| Back to Home Page | Back to Book Index |


Introduction to the First Epistle to the Corinthians


I. Writer


The apostle Paul (1Cor. 1:1; 16:21);

According to the records of the Scriptures, Paul was originally named Saul (Acts 13:9) and was an Israelite, of tribe of Benjamin (Rom. 11:1), Hebrew of Hebrews according to the blood relationship (Phil. 3:5). He was born in Tarsus of Cilicia, at the feet of Gamaliel, educated according to exactness of the law of fathers (Acts 22:3). Later, according to the strictest sect of our religion he lived a Pharisee (Acts 26:5) and was zealous for the law of his fathers and persecuted the church (Phil. 3:6). However, Paul did it ignorantly, in unbelief (1Tim. 1:13). One day, when he went to seize believers of the Lord Jesus to Damascus, the Lord revealed to him on the way (Acts 9:1-5). From then on, Paul became a Christian and was called to be an apostle (Rom. 1:1), preaching the gospel towards the Gentiles mainly (Gal. 2:8). He wrote at least thirteen epistles one after another and was known as the main interpreter of the truth of Christianity.


II. The Time and Location the Book was Written


    When the apostle Paul went out to preach the gospel the second time, he had ever stayed in Ephesus for three years (Acts 20:31). He wrote this book in the last year (about 54 AD to 55 BC), before the Pentecost (see 1Cor. 16:8). Though we do not know how many months were there before the Pentecost, we can know it was at best not more than a year.


III. The Recipients


To the church of God in Corinth, and all that in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (1Cor. 1:2);

Paul had lived in Corinth for one year and a half before arriving at Ephesus (Acts 18:11, 18-19). And the assembly in Corinth was supposed to be established by Him. Paul had preached the gospel and abounded the work of the Lord with the fellow workers Priscilla and Aquila, Silvanus, and Timothy and etc. (Acts 18:2, 5).

The city of Corinth was located in the southern part of Greece, in the west of Athens, and was also in a vital communications line between Rome and the east. The city was known as a vital city of commercial center. Corinth was known as temples, especially the female Greek god Venus of beauty and sex. The Corinthians advocated for whoredom in the name of religion, and the number of the temple prostitutes was even up to one thousand. Thus, the city was also known as immorality on account of the corrupt religious belief. People often described the corruption and depravity of life by the words of “like Corinth” as a symbol of “the indulgence of lusts”.


IV. The Purposes of Writing this Book


After Paul had left Corinth, he knew from different parts that the church in Corinth was faced with some difficulties. Meanwhile, the church in Corinth might have already had some problems and ask Paul for advice through a letter (see 1Cor. 7:1; 8:1; 12:1; 16:1). Therefore, the purposes of Paul who wrote this book might be at least as follows:

1)    Those who were of the house of Chloe told him there were divisions in the church (1Cor. 1:11-12). Therefore, he used four chapters to exhort them not to exalt any man.

2)    Someone told him that there was fornication and matters against others in the church (1Cor. 5:1; 6:1). Therefore, he applied two chapters to admonish them against fornication and matters against others.

3)    Concerning many things they asked or they were faced with, e.g.: things concerning marriage and virgins (chap. 7), and things concerning sacrificed to idols and the enjoyment of eating and drinking (chap. 8-10), and things concerning the women’s covered head and the eating of the Lord’s supper and eating together (chap.11), and things concerning spiritual gifts (chap. 12-14), and things concerning resurrection (chap. 15) and things of the collection (chap. 16). Paul gave them instructions one by one.


V. The Importance of this Book


    The First Book to the Corinthians is a book relating to “many matters”, for Paul in the book dealt with many matters (“concerning…”) in the evil city of Corinth. Those problems in the church in Corinth at that time occur also in churches at present, e.g.: upholding many spiritual giants, conniving at the evil doings of believers (e.g. turning a blind eye to homosexuality), exalt individualism, the general growth of the divorce rate among believers, the invasion of the belief of feminism upon the church (the covering is nearly destroyed), the ignorance of the Lord’s supper, the blind pursuit of spiritual gifts (e.g. kinds of tongues and gifts of healings), the modern belief (e.g. the denial and distortion of the facts in the Scriptures) and etc, thus making the spiritual condition of the church rather low today. Believers are only hearers of the Lord’s word, not doers. They take the participation in the actions of the church as a kind of entertainment. The apostle Paul gave very penetrating and excellent views regarding the above-mentioned matters and conditions. Therefore, this book is the answer for the problems.


VI. General Description


In short, Jesus Christ and Him crucified are the answer to all the problems in the church. We are all sanctified in Christ Jesus, and call on His name in every place ---- He is the Lord of all of us (1:2). We are called into the fellowship of His Son (1:9). The Lord Jesus is the power and wisdom of God (1:24), and is our wisdom: righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1:30). Therefore, we shall know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified (2:2). Jesus Christ is the only foundation of building the church (3:11). We believers are all of Christ (3:23), and all the workers of the Lord are only ministers of Christ (4:1). He that judges is the Lord (4:4). Christ, the lamb of the Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore, on one hand we have become a new holy lump, (5:7) and on the other hand we had been bought by the Lord at a price (6:20) so that our bodies become members of Christ (6:15) and we are joined to the Lord are one spirit with Him (6:17). The goal of our life thereafter shall be cares for the things of the Lord ---- how he may please the Lord (7:32). We dare not to sin against the Lord (8:12), and walk as we walk before Him (9:21). Christ is the cloud that guides us (10:2), and the spiritual food (10:3) and spiritual (10:4) water that provide us, as well as the spiritual rock that follows us (10:4). We should take Him as our guidance and provision of life. Christ is the Head of us (11:3), and we shall honor Him and remember Him (11:24-27). We are all members in the body of Christ (12:12). The Holy Spirit gives different measure (gift) to each member so that we shall have the same concern one for another (12:25). Therefore, we shall love one another (chap.13). All words and deeds should be for the purpose of edifying the church (14:4). Christ is raised from among dead, and become the first-fruits (15:20). In the Christ all shall be made alive (15:22) and be transformed into the spiritual, heavenly and incorruptible body in glory (15:43-54). Therefore, we shall abound in the work of the Lord today (15:58). Be vigilant; stand fast in the faith; quit yourselves like men; be strong (16:13), for the Lord is coming (16:22).


VII. Special Points


There are special points of this book as follows:

1)    “In Christ” is the sphere of believers’ life: believers are sanctified in Christ (1:2) and enjoy the grace of God in Christ (1:4) and enjoy Christ as our wisdom: righteousness, holiness and redemption (1:30). If believers are unwilling to pursue or pursue a wrong goal, they will be still babies in Christ (3:1), and they regard them wise, but are fools actually. On the contrary, they can bear fruit of life in Christ (4:15) and have good example in walking (4:17) and even have boast (15:31), for all the labor in the Lord is not in vain (15:58). In Christ, we will have love toward God and toward men (16:24). Without Christ, there is no love.

2)    The assembly is the body of Christ (12:27), and represents Christ Himself on the earth. To divide the church is to divide Christ (1:13). If there is fornication in the church, it sins against Christ (5:7-8). Whoever in the church eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the Lord Himself (11:27). If the church does not keep the order when is assembled, it goes against the commandment of the Lord (14:37).

3)    Believers are called into the fellowship of the Lord’s being and works and Himself (1:9) through the union with Him. He that joined to the Lord is one Spirit (6:17). Since we are in the fellowship with the Lord, we shall not be in communion with demons (10:21). Since we are in the communion of the body of the Christ (10:16), we shall no longer mix with fornicators (5:9).

4)    The truth of the cross is the principle of resolving all the problems in the church:

a.    In order to resolve the problems of divisions in the church, Christ who has been crucified should be exalted (1:13, 17).

b.    In order to resolve the problems of fornications in the church, our passover, Christ who has been sacrificed should be exalted (5:7).

c.    In order to resolve the problems of believers’ misuse of their bodies, believers should be reminded that their bodies are bought with a price by Christ (6:20).

d.    In order to resolve the problems of offending brothers because of the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we should be reminded that Christ died for the sake of him who is weak (8:11).

e.    In order to resolve the problems of eating the Lord’s supper unworthily, we should be reminded that this is the Lord’s body, which is for us (11:24).

f.     In order to resolve the problem of the falseness of faith, that Christ died for our sins and that he was buried and that he was raised the third day should be testified (15:3-4).


VIII. It’s Relations with Other Books in the Bible


1.    The relation with the Book of Galatians: the Book of Galatians mentions that believers are held again in the yoke of the law (Gal. 5:1) since they have given up the liberty obtained in Christ. This book points that believers shall even become a stumbling-block to others (8:9), if they use their right improperly.

2.    The relation with the Book of Ephesians: the Book of Ephesians refers to the truth of the spiritual universal church. This book relates to the practical matters in the physical regional church.


IX. Key Verses 


But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God--and righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1:30)”.

For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified (2:2)”.


X. Key Words


“The Lord” (1:2, 7, 8, 9, 10, 31; 2:8, 16; 3:5, 20…) (more than sixty times in the whole book);

“In Christ Jesus” (1:2, 4, 30; 3:1; 4:10, 15, 17; 15:18, 22, 31; 16:24);

“Be partakers”, “have fellowship with” (1:9; 5:9, 11; 10:16, 20);

“Wisdom”, (1:17, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, 25, 26, 27, 30; 2:4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 13; 3:18, 19, 20; 6:5; 12:8);

Liberty”, (7:21, 22, 39; 8:9; 9:1, 19; 10:29);

“Gift”, “spiritual gift”, (1:7; 2:12; 7:7; 12:1, 4, 9, 28, 30, 31; 14:1,12);

“Power”, (2:6,8; 4:19, 20; 5:4; 7:4; 9:4, 5, 6, 12, 15, 18; 11:10; 15:24, 55, 56);


XI. Outlines of the Book


A.   Introduction (1:1-9):

1.    Blessing (1:1-3);

2.    Thanks (1:4-7);

3.    Intercession (1:8-9);

B.   The problem of divisions in the church (1:10-4:21):

1.    The condition of the divisions (1:10-17);

2.    The reason for the divisions (1:18-3:5);

a.    One shall not know the truth of the cross by wisdom in the world (1:18-2:5).

b.    The natural man does not receive the things of God (2:6-16).

c.    Emulation and strife are of the flesh (3:1-5).

3.    The way to deal with the divisions (3:6-4:21):

a.    The church shall know the workers are used by God to build the church (3:6-17).

b.    The church shall know the workers are of believers (3:18-23).

c.    The church shall know all the workers are servants of Christ and are responsible to the Lord respectively (4:1-5).

d.    The church should think of workers above that which is written in the Scriptures (4:6-13).

e.    The church shall receive the apostles’ warning to be imitators of apostles (4:14-21).

C.   Problems concerning morality in the church (5:1-6:20):

1.    The church bears the man who commits fornication (5:1-13):

a.    The one that has done this deed should be taken away out of the church (5:1-5).

b.    The church shall keep the unleavened holy nature of the church (5:6-11).

c.    The church has the power of judgment within the church (5:12-13).

2.    Brother prosecutes his suit with brother, and that before unbelievers (6:1-8).

3.    One should not fulfill the lust of the flesh, but glorify now then God in his body (6:9-20).

D.   Answers to the questions in life raised by the church (7:1-11:1):

1.    Question concerning marriage and virgin (7:1-40):

a.    Single brother or sister, without gift of God, should marry (7:1-9).

b.    He who has married shall keep the present state (7:10-16).

c.    Let each believer abide in that calling in which he has been called (7:17-24).

d.    The advantages of virgins and having no marriage (7:25-35)

e.    It is not forbidden for those who desire to marry or marry again (7:36-40).

2.    Question concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols (8:1-11:1):

a.    The basic knowledge concerning things sacrificed to idols (8:1-8);

b.    Though one has liberty of eating, he shall give up the liberty so as not to offend others (8:9-13).

c.    Though the apostle has a right to eat and to drink on account of the gospel, he is willing to give up the right for sake of others (9:1-27).

d.    Paul takes a warning example the thing that the Israel were overthrown after eating and drinking (10:1-13).

e.    We cannot partake of Lord's table and of table of demons (10:14-22).

f.     Whether therefore we eat, or drink, or whatever we do, do all things to God's glory (10:23-11:1).

E.   Various matters concerning the gatherings of the church (11:2-14:40):

1.    Matters concerning the women’s covered head (11:2-16):

a.    The authority and order set by God in the universe (11:2-3);

b.    Every woman praying or prophesying with her head uncovered puts her own head to shame (11:4-6).

c.    The woman to have authority on her head, on account of the angels (11:7-15).

d.    The assemblies of God have no such custom of contentions (11:16).

2.    Matters concerning the Lord’s supper and eating together (11:17-34):

a.    Paul rebuked them for not eating the Lord’s supper properly (11:17-22).

b.    The spiritual meaning of the Lord’s supper (11:23-26).

c.    Those who eat the bread, or drink the cup of the Lord unworthily shall be disciplined of Lord (11:27-32).

d.    If they do not wait for one another, they shall not put their eating and the Lord’s supper together (11:33-34).

3.    Matters concerning the spiritual gifts and its application (12:1-27):

a.    The origin of spiritual gifts (12:1-11);

b.    To see spiritual gifts from the relation of body with members (12:12-27);

c.    God gives various spiritual gifts in the church (12:28-30);

d.    Spiritual gifts should be applied in love (12:31-13:13);

e.    The spiritual gift of prophesying is better than the gift of tongues (14:1-25);

f.     The principle of applying spiritual gifts when believers are gathered (12:26-40);

F.    Matter concerning the faith of resurrection (chap. 15):

1.    The proof of resurrection (15:1-34):

a.    The testimony of Christ’s resurrection (15:1-11);

b.    Christ’s resurrection proves that all the dead shall rise again (15:12-19).

c.    The dead shall rise according to his own rank (15:20-28).

d.    The hope of resurrection influences our walking (15:29-34)

2.    The body of resurrection (15:35-49):

a.    The body of resurrection is different from that on the earth now (15:35-42a).

b.    The body of resurrection is spiritual and heavenly (15:42b-49).

3.    The effect of resurrection (15:50-57):

a.    Corruption shall turn to incorruptibility (15:50-54a).

b.    Life swallows up death (15:54b-57).

    4. Exhortation on account of resurrection (15:58);

G.   Paul’s advisements in the end (chap. 16):

1.    Things concerning collection (16:1-4);

2.    Paul’s plan of his journey (16:5-9).

3.    Exhortations and greetings in the end (16:10-24).


── Caleb HuangChristian Digest Bible Commentary Series

   Translated by Mary Zhou