As he did in his letters to the Romans, Colossians, Galatians and Ephesians, Paul opens the first letter to the Corinthians in his greeting with the declaration of his apostleship being given by the will of God – not by his own assertion. As with the Galatians, it appears that some false teachers had called his apostleship into question at Corinth (1 Corinthians 9:1, 2 Cor 11:4-5, 2 Cor 12:11-13). he reminds them that they are sanctified (set apart) from the world in Christ Jesus, as are all Christians. He recognizes their God-given talents, and emphasizes the spiritual gifts that they had been blessed with by God by being “called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (verses 4-9).
So the problems at Corinth were not caused by ignorance of the word of God, or by a lack of intelligence. We will see that their problems, as is often the case today, stem from such age-old problems as envy, pride, jealousy, and lust. Some people have taken verse 17 to be stating that baptism is not necessary. But if that were the case, why would he have baptized anyone (as he gives some of the many examples of doing so in the preceding verses)! Paul himself makes clear the importance of baptism in other scripture, such as Romans 6:3-5, Ephesians 2:5-6, and Ephesians 4:4-6, as did Jesus in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19). Verses 10-17 is addressing the divisions that had been reported to Paul (we do not know who Chloe was, but probably was one of their members). Barclay said in his commentary that the word he uses to describe them “…is the word for rents in a garment. The Corinthian Church is in danger of becoming as unsightly as a torn garment.”
In verses 18-31, Paul ironically speaks quite eloquently, as he decries the foolishness of pride. He declares the folly of men who think themselves wise, and speech that is eloquent but empty. There was no shortage of philosophers in their Greco-Roman society nor, therefore, those who were “wise in their own eyes.” He points out that not many of the saints at Corinth had been powerful, or of noble birth, or wise by worldly standards. But God, through the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, had given even those who were considered foolish, weak, lowly or despised the blessing over the “wise” or “strong” or “powerful,” who choose not to believe – so that no human being has the right to boast about anything other than Christ Jesus. Verse 19 is quoted from Isaiah 29:14. Verse 20’s rhetorical question is a timeless illustration of the impudence of human confidence in their superior intelligence – “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”
In chapter two, Paul spends some time renouncing the tendency to preach the gospel with lofty or pretentious speech, conforming to the ways of the ways of pretentious Greek philosophers. It was the Spirit from God that they had received, he told them — not the spirit of the world.
Bible Reading Schedule for this month
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All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.