First Corinthians 1:1–17 . . . Bible Study Summary with Questions
Introduction / Thanksgiving / Divisions / A Present-Church Struggle
First Corinthians was written by Apostle Paul in Ephesus during his third missionary journey. The letter was written to address a number of problems and questions that had arisen in the church at Corinth, including sexual immorality, marriage and divorce, food offered to idols, worship, spiritual gifts, and the resurrection.
When was it written? Around A.D. 55, approximately 20 to 25 years after Jesus' death and resurrection.
Why was it written? Word had reached the apostle Paul that the Christian community in Corinth had fallen into a variety of serious moral errors. The vibrantly pagan culture that Corinth was famous for had crept into the church there — to the point where there was alarmingly little that distinguished the Christians from the non-Christians.
But Paul's letter to the spiritually struggling Corinthian church was not intended just to harangue them for their failings. Paul challenged his Corinthian brothers and sisters not just to step back from error, but to actively cultivate holy lives in emulation of Jesus Christ.
What does it say? In his characteristic style, Paul opens his letter by getting straight to the heart of the Corinthians’ problem: misplaced priorities. He contrasts the wisdom of the world with the wisdom of God (as we'll cover next week in 1 Cor. 1:18–31), asking the Corinthians — proud of their philosophical knowledge — which type of wisdom they ought to pursue.
From there, Paul moves on to address the specific moral problems in the Corinthian church, including divisiveness (1 Cor. 4), sexual immorality (1 Cor. 5, 6:12–20), and litigiousness (1 Cor. 6:1–18). His words, however harsh, are always accompanied by positive encouragement to strive for holiness; and throughout the letter his genuine concern is evident: “I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children” (1 Cor. 4:14).
Paul’s letter wraps up with some of the most well-known passages in the entire Bible, notably the famous “Love chapter” and an eloquent explanation of the great hope around which Christianity revolves: the resurrection of Christ Jesus.
Sneak preview To find more easy-to-understand summaries of Paul's teachings that he graciously made available to Corinthian believers, click the appropriate menu tabs atop this page. Hopefully, you'll enjoy being taught by Paul.
It Makes You Wonder . . . .
- Q. 1 From reading verses 4–9, what impression do you get of the Corinthians? What do the people in your community have in common with the Corinthians? Do you personally have something in common with the Corinthians?
- Q. 2 What divides the church in Corinth (vv. 11–12, 15)? Who was Apollos (See Acts 18:24–28)?
This Week’s Passage
1 Corinthians 1:1-17
1Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,
2To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ — their Lord and ours:
3Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5For in him you have been enriched in every way — with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge — 6God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. 7Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
A Church Divided Over Leaders
10I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”
13Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16(Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel — not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.