowledge? Where are the scribe and the scholar? Where is the debater and disputer of this world, who derives his wisdom, not from the Holy Spirit, but from human understanding? They are not to be found among those whom the Lord uses to minister the gospel, to write the Scriptures, or to load his church. Without Christ all sciences are vain, all roads lead to ruin and all human wisdom is foolishness. The gospel exposes all worldly wisdom to be what it is foolishness (Romans 1:18-24).

1 Corinthians 1:21 . When the world (with all of its earthly wisdom) failed to recognize and know the living God by means of its own, God (in his wisdom and purpose) was pleased to reveal himself and his salvation (purchased and provided by Christ) through the very means the world calls foolishness - preaching of the gospel! While the wise men of the world left to perish in their sins (ignorant of God), the gospel they despise has become the power of God unto salvation to all that believe in Christ (Romans 1:14-17).

1 Corinthians 1:22 . The Jews required a sign from heaven that Christ is the Messiah. Though miracles were wrought and Scriptures fulfilled, they required their own signs in their own way. The Greeks (those distinguished by superior intelligence) seek after that which satisfies human intellect.

1 Corinthians 1:23 . We preach a crucified Christ, bearing our sins in his body on the tree, forsaken of God and rejected of men. To the Jew this message is a scandal and an offensive stumbling-block, and to the Greek it is sheer nonsense and absurd.

1 Corinthians 1:24-25 . But to those who are called, enlightened and of God, Christ crucified is not only 'the power of God' to save, but 'the wisdom of God.’ We see in Christ the law honored, justice satisfied and every attribute of God glorified, enabling him to be just and Justifier (Romans 3:19-26). What men call foolish (if it is of God) is wiser than men, and what men call weakness (if it is of God) is stronger than men.

1 Corinthians 1:26-28 . 'Consider your own calling; look about you in the church. Not many of you' (he does not say none of the noble and mighty are called, for some were saved) 'were considered to be wise according to human standards; not many of you were influential, powerful, or of a high and noble birth. But God chose those whom the world calls foolish to put the wise to shame. God chose the weak to put the strong to shame. God deliberately chose the low-born and those branded with contempt, even those looked upon as nothing, that he might bring to nothing the high.'

1 Corinthians 1:29 . God's purpose in choosing and calling these is to banish for ever any glorying in the flesh, that no man may attribute his salvation to anything in himself, but wholly to the sovereign grace and good pleasure of God. There is nothing left us in which we may glory in his presence.

1 Corinthians 1:30 . It is not of us but totally from God that we are in Christ and that we have life in Christ. Christ is our 'wisdom,’ revealing to us the mysteries of godliness and spiritual truth. Christ is our righteousness making us upright, and putting us in right standing with God. Christ is our 'sanctification,’ making us pure, holy and unblamable. Christ is our 'redemption,’ providing our ransom from the curse and condemnation of sin.

1 Corinthians 1:31 . So then it is written: 'He that boasts, rejoices and glories, let him glory only in the Lord!' (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

Bibliographical Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1". Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hms/1-corinthians-1.html. 2013.
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