Study Notes

1Corinthians 1:1-31

1:1 Sosthenes

We're all probably quite familiar with Paul the apostle, but who is this Sosthenes guy? When Paul was establishing the church in Corinth, the Jews accused him of coming up with a new religion, which was against Acaian law. So there he is in court, in front of Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia.

Acts 18:14-17 But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, "If it were a matter of wrong or of vicious crime, O Jews, it would be reasonable for me to put up with you; but if there are questions about words and names and your own law, look after it yourselves; I am unwilling to be a judge of these matters." And he drove them away from the judgment seat. And they all took hold of Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, and began beating him in front of the judgment seat. And Gallio was not concerned about any of these things.

It is unclear whether it was the Jews or the Greeks who beat up Sosthenes after the case was thrown out. If it was the Jews, they were beating him for not arguing their case effectively. If it was the Greeks, they were beating him for wasting their time with religious quibbling.

But here in 1Corinthians, we read that Sosthenes is now called "our brother." Apparently, sometime after being beaten up by the "religious" people, or the worldly people, he came to know Christ. I want you to know that if the world's been beating you up, or some religious people have been trying to lay a heavy burden on you, you can turn to Christ. He'll never beat you, He'll only love you.

And it's by the love of Christ that Paul is able to love, accept, and serve in ministry with a man who formerly took him to court to silence him.

1:2 Saints By Calling

When we hear the word saint, we think of someone who walked the earth with a halo on their head performing miracles. But the word saints simply means "separated ones." In saving us, God has separated us out from the rest of the world — all who have been called to this holy and heavenly calling are saints.

1:3 Grace & Peace

17 of the 27 books in the New Testament contain this greeting — "grace and peace." And the funny thing is, it is always in that order — you'll never find anywhere that the Bible says "peace and grace" — it is always "grace and peace." Why is it always in that order? Because grace is God's unmerited favor. Remember that,

Rom. 5:8 ...While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

We have been "saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 15:11). We don't deserve it, we could never do anything to earn it, and we certainly can't do anything to pay for it. And it's when you truly grasp this in your heart that you will finally find the peace that's been eluding you. If you don't know true grace, you'll never have true peace.

1:4-9 Not Lacking Any Gift

Paul said that they were not lacking any gift in the church. They had it all: Prophecy, Teaching, Word of Wisdom, Word of Knowledge, Gifts of Healing, Miracles, and Tongues. They had every gift of the Spirit in operation at the church in Corinth. But as we're going to see as we progress through this letter, they were terribly carnal!

There were divisions, adultery, immorality, jealousy, and strife. Inside, there was chaos in the church service. Outside, Christians were taking one another to court. They were in the flesh, arrogant, and unloving. And yet they exercised all the spiritual gifts!

What does that tell us? First of all, it tells us that God does not give the gifts of the Spirit based on performance. God doesn't look at the righteous life I'm living and say, "Hey, Ron's doing good — I think I'll give him the gift of tongues!" He's not Santa Claus — giving the gifts to the good girls and boys, and a lump of coal to the naughty ones. He sovereignly distributes them as He sees fit.

Secondly, it tells us that the gifts are not an indication as to the spiritual condition of a church. Just because there are miracles being manifested, healings happening, and torrents of tongues does not validate the church with God's stamp of approval.

As we go through the book of 1Corinthians, we'll see Paul not only rebuke them for their carnality, but also instruct them about the decent and orderly exercise of the gifts in the church.

Awaiting the Revelation

This word "revelation" in verse seven is "ap-ok-AL-oop-sis," meaning "revealing, or unveiling." We are to be eagerly awaiting the unveiling of Jesus Christ. Paul wrote to Timothy,

2Tim. 4:8 in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

That should be our earnest anticipation — to see the Lord Jesus Christ.

Rev. 22:20 "Yes, I am coming quickly." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.


It's so unbelievable, but even with all that carnality, they were saved! Paul thanks God for the grace of God given to them, saying that on the day of the Lord they would be found blameless. That is so hard to fathom, isn't it? That even these carnal Christians will be found blameless before the Lord. The Bible tells us clearly that:

Jude 24 (will) stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy,

Col. 1:22 ...He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach —

We're going to be blameless because the blood of Jesus has cleansed us from all sin, the debt has been paid! It's by His grace, not by our works! Amazing! What then should our response be? Since we're going to be blameless, we should start practicing up!

Phil. 2:15 that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,

2Pet. 3:14 ...Be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless,

Let's walk blameless here, because we're going to be blameless there.

1:10-16 No Divisions Among You

"There should be no divisions among you." The Corinthians had been divided up into factions — each with their own philosophies and emphases. You know, there are basically three things that we divide over: Opinion, Interpretation, and Biblical Foundation.

1) Opinion — This is a doosie, and it's where the biggest problems lie.

How do you feel about homeschooling? Are you fanatically for it or radically against it? What do you think — are homeschoolers sheltering their children from the real world, and keeping them from being a light in the schools? Or are public schoolers sending their children off to be deceived and destroying their faith right in the devil's own classroom? It's your personal opinion, it's your personal conviction.

How do you feel about politics? Should every Christian be actively trying to bring morality back to our country through laws and legislation, because we're the salt and light of the world? Or should we keep out of politics, knowing that Jesus' kingdom is not of this world, and that He doesn't use the ways of the world to work His purpose? It's your personal opinion, it's your personal conviction.

How do you feel about the Disney Corporation? Should we emphatically boycott this company because of their liberal, anti-God, pro-homosexual agenda? Or is it just harmless entertainment, and Christians shouldn't boycott anyway, they should be showing the love of Jesus? It's your personal opinion, it's your personal conviction.

I could go on... How do you feel about Christian teenagers dating? How do you feel about Hymns vs. Contemporary worship choruses? How do you feel about blue jeans vs. suits in the church? No matter how you feel about these issues, it's just that: How you feel. It's your personal opinion, it's your personal conviction.

God forbid that we divide over these things. We're all individuals, each in our own place in our own walk with God. Yes, we feel strongly about things. But let's feel strongly about them for US, not for OTHERS. If you're angry with me for actually suggesting that any of those things aren't absolute Christian truths, then that's an indicator to you that your personal opinions are overpowering the love of Christ that you're supposed to have for me as a Christian brother. That's a dangerous place to be, and you need to let the Lord deal with you about it.

2) Interpretation — The second area of divisions is interpretation. Should baptisms be sprinkling or dunking? Should women cover their heads in church? Are the gifts of the Holy Spirit for today, or did they pass away with the first apostles? Will the rapture of the church be pre-, post-, or mid-Tribulation? Who are the two witnesses in Revelation 11?

These are all Biblical questions, but they are interpretational, non-essential things. I might not agree with you, or I might not participate with you, but I will not divide with you over it. You might be wrong, or I might be wrong, but you're still my brother or sister in Christ. I have frequent fellowship with a Baptist brother who doesn't believe everything the same as I do. I hang out with other Christians who believe in the post-Tribulation rapture of the church. I socialize with people who are more Pentecostal than I'm comfortable with. We don't agree, but that's okay — being different isn't being divided.

Sure, we can converse and debate about all of these things. And if we believe someone's getting way off track, we can bring Scriptural correction to them. That's how we sharpen each other, stimulate each other's thinking, and challenge one another to a better understanding of the Scriptures, and a closer relationship with God. You see, if I said, "I won't fellowship with you, I won't love you, I won't acknowledge you as my brother in Christ, because your interpretation is different than mine," then I would be causing division in the Body of Christ, which is a sin.

3) The Foundation — Now there is one place where there is no "give and take," and that is the foundation of the Christian faith as found in the Bible. You want to tell me that Jesus isn't God, but just a god? You want to tell me that the Bible isn't the inspired Word of God? You want to tell me that Jesus is Satan's brother, or that the Virgin Mary is your co-Redeemer? You want to tell me that your church is the only true church, and unless I buy into your nonsense I'm not saved? Well, we've got a problem then, and I will divide with you over those things. You see, nothing about these things are interpretational — they are foundational. Jude told us to

Jude 3 ...Contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

I will divide over — and contend for — the faith. Not over opinion, not over interpretation, but definitely over the Foundation — Jesus Christ, as He is revealed in His Word. The church at Corinth didn't divide over foundational truth. They divided over opinions and interpretations. And Paul rebuked them for it.

1:17-31 The Foolishness of the Cross

The foolishness of God is wiser than men. If man had to come up with a way to God (which he tries to do frequently), he would think of something really wise.

The Gentiles tried to make their way to God through a venture of intelligence, wisdom, knowledge, and learning. They thought that by deep contemplation and understanding you could come to God.

The Jews made it a system of rules and regulations. Only by strict obedience and self-discipline could you ever hope to make it to God.

But the plan that God Himself made is the only one that counts. And He chose something so totally strange that it was foolishness to the Gentiles and a stumbling block to the Jews. He chose one wooden cross, upon which He had His only Son nailed and killed. Christ crucified — such foolishness it would seem. But as we begin to even scratch the surface, we see it is intricately complex in its prophetical, legal, historical, and spiritual ramifications. Christ crucified — a child can understand it, and a scholar can spend his life studying without ever fully grasping it. The foolishness of God is truly wiser than men.

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