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Book chapters «The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians»
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  • An apostle is a sent one. Paul was such a one, not self-appointed but called by the Lord. His apostleship was authentic (1 Cor. 9:1-5; 2 Cor. 12:11-12; cf. 2 Cor. 11:13; Rev. 2:2), having the authority of God's New Testament administration (2 Cor. 10:8; 13:10). Based on this position with this authority the apostle wrote this Epistle, not only to nourish and build up the saints in Corinth but also to regulate and adjust the church there.

  • The will of God is His determination for the carrying out of His purpose. Through this will Paul was called to be an apostle of Christ. Paul's assertion here strengthened his apostolic position and authority.

  • Sosthenes here was probably not the same Sosthenes as in Acts 18:17, because this Epistle was written in Ephesus (1 Cor. 16:8) not long after the apostle left Corinth, where the other Sosthenes was a ruler of the synagogue when Paul was persecuted there. This Sosthenes, as a brother in the Lord, must have gone out together with the apostle for the ministry. The mentioning of him here strengthened Paul's apostleship and points out the principle of the Body.

  • The church of God! Not the church of Cephas, of Apollos, of Paul, or of any practice or doctrine, but of God. In spite of all the division, sin, confusion, abusing of gifts, and heretical teaching in the church in Corinth, the apostle still called it "the church of God" because the divine and spiritual essence which makes the assembled believers the church of God was actually there. Such a spiritual address by the apostle was based on his spiritual view in looking upon the church in Christ. Such a simple address alone should have eliminated all the division and confusion in both practice and doctrine.

  • The church is constituted of the universal God, but it exists on earth in many localities, one of which was Corinth. In nature the church is universal in God, but in practice the church is local in a definite place. Hence, the church has two aspects: the universal and the local. Without the universal aspect, the church is void of content; without the local aspect, it is impossible for the church to have any expression and practice. Hence, the New Testament stresses the local aspect of the church also (Acts 8:1; 13:1; Rev. 1:11 etc.).

  • To the church of God equals to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus. This strongly indicates that the church is a composition of the saints and that the saints are the constituents of the church. The two should not be considered separate entities. Individually, we are the saints; corporately, we are the church.

  • I.e., made holy, separated unto God for the fulfillment of His purpose. See note Rom. 1:23.

  • In Christ means in the element and sphere of Christ. Christ is the element and sphere that separated us, made us holy, unto God when we believed into Him, that is, when we were brought into an organic union with Him through our faith in Him.

  • The believers in Christ are the called saints, not called to be saints. This is a positional matter, a sanctification in position with a view to sanctification in disposition. See note Rom. 6:192b.

  • Not and but with all those who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place. This indicates
    1) that a local church, such as the church in Corinth, is composed only of those believers in that locality, not of all believers in every place, and
    2) that this Epistle was intended not only for the believers in that one church in Corinth but for all believers in every place.
    This Epistle is for all believers of whatever place or time.

  • To call upon the name of the Lord implies to believe into Him (Rom. 10:14). All believers in the Lord should be His callers (Acts 9:14, 21; 22:16). We have been called to call, called by God to call upon the name of the Lord Jesus.

  • Christ as the all-inclusive One belongs to all believers. He is our allotted portion given to us by God (Col. 1:12). The apostle added this special phrase at the end of this verse to stress the crucial fact that Christ is the unique center of all believers in whatever place or situation. In this Epistle the apostle's intention was to solve the problems among the saints in Corinth. For all the problems, especially the matter of division, the only solution is the all-inclusive Christ. We have all been called into the fellowship of, the participation in, Him (v. 9). All believers should be focused on Him, not being distracted by any gifted person, any overstressed doctrine, or any particular practice.

  • The apostle's giving of thanks to God for the Corinthian believers was based on the grace of God given to them in Christ, not on their condition in themselves.

  • Gk. logos, i.e., word; the word that gives utterance to the thought formed in the mind. The word of the gospel preached by the apostle conveys the thought of God to our understanding. Hence, the word is the expression, the utterance, of the divine thought. Knowledge is the apprehension, the realization, of what is conveyed and uttered in the word. The Corinthian believers were enriched by the grace of God in all utterance of the divine thought concerning Christ and in all apprehension and realization in knowing Christ.

  • This was the preaching of Christ by the apostle, not merely with objective doctrines but with subjective experiences, as a witness bearing a living testimony of Christ. Such a testimony of Christ was confirmed within and among the Corinthian believers by their being enriched in Christ, as mentioned in vv. 4-5.

  • Or, among.

  • Gift here refers to the inward gifts issuing from grace, such as the free gift of eternal life (Rom. 6:23) and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) as the heavenly gift (Heb. 6:4). It does not refer to the outward, miraculous gifts, such as healing, speaking in tongues, etc., mentioned in 1 Cor. 2 and 1 Cor. 14. All the inward gifts are constituents of grace. They are the initial things of the divine life that are received of grace. All these need to grow (1 Cor. 3:6-7) to their full development and maturity. The Corinthian believers were not lacking in the initial gifts in life, but they were desperately short of the growth in life. Hence, however much they had been initially enriched in grace, they were still infants in Christ, soulish, fleshly, and even fleshy (1 Cor. 2:14; 3:1, 3).

  • Referring to the Lord's second coming. To await the appearing of the Lord is a normal sign of true believers.

  • Referring to God in v. 4. The very God who has initially given us grace will also confirm us until the end.

  • This indicates that after the initial receiving of grace, we the believers need to grow in life.

  • This word is a continuation of v. 8, strengthening the thought with the assurance of God's faithfulness. In His faithfulness God will confirm the believers until the end, making them unreprovable in the day of the Lord's return.

  • I.e., to partake of the fellowship of the union with God's Son, Jesus Christ, and of the participation in Him. God has called us into such a fellowship that we may enjoy Christ as our God-given portion. This word, like the word in v. 2 concerning Christ's being theirs and ours, stresses again the crucial fact that Christ is the unique center of the believers for the solving of the problems among them, especially the problem of division.

    This book unveils to us that the very Christ, into whom we all have been called, is all-inclusive. He is the portion given to us by God (v. 2). He is God's power and God's wisdom as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption to us (vv. 24, 30). He is the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2:8) for our glorification (1 Cor. 2:7; Rom. 8:30). He is the depths (deep things) of God (1 Cor. 2:10). He is the unique foundation of God's building (1 Cor. 3:11). He is our Passover (5:7), the unleavened bread (1 Cor. 5:8), the spiritual food, the spiritual drink, and the spiritual rock (1 Cor. 10:3-4). He is the Head (1 Cor. 11:3) and the Body (1 Cor. 12:12). He is the firstfruits (1 Cor. 15:20, 23), the second man (1 Cor. 15:47), and the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45); and as such He became the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45) that we may receive Him into us as our everything. This all-inclusive One, with the riches of at least twenty items, God has given to us as our portion for our enjoyment. We should concentrate on Him, not on any persons, things, or matters other than Him. We should focus on Him as our unique center appointed by God, that all the problems among the believers may be solved. It is into the fellowship of such a One that we have been called by God. This fellowship of God's Son became the fellowship that the apostles shared with the believers (Acts 2:42; 1 John 1:3) in His Body, the church, and should be the fellowship that we enjoy in partaking of His blood and His body at His table (1 Cor. 10:16, 21). Such a fellowship, which is carried out by the Spirit (2 Cor. 13:14), must be unique because He is unique; it forbids any division among the members of His unique Body.

  • With this verse the apostle began to deal with the divisions among the Corinthians. First, he besought them through the name of our Lord, which is the name above all names (Phil. 2:9) and should be the unique name among all His believers. However, the divisive Corinthians ranked the names of Paul, Apollos, and Cephas with the name of Christ, just as Peter on the mount of transfiguration ranked Moses and Elijah with Christ (Matt. 17:1-8). To keep the oneness in the Lord and to avoid divisions, we need to uplift and exalt the unique name of our Lord by dropping all names other than this highest name.

  • Because of their different speakings in their strife, which were condemned by the apostle in vv. 11-12.

  • In this Epistle the apostle dealt with eleven problems among the believers in Corinth. The first was the matter of division. Division is nearly always the leading problem, bringing in all other problems among believers. It may be considered the root of the problems among believers. Hence, in dealing with all the problems in the church at Corinth, the apostle's axe first touched the root, that is, the divisions among the believers there. The first virtue of the believers' walk that is worthy of God's calling is the keeping of the oneness of the Spirit in the Body of Christ (Eph. 4:1-6).

  • The same word in Greek that is translated mending in Matt. 4:21. It means to repair, to restore, to adjust, to mend, making a broken thing thoroughly complete, joined perfectly together. The Corinthian believers as a whole were divided, broken. They needed to be mended in order to be joined perfectly together that they might be in harmony, having the same mind and the same opinion to speak the same thing, that is, Christ and His cross (vv. 17-18, 22-24; 2:2).

  • Or, judgment.

  • A female name.

  • This is exactly the same as saying "I am a Lutheran," "I am a Wesleyan," "I am a Presbyterian," "I am an Episcopalian," "I am a Baptist," etc. All such designations should be condemned and rejected. They can be eliminated and terminated only by taking Christ as the unique center among all the believers.

  • To say "I am of Christ" in the way of excluding the apostles and their teachings or of excluding other believers is as divisive as to say "I am of" this or that.

  • Christ is unique and is not divided. This unique and undivided Christ, taken as the unique center among all the believers, should be the termination of all divisions.

  • The One who was crucified for us should be the One to whom all the believers belong. This surely is Christ, not anyone else. All believers were baptized into the name, that is, into the person, of the crucified and resurrected Christ, issuing in an organic union with Him. His unique name and unique person cannot be replaced by the name and person of any of His servants.

  • The apostle Paul was sent not to baptize people in a formal way but to preach the gospel, ministering Christ to others for the producing of the church as an expression of Christ to be the fullness of God (Eph. 1:23; 3:19).

  • Referring to philosophical speculations.

  • The cross of Christ is the center in the accomplishment of God's New Testament economy, which is to have a church produced through the redemption of Christ. Paul preached Christ crucified (v. 23; 2:2; Gal. 3:1) and boasted in the cross of Christ (Gal. 6:14). He did not preach the law with circumcision, which the Jews and some of the Jewish believers fought for (Gal. 3:11; 5:11; 6:12-13), nor the philosophy that was promoted by the Greeks and some of the Gentile believers (Col. 2:8, 20). The cross of Christ abolished the ordinances of the law (Eph. 2:15; Col. 2:14), and we the believers have died to philosophy, an element of the world (Col. 2:20). But Satan instigated the Judaizers and the Greek philosophers to preach their isms of worldly wisdom that the cross of Christ might be made void. The apostle Paul was alert in this matter. In dealing with the divisions among the Corinthian believers, which came mainly from the background of Jewish religion and Greek philosophy, the apostle stressed Christ and His cross. When Christ is taken to replace religious opinions and philosophical wisdom, and when His cross is working to deal with the flesh attached to any background, divisions will be terminated. The exaltation of natural preference and human wisdom cannot stand before Christ and His cross.

  • The same word in Greek that is translated utterance in v. 5 (see note 1 Cor. 1:51). The word of the cross is the utterance, the speaking, the preaching, of the cross. Such preaching is despised and considered foolishness by those who are perishing, but it is honored and received as the power of God by us who are being saved. In his ministry Paul stressed the cross as the center of God's salvation (Gal. 2:20; 3:1; 5:11, 24; 6:14; Eph. 2:16; Phil. 2:8; 3:18; Col. 2:14).

  • Referring in particular to the philosophical Greeks in Corinth, who considered themselves wise and prudent in holding to their philosophical wisdom. The apostle desired that they leave their philosophy and take the crucified Christ instead.

  • Like the wisdom of the scribes in Isa. 33:18, the wisdom of the Jewish scribes, who rejected the word of the cross, was considered futile by Paul.

  • Or, thought well.

  • I.e., the thing preached.

  • A sign is a miraculous token (Matt. 12:38-39) given to substantiate what is preached. Religion needs signs, and the Jews continually required them. Wisdom pertains to philosophy and was constantly sought by the Greeks.

  • Christ crucified — weak, despised, and rejected — was a stumbling block to the miracle-seeking religious Jews and foolishness to the wisdom-seeking philosophical Greeks, yet this Christ was just the One they both needed to solve all their problems dealt with in this book.

  • Referring to those who were chosen by God in eternity (Eph. 1:4) and who believed in Christ in time (Acts 13:48).

  • The crucified Christ preached by the apostles is the power of God and the wisdom of God. Wisdom is for planning, purposing; power is for carrying out, accomplishing, what is planned and purposed. In God's economy Christ is both.

  • Or, highborn, noble; i.e., born of a noble or royal family. The church of God is composed not mainly of the upper class but of the lowborn of the world and the despised. To appreciate the upper class is against God's mind and is a shame to the church.

  • God's calling (vv. 24-26) is based on God's choosing, God's selection. Both are according to His purpose (Rom. 9:11; 2 Tim. 1:9). God's choosing was ordained before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4); His calling is accomplished in time, to carry out His choosing. God's calling and choosing are the initiation of the salvation of His predestinated people. We did not choose Him; He chose us. We did not call upon Him until He called us. He is the Initiator. All the glory should be to Him!

  • I.e., born of common people; in contrast to the wellborn in v. 26.

  • Or, contemptible. The Greek word is of the same root as the word for counted as nothing in Mark 9:12.

  • I.e., are as if they have no existence. The lowborn and the despised are of no account in the world.

  • The repetition of God has chosen three times in vv. 27-28 unveils to us God's sovereign dealing with the three kinds of people of the world mentioned in v. 26 — the wise, the strong (the powerful), and the wellborn. The wellborn, "things which are," are counted much in the world but are brought to nought by God in His economy.

  • This declares the reason for God's particular favor in His choosing us, that is, that no flesh, no human being, may have any boast, any glory, before Him.

  • What we believers, as the new creation, are and have in Christ is of God, not of ourselves. It is God who put us in Christ, transferring us from Adam into Christ. It is God who made Christ wisdom to us.

  • Christ became wisdom to us from God as three vital things in God's salvation:
    1) righteousness (for our past), by which we have been justified by God, that we might be reborn in our spirit to receive the divine life (Rom. 5:18);
    2) sanctification (for our present), by which we are being sanctified in our soul, i.e., transformed in our mind, emotion, and will, with His divine life (Rom. 6:19, 22);
    3) redemption (for our future), i.e., the redemption of our body (Rom. 8:23), by which we will be transfigured in our body with His divine life to have His glorious likeness (Phil. 3:21).
    It is of God that we participate in such a complete and perfect salvation, which makes our entire being — spirit, soul, and body — organically one with Christ and makes Christ everything to us. This is altogether of God, not of ourselves, that we may boast and glory in Him, not in ourselves.

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