Category Archives: 1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians #9 – The Limits of Christian Liberty 1 Cor. 8:1-13

After answering their questions about marriage, Paul turned to one of the most controversial subjects in the letter he received from the Corinthian church: “Can Christians eat meat that has been sacrificed to idols?”

Many behaviors are not commanded, commended, or forbidden in Scripture. They are neither black nor white, but gray. Such issues in one age or area may not be the same as those in other times or places; but every age and every place has had to deal with the gray areas of Christian living.

The first major council of the church, reported in Acts 15, was called primarily to deal with such issues. Some Jewish believers were insisting that all male Gentile converts be circumcised (v. 1) and others were afraid to socialize with believing Gentiles, especially over a meal, for fear they would break Jewish dietary laws. These issues were ‘real’ for that time when Christianity for both Jewish and Gentile believers was involved.

The apostles were represented and the council decided that Gentiles need not be circumcised (v. 19) but that believers “abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood” (v. 20). By following those policies they would “do well” (v. 29).

The practices mentioned were not in themselves sinful, but the council advised the churches to abstain from them in order not to needlessly offend Jewish brothers who had strong convictions about them.

Two common extremes are often followed in regard to doubtful things. One is legalism; the other is license.

Legalism believes that every act, every habit, every type of behavior is either black or white. Legalists live by rules rather than by the Spirit. They classify everything as either good or bad, whether the Bible mentions it or not. They develop exhaustive lists of do’s and don’ts. Doing the things on the good list and avoiding the things on the bad list is their idea of spirituality, no matter what the inner person is like.

Their lives are law controlled, not Spirit controlled. But refraining from doing things is not spirituality; walking in the Spirit is spirituality. Legalism stifles liberty, stifles conscience, stifles the Word, and stifles the Holy Spirit.

License is the opposite extreme. It is like legalism in that it too has no gray areas—but neither does it have much black. Almost everything is white; everything is acceptable as long as it is not strictly forbidden in Scripture. Such advocates believe that Christian freedom is virtually absolute and unqualified.

As long as your own conscience is free you can do as you please. That seems to have been the philosophy of the group Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians 8. They probably agreed with him that believers should “maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men” (Acts 24:16). Beyond that, however, they wanted no restrictions.

But Paul teaches that it can also be wrong to offend the consciences of fellow believers when they are less mature (“weak”) and when what we are doing is not necessary in our service to the Lord.

In preparation for giving the principle, Paul responds to three reasons some of the Corinthians gave for feeling completely free to act as they pleased in regard to practices not specifically forbidden by God.

The reasons were: (1) We know we all have knowledge; (2) We know that an idol is nothing; and (3) We know that food is not an issue with God.

The apostle agrees that each reason is basically valid, but then goes on to show how none of those reasons should be applied to practices that might cause someone else to stumble spiritually.

There were two sources of meat in this ancient world: the regular market (where the prices were higher) and the local temples (where meat from the sacrifices was always available).

Idol offerings were divided into three parts. One part was burned on an altar as the sacrifice proper. The second part was given as payment to the priests who served at the temple, and the remaining part was kept by the offerer. Because of the large number of offerings, the priests were not able to eat all of their portion, and they sold in the marketplace what they did not need. That meat was highly valued because it was cleansed of evil spirits, and was thus the meat served at feasts and to guests.

The eating of meat offered to idols therefore had the same two associations for Christians, especially for those who had grown up in that religious atmosphere. The meat was associated with pagan gods and goddesses, having been part of an offering to them, and it was associated with the superstition that it had once been contaminated by evil spirits.

Some sensitive Gentile believers refused to buy such meat because it brought back memories of their previous pagan lives or because those who saw them buy it might think they had reverted to paganism. Also many believers, both Gentile and Jewish, were reluctant to eat at the homes of pagan Gentiles—and even of some Christian Gentiles—because they were afraid of being served that meat. Such food could only be doubly unclean according to Jewish dietary law—from which many Jewish Christians found it hard to separate themselves.

On the other hand, some Christians were not bothered. To them, meat was meat. They knew pagan deities did not really exist and that evil spirits did not contaminate food. They were mature, well-grounded in God’s truth, and their consciences were clear in the matter. That group gave Paul the three reasons for freely exercising their liberty.

The strong members of the church realized that idols could not contaminate food, so they saved money by purchasing the cheaper meat available from the temples. Furthermore, if unconverted friends invited them to a feast at which sacrificial meat was served, the strong Christians attended it whether at the temple or in the home.

All of this offended the weaker Christians. Many of them had been saved out of pagan idolatry and they could not understand why their fellow believers would want to have anything to do with meat sacrificed to idols. (In Rom. 14-15, the weak Christians had problems over diets and holy days, but it was the same basic issue.)

In the present passage he uses a simple argument. He says that in Corinth there were men who all their lives, up until now, had believed in the heathen gods; and these men could not quite rid themselves of a lingering belief that an idol really was something, although it was a false something. Whenever they ate meat offered to idols, they had qualms of conscience. They could not help it; instinctively they felt that it was wrong.

So Paul argues that if you say that there is absolutely no harm in eating meat offered to idols you are really hurting and bewildering the conscience of these souls. His final argument is that, even if a thing is harmless for you, when it hurts someone else, it must be a consideration and given up, for a Christian must never do anything which causes his brother to stumble.

Nothing ought to be judged solely from the point of view of knowledge; everything ought to be judged from the point of view of love. The argument of the advanced Corinthians was that they knew better than to regard an idol as anything; their knowledge had taken them far past that.

There is always a certain danger in knowledge. It tends to make a man arrogant and feel superior and look down unsympathetically on the man who is not as far advanced as himself. Knowledge which does that is not true knowledge. But the consciousness of intellectual superiority is a dangerous thing. Our conduct should always be guided not by the thought of our own superior knowledge, but by sympathetic and considerate love for our fellow man. And it may well be that for his sake we must refrain from doing and saying certain otherwise legitimate things.

This leads to the greatest truth of all. No man has any right to indulge in a pleasure or to demand a liberty which may be the ruination of someone else. He may have the strength of mind and will to keep that pleasure in its proper place; that course of action may be safe enough for him; but he has not only himself to think about, he must think of the weaker brother. An indulgence which may be the ruin of someone else is not a pleasure but a sin.

So far, it is the strong Christians who are ahead. Why, then, are the weak Christians upset with them when their position is so logical? Because you don’t always solve every problem with logic.

The little child who is afraid of the dark will not be assured by arguments, especially if the adult (or older brother) adopts a superior attitude. Knowledge can be a weapon to fight with or a tool to build with, depending on how it is used. If it “puffs up” then it cannot “build up [edify].”

Paul’s responses to the reasons were directed to that group of more mature believers. But his responses centered on the other group. He told the mature believers not to focus on their liberty but on the spiritual welfare of those who were less mature. He was saying, “Don’t look at your freedom; look at their need. Your own freedom should be limited by your love for fellow believers. If you love them as God calls you to love, you will not use your liberty in any way that will offend, confuse, or weaken their faith.”

Among the many spiritual problems of the Corinthian Christians was arrogance, a word Paul uses six times in relation to them. They were proud and self-satisfied. They had knowledge without love. As they are reminded several chapters later, a person who has all sorts of abilities and virtues but has no love is “nothing,” and “love does not brag and is not arrogant”(1 Cor. 13:1-4).

Division in the church may be caused by problems of behavior as well as problems of doctrine. When some believers insist on exercising their liberty without regard for the feelings and standards of fellow believers, the church is weakened and frequently divided.

Love is the key to behavior. Knowing what is not forbidden is not enough. When we “do not merely look out for [our] own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4), we are on the road to mature, loving Christian behavior.

Love sets the limits of Christian liberty.

You cannot force-feed immature believers and transform them into giants. Knowledge must be mixed with love; otherwise, the saints will end up with “big heads” instead of enlarged hearts. A famous preacher used to say, “Some Christians grow; others just swell.”

Conscience (vv. 7-13). The word conscience simply means “to know with,” and it is used thirty-two times in the New Testament. Conscience is that internal court where our actions are judged and are either approved or condemned (Rom. 2:14-15). Conscience is not the law;, it bears witness, to God’s moral law. But the important thing is this: conscience depends on knowledge. The more spiritual knowledge we know and act on, the stronger the conscience will become.

Some Christians have weak consciences because they have been saved only a short time and have not had opportunity to grow. Like little babes in the home, they must be guarded carefully.

Other saints have weak consciences because they will not grow. They ignore their Bibles and Christian fellowship and remain in a state of infancy.

Some believers remain weak because they are afraid of freedom They are like a child old enough to go to school, who is afraid to leave home and must be taken to school each day.

The conscience of a weak Christian is easily defiled (1 Cor. 8:7), wounded (1 Cor. 8:12), and offended (1 Cor. 8:13). For this reason, the stronger saints must defer to the weaker saints and do nothing that would harm them.

It is important to note that the stronger believer defers to the weaker believer in love only that he might help him to mature. He does not “pamper” him; he seeks to edify him, to help him grow. Otherwise, both will become weak.

It is also true that some fall into the category of being “willfully weak.” What does that mean? It is that person(s) who has had plenty of teaching and time to know God’s will in a matter…and they choose to use the “weak argument” to get their way or hold back a congregation. This person also keeps the congregation “weak” when they refuse to grow up!

The voice of a Christian’s conscience is the instrument of the Holy Spirit. If a believer’s conscience is weak it is because he is spiritually weak and immature, not because the leading of his conscience is weak. Conscience is God’s doorkeeper to keep us out of places where we could be harmed. As we mature, conscience allows us to go more places and to do more things because we will have more spiritual strength and better spiritual judgment.

A small child is not allowed to play with sharp tools, to go into the street, or to go where there are dangerous machines or electrical appliances. The restrictions are gradually removed as he grows older and learns for himself what is dangerous and what is not.

In deciding about whether or not to participate in any behavior that is doubtful, the following principles make a good checklist to follow.

Excess. Is the activity or habit necessary, or is it merely an extra that is not really important? Is it only an encumbrance that we should willingly give up (Heb. 12:1)?

Expediency. “All things are lawful for me,” Paul says, “but not all things are profitable,” or expedient (1 Cor. 6:12). Is what I want to do helpful and useful, or only desirable?

Emulation. “The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6). If we are doing what Christ would do, our action should not only be permissible but also good and right.

Example. Are we setting the right example for others, especially for weaker brothers and sisters? If we emulate Christ, others will be able to emulate us, to follow our example.

Evangelism. Is my testimony going to be helped or hindered? Will unbelievers be drawn to Christ or turned away from Him by what I am doing?

Edification. Will I be built up and matured in Christ; will I become spiritually stronger? “All things are lawful, but not all things edify” (1 Cor. 10:23).

Exaltation. Will the Lord be lifted up and glorified in what I do? God’s glory and exaltation should be the supreme purpose behind everything we do.

“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).


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Posted by on December 12, 2022 in 1 Corinthians, Sermon


1 Corinthians #8 – Christian Liberty and Sexual Freedom 1 Cor. 6:12-20

As we begin, we should remember that prostitution in Corinth was a “religious act of worship.”

Corinth took pride in the temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, which had 1,000 cult prostitutes. In the name of religion, men can indulge their fleshly appetites. The Greeks have a proverb about the city of Corinth, which tells us much of its moral decay: “It is not every man who can afford a journey to Corinth.”[1]

Those who are worldly wise use the verb “to corinthianize” to describe an act of immorality. “Corinthian girl” was a synonym for a prostitute.[2] For a Corinthian saint, concluding that whatever is legal is also moral leaves him a great deal of latitude. There isn’t much he can’t do under this definition of morality.

Freedom in Christ was a truth Paul never tired of emphasizing. “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.… For you were called to freedom, brethren” (Gal. 5:1, 13).

The Corinthian church had been taught this truth many times while Paul was among them, but they were using it as a theological excuse for sin. They ignored the truth, “only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh” (Gal. 5:13), which he surely had also taught them.

The use of any Christian liberty should be subject to the following questions:

(1) Does this practice contribute to my own spiritual growth and maturity?

(2) Does this practice contribute to the growth and maturity of fellow-believers?

(3) Does this practice further the gospel?

(4) Does this practice glorify God?

     The Corinthians had perverted this truth to justify their sinning. They possibly used the same argument that Paul anticipated when he was explaining grace to the Roman church: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase?” (Rom. 6:1). They pretended to have theological justification for living as they wanted.

They may have had a philosophical argument for their sin as well, perhaps implied in 6:13, “Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food.”

Much Greek philosophy considered everything physical, including the body, to be basically evil and therefore of no value. What was done with or to the body did not matter. Food was food, the stomach was the stomach, and sex was sex. Sex was just a biological function like eating, to be used just as food was used, to satisfy their appetites. The argument sounds remarkably modern.

Like many people today, the Corinthian Christians rationalized their sinful thinking and habits. They were clever at coming up with seemingly good reasons for doing wrong things. They also lived in a society that was notoriously immoral, a society that, in the temple prostitution and other ways, actually glorified promiscuous sex.

To have sexual relations with a prostitute was so common in Corinth that the practice came to be called “Corinthianizing.” Many believers had formerly been involved in such immorality, and it was hard for them to break with the old ways and easy to fall back into them. Just as it was hard for them to give up their love of human wisdom, their worldliness, their pride, their divisive spirit, and their love for suing, it was also hard for them to give up their sexual immorality.

The Law of Expediency (v. 12)

  1. All things are lawful.”
  2. Must be considered in context.
  3. 1 Corinthians 9:21 – We are always under law to God and Christ.
  4. 1 Corinthians 10:23 – All things are lawful, but not everything edifies.
  5. Paul is discussing those things which are morally neutral.
  1. All things are not expedient. Three considerations regarding expediency.
  2. It must be lawful – Command, example or necessary inference.
  3. It must be edifying or that which builds up.
  4. It must not be enslaving.
  1. Things which are morally indifferent.
  2. Eating meat.
  3. Eating meat offered to an idol; but stay away from the idol temple because of one’s influence.

In 6:12-20 Paul shows three of the evils of sexual sin: it is harmful to everyone involved; it gains control over those who indulge in it; and it perverts God’s purpose for the body.

Sexual Sin Harms

All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything (NASB).

“Everything is permissible, for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything (NIV).

“I am free to do anything,” you say. Yes, but not everything is for my good (New English Bible).

“For me there are no forbidden things”; maybe, but not everything does good (New Jerusalem Bible).

In this passage Paul is up against a whole series of problems. It ends with the summons, “Glorify God with your body.” This is Paul’s battle cry here.

The Greeks always looked down on the body. There was a proverbial saying, “The body is a tomb.” Epictetus said, “I am a poor soul shackled to a corpse.” The important thing was the soul, the spirit of a man; the body was a thing that did not matter. That produced one of two attitudes. Either it issued in the most rigorous asceticism in which everything was done to subject and humiliate the desires and instincts of the body. Or—and in Corinth it was this second outlook which was prevalent—it was taken to mean that, since the body was of no importance, you could do what you liked with it; you could let it sate its appetites. What complicated this was the doctrine of Christian freedom which Paul preached. If the Christian man is the freest of all men, then is he not free to do what he likes, especially with this completely unimportant body of his?

The particular type of sin Paul has in mind here (vv. 13-20) is sexual sin. No sin that a person commits has more built-in pitfalls, problems, and destructiveness than sexual sin. It has broken more marriages, shattered more homes, caused more heartache and disease, and destroyed more lives than alcohol and drugs combined. It causes lying, stealing, cheating, and killing, as well as bitterness, hatred, slander, gossip, and unforgivingness.

The dangers and harm of sexual sin are nowhere presented more vividly and forcefully than in Proverbs. “The lips of an adulteress drip honey, and smoother than oil is her speech” (Prov. 5:3).

The basic truth applies to a prostitute or to any other woman who tries to seduce a man. It also applies to a man who tries to seduce a woman. The point is that sexual allurement is extremely enticing and powerful. It seems nice, enjoyable, and good. It promises nothing but pleasure and satisfaction. But what it ends up giving “is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death, her steps lay hold of Sheol. She does not ponder the path of life; her ways are unstable, she does not know it” (vv. 4-6).

The first characteristic of sexual sin is deceit. It never delivers what it promises. It offers great satisfaction but gives great disappointment. It claims to be real living but is really the way to death. Illicit sexual relationships are always “unstable.” Nothing binds those involved except the temporary and impersonal gratification of physical impulses.

Another tragedy of sexual sin is that often those involved do “not know it” is unstable, do not realize perhaps for a long time that their relationship cannot be lasting. Thus they fall deeper and deeper into the pit of their doomed relationship, which makes the dissolution all the more devastating and painful.

Those who consider all sex to be basically evil, however, are as far from the truth as those who consider all sex to be basically good and permissible. God is not against sex. He created and blessed it. When used exclusively within marriage, as the Lord intends, sex is beautiful, satisfying, and stabilizing. “Let your fountain he blessed,” Scripture says, “and rejoice in the wife of your youth.… exhilarated always with her love” (Prov. 5:18-19).

The Bible’s advice for avoiding sexual involvement outside marriage is simple: stay as far away as possible from the persons and places likely to get you in trouble. “Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house” (Prov. 5:8).

When we unavoidably get caught in such a situation, the only sensible thing to do is to get away from it as quickly as we can. Passion is not rational or sensible, and sexually dangerous situations should be avoided or fled, not debated.

Involvement in illicit sex leads to loss of health, loss of possessions, and loss of honor and respect. Every person who continues in such sins does not necessarily suffer all of those losses, but those are the types of loss that persistent sexual sin produces. The sex indulger will come to discover that he has lost his “years to the cruel one,” that his “hard-earned goods” have gone “to the house of an alien,” and that he will “groan” in his latter years and find his “flesh and [his] body are consumed” (Prov. 5:9-11). The “stolen water” of sexual relations outside of marriage “is sweet; and bread eaten in secret is pleasant”; but “the dead are there” (Prov. 9:17-18). Sexual sin is a “no win” situation. It is never profitable and always harmful.

Sexual Sin Controls

“Everything is permissible for me”–but I will not be mastered by anything.

Paul was free in the grace of Christ to do as he pleased, but he refused to allow himself to be mastered by anything or anyone but Christ. He would not become enslaved to any habit or custom and certainly not to any sin. “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14).

No sin is more enslaving than sexual sin. The more it is indulged, the more it controls the indulger. Often it begins with small indiscretions, which lead to greater ones and finally to flagrant vice. The progression of sin is reflected in Psalm 1: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers” (v. 1). When we willingly associate with sin, we will soon come to tolerate it and then to practice it. Like all other sins that are not resisted, sins of sex will grow and eventually they will corrupt and destroy not only the persons directly involved but many innocent persons besides.

The Corinthians were no strangers to sins of sex, and unfortunately many believers there had gone back to them. In the name of Christian freedom they had become controlled by their own fleshly desires.

Paul wrote the Thessalonians, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God” (1 Thess. 4:3-5). The context argues that “vessel” is here a synonym for body rather than for wife, as many interpreters hold. Every believer is to rightly possess, rightly control, his own body. If we are living in the Spirit, we “are putting to death the deeds of the body” (Rom. 8:13).

It is not as easy to be in control of ourselves as we sometimes think. Many people are deceived in thinking they are perfectly in control of their thoughts and actions, simply because they always do what they want. The fact, however, is that their desires and passions are telling them what to do, and they are going along. They are not masters of their desires, but are willing slaves. Their flesh is controlling their minds.

Paul himself testifies that he had to “buffet [his] body and make it [his] slave, lest possibly, after [he had] preached to others, [he himself] should be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27). Buffet (hupōpiazō) means literally, “to give a black eye, or to beat the face black and blue.” To keep his body from enslaving him, he had to enslave his body. Otherwise he could become disqualified, not for salvation but for holy living and useful service to God.

Sexual Sin Perverts

Paul’s teaching in our text is but an abbreviated version of what he has taught in Romans 6. The Christian dare not feel free to “live in sin,” because he or she has “died to sin” when joined by faith to the person and work of Jesus Christ. Dying to sin is symbolized in Christian baptism. By going under the water, we proclaim in a symbolic way that we died in Christ, and were buried. By coming forth from the water, we proclaim that we have been raised from the dead, in Christ, now enabled to live an entirely new life. To continue to live in sin is to deny everything we believed when we were saved, and everything we symbolically proclaim when we were baptized.

Sexual sin not only harms and controls but also perverts. It especially perverts God’s plan and purpose for the bodies of His people. A Christian’s body is for the Lord; it is a member of Christ; and it is the temple of the Holy Spirit.

The Body Is for the Lord

13  “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”–but God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14  By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.

Food and the stomach were created by God for each other. Their relationship is purely biological. It is likely the Corinthians were using this truth as an analogy to justify sexual immorality. The Greek text says literally, “The foods the belly, the belly the foods.” Perhaps this was popular proverb meant to celebrate the idea that “Sex is no different from eating: the stomach was made for food, and the body was made for sex.” But Paul stops them short. “It is true that food and the stomach were made for each other,” he is saying, “but it is also true that that relationship is purely temporal.” One day, when their purpose has been fulfilled, God will do away with both of them. That biological process has no place in the eternal state.

Not so with the body itself. The bodies of believers are designed by God for much more than biological functions. The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord; and the Lord is for the body. Paul had a better proverb in mind with that statement. The body is to be the instrument of the Lord, for His use and glory.

Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power. Our bodies are designed not only to serve in this life but in the life to come. They will be changed bodies, resurrected bodies, glorified bodies, heavenly bodies—but they will still he our own bodies.

The stomach and food have only a horizontal, temporal relationship. At death the relationship ceases. But our bodies are far more than biological. For believers they also have a spiritual, vertical relationship. They belong to God and they will forever endure with God. That is why Paul says, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory” (Phil. 3:20-21). We need to take serious care of this body because it will rise in glory to be the instrument that carries our eternally glorious and pure spirit throughout eternity.

The Body Is a Member of Christ

15  Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16  Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” 17  But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit. 18  Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.

Paul referred to the Creation account (Gen. 2:24) to explain the seriousness of sexual sin. When a man and woman join their bodies, the entire personality is involved. There is a much deeper experience, a “oneness” that brings with it deep and lasting consequences. Paul warned that sexual sin is the most serious sin a person can commit against his body, for it involves the whole person (1 Cor. 6:18). Sex is not just a part of the body. Being “male” and “female” involves the total person. Therefore, sexual experience affects the total personality.

Paul’s next point follows logically. For a Christian to commit sexual immorality is to make the members of Christ… members of a harlot. It is to use a part of Christ’s own body in an act of fornication or adultery. The idea is incomprehensible to Paul, as it should be to every believer. May it never be!

Sexual relations involve a union; the man and woman become one flesh. This indicates that the most essential meaning of the phrase one flesh (see Gen. 2:24; etc.) is sexual union. God takes sexual sin seriously because it corrupts and shatters spiritual relationships, both human and divine.

Christ’s people are one spirit with Him. That statement is filled with profound meaning and wondrous implications. But for his purpose here, Paul uses it to show that a Christian who commits sexual immorality involves his Lord. All sex outside of marriage is sin, but when it is committed by believers it is especially reprehensible, because it profanes Jesus Christ, with whom the believer is one (cf. John 14:18-23; 15:4, 7; 17:20-23). Since we are one with Christ, and the sex sinner is one with his partner, Christ is placed in an unthinkable position in Paul’s reasoning. Christ is not personally tainted with the sin, any more than the sunbeam that shines on a garbage dump is polluted. But His reputation is dirtied because of the association.

Paul’s counsel regarding sexual sin is the same as Solomon’s in the book of Proverbs: Flee immorality. The present imperative of the Greek indicates the idea is to flee continually and to keep fleeing until the danger is past. When we are in danger of such immorality, we should not argue or debate or explain, and we certainly should not try to rationalize. We are not to consider it a spiritual challenge to be met but a spiritual trap to be escaped. We should get away as fast as we can.

Paul does not elucidate on what he means by Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. I believe he is saying that, although sexual sin is not necessarily the worst sin, it is the most unique in its character. It rises from within the body bent on personal gratification. It drives like no other impute and when fulfilled affects the body like no other sin. It has a way of internally destroying a person that no other sin has. Because sexual intimacy is the deepest uniting of two persons, its misuse corrupts on the deepest human level. That is not a psychological analysis but a divinely revealed fact. Sexual immorality is far more destructive than alcohol, far more destructive than drugs, far more destructive than crime.

The Body Is a Temple of the Holy Spirit

19  Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20  you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

God the Father created our bodies; God the Son redeemed them and made them part of His body; and God the Spirit indwells our bodies and makes them the very temple of God. How can we defile God’s temple by using our bodies for immorality?

As Christians our bodies are not our own. Paul puts sting into this verse by framing it as a sarcastic question. They are the Lord’s, members of Christ, and temples of the Holy Spirit, who has been given by God to indwell us. So Paul calls for sexual purity not only because of the way sexual sin affects the body, but because the body it affects is not even the believer’s own. Understanding the reality of the phrase the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God should give us as much commitment to purity as any knowledge of divine truth could.

To commit sexual sin in a church auditorium, disgusting as that would be, would be no worse than committing the sin anywhere else. Offense is made within God’s sanctuary wherever and whenever sexual immorality is committed by believers. Every act of fornication, every act of adultery by Christians, is committed in God’s sanctuary: their own bodies. “For we are the temple of the living God” (2 Cor. 6:16). The fact that Christians are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit is indicated in passages such as John 7:38-39; 20:22; Acts 1:8; Romans 8:9; and 1 Corinthians 12:3. The fact that God sent the Holy Spirit is clear from John 14:16-17; 15:26; and Acts 2:17, 33, 38.

We no longer belong to ourselves because we have been bought with a price. We were not “redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from [our] futile way of life inherited from [our] forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:18-19).

Christians’ bodies are God’s temple, and a temple is for worship. Our bodies, therefore, have one supreme purpose: to glorify God. This is a call to live so as to bring honor to the person of God, who alone is worthy of our obedience and adoration.

A very popular word today used even in Christian circles is the psychological word, “addiction.” Virtually every malady known to man is described as an “addiction.” Men and women, under the bondage of sexual immorality are said to have a “sexual addiction.” Alcoholism is spoken of as an addiction, one for which the individual under bondage is hardly seen to be responsible (after all, it was genetically predestined). Food is an addiction. And now, co-dependency is an addiction. Where will these addictions end? I think I know. They end with a new Master, Jesus Christ. We can serve but one master. When that Master is our Lord Jesus Christ, all other “masters” must be set aside.


[1] William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians, rev. ed. (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1975), p. 3.

[2] D. H. Madvig, “Corinth,” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, rev. ed., Geoffrey W. Bromiley, General Editor (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979), vol. I, p. 773.

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Posted by on December 5, 2022 in 1 Corinthians, Sermon


1 Corinthians #7 – Questions about Marriage 1 Corinthians 7

Verse by Verse - 1 Corinthians 7:1-9 - YouTube

QUESTIONS ABOUT MARRIAGE  1 Corinthians 7:1-16

After discussing disorder in the church, Paul moved to the list of questions that the Corinthians had sent him, including those on marriage, singleness, eating meat offered to idols, propriety in worship, orderliness in the Lord’s Supper, spiritual gifts, and the resurrection. Questions that plague churches today are remarkably similar, so we can receive specific guidance in these areas from this letter. The first section (7:1-16) applies to those who are presently married or who have been married.

In the verses that follow, Paul makes his basic position very clear: Marriage involves two people, a man and a woman, working out their life for a lifetime. Even a casual reader notes the balance. What is really good for the man is really good for the woman. What is really good for the wife is really good for the husband. Marriage itself is good. In spite of sinfulness and societal attitudes that have devalued and twisted marriage, God’s original design remains the ideal. A mutual commitment to God’s ways in marriage can make even the most difficult union survive. Base your convictions on what God says, not on society’s distortions.

Christians in Corinth were surrounded by sexual temptation. The city had a reputation even among pagans for sexual immorality and religious prostitution. To this sexually saturated society, Paul was delivering these instructions on sex and marriage. The Corinthians needed special, specific instructions because of their culture’s immoral standards. Some believers were teaching total sexual abstinence within marriage because of a mistaken notion that sexual relations were sinful; some were proposing separating from or divorcing spouses in order to stay pure.

To the first question, Paul answered that it is good to live a celibate life (“It is well for a man not to touch a woman,” nrsv). At first glance this may seem to contradict God’s words in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (nlt). Paul maintained a high view of marriage (Ephesians 5:25-33). In 7:1, Paul was not stating an absolute; rather, he was simply explaining that celibacy was normal, and that it may be God’s will for some to remain single. Paul’s advice may have been directed at the “present crisis” referred to in 7:26; he thought it would be easier to face persecution as a single person. But, as Paul would explain later in this chapter, his words do not mean that married couples should divorce or that Christians ought not marry.

For those whom God calls to celibacy (such as Paul himself), the lifestyle is in accordance with God’s will for them. They should see it as a gift to be used to further God’s kingdom (7:7).7:1 Now about the questions you asked in your letter. Yes, it is good to live a celibate life.NLT The Corinthian believers had written to Paul, asking him several questions, or perhaps even taking issue with some of his principles, relating to the Christian life and problems in the church. Apparently this first question regarded whether people should stay married or if those previously married should remain celibate.

Much of what Paul wrote about marriage was based on its lifelong nature. First Corinthians serves as a “mini” marriage seminar for Christians. The Corinthian church was in turmoil because of the immorality of the culture around them. Some Greeks, in rejecting immorality, rejected sex and marriage altogether. The Corinthian Christians wondered if this was what they should do also, so they asked Paul several questions: “Because sex is perverted, shouldn’t we also abstain in marriage?” “If my spouse is unsaved, should I seek a divorce?” “Should unmarried people and widows remain unmarried?” Paul answered many of these questions by saying, “For now, stay put. Be content in the situation where God has placed you. If you’re married, don’t seek to be single. If you’re single, don’t seek to be married.”

Much of what Paul wrote about marriage was based on its lifelong nature. First Corinthians serves as a “mini” marriage seminar for Christians. The Corinthian church was in turmoil because of the immorality of the culture around them. Some Greeks, in rejecting immorality, rejected sex and marriage altogether. The Corinthian Christians wondered if this was what they should do also, so they asked Paul several questions: “Because sex is perverted, shouldn’t we also abstain in marriage?” “If my spouse is unsaved, should I seek a divorce?” “Should unmarried people and widows remain unmarried?” Paul answered many of these questions by saying, “For now, stay put. Be content in the situation where God has placed you. If you’re married, don’t seek to be single. If you’re single, don’t seek to be married.”
The main teaching points in Paul’s advice about marriage include the following:
• Choosing to remain unmarried can be good if the unmarried person uses the extra time to serve God.
• Married people belong to each other, and they should live that relationship out fully.
• A Christian husband and wife ought to find a way to stay together.
• A marriage partner who becomes a Christian may not use his or her faith as an excuse for divorce and may have to accept rejection by his or her non-Christian partner.
• Believers should be content in the roles God has given them.
• Marriage can either complicate or clarify a person’s commitment to Christ.
• Believers should always be available to the Lord, regardless of their status in life

7:2 But because there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband.NLT After saying that living the celibate life is acceptable and good, Paul quickly added that he did not mean that being married was bad. God created marriage, so it cannot be bad. Those who can remain celibate should do so, but the believers in Corinth ought not deprive themselves of being married and try to enforce celibacy. That would set them up for failure because there is so much sexual immorality. As noted above, sexual immorality was pervasive in Corinth, invading even the worship of some of their gods and goddesses. Many of the believers had come out of very immoral lifestyles. Paul advised, therefore, that those men and women not given the gift of celibacy from God should go ahead and marry. Then they would be able to fulfill their sexual desires in the God-honoring institution of marriage.

7:3 The husband should not deprive his wife of sexual intimacy, which is her right as a married woman, nor should the wife deprive her husband.NLT In the same way that God created marriage, he also created sex with which the human race could procreate as well as find great enjoyment. Just as with anything else that God created, however, sinful humanity can find a way to dirty it. God created sex to occur only between a man and a woman, and only within the confines of the marriage commitment, but humans have used sex wrongly. The Corinthians were surrounded by sexual temptations. Such temptations can be difficult to withstand because they appeal to the normal and natural desires that God has given to human beings.

Some people in the ancient world reacted against the extreme immorality by doing just the opposite—becoming ascetics and abstaining from sex altogether. Apparently, some married people, who saw or experienced the evil of sex wrongly used, began to believe that all sex was immoral, so they should abstain even in their marriages. While celibacy should be the rule for those who choose to remain single (7:1), Paul explained that it should not have any place in the marriage relationship. Marriage provides God’s way to satisfy natural sexual desires and to strengthen the partners against temptation. Married couples have the responsibility to care for each other; therefore, husbands and wives should not deprive each other but should fulfill each other’s needs and desires. Notice that Paul did not emphasize that one partner can demand sex from the other but rather that neither should withhold it. Both partners need to listen to God in this matter and do what is best for the union. Paul’s reference to the wife’s right as a married woman as being equal to the man’s right was revolutionary in this culture of male domination. Paul stressed equality of men and women in their rights as marriage partners to give and receive from each other.

7:4 The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife.NIV A person’s body belongs to God when that person becomes a Christian because Jesus Christ bought that person by paying the price to release him or her from sin (see 6:19-20). Physically, their bodies belong to their spouses. God designed marriage so that through the union of husband and wife two become one. The sexual relationship makes two people “one flesh” (6:16; also Genesis 2:24). The sexual act causes a mystical and intimate union such that the wife’s body no longer belongs just to her but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body no longer belongs to him alone but also to his wife. The unity given to the married couple through their sexual relationship makes them no longer independent beings; they have become “one flesh.” So Paul said to these married believers that sex is not immoral because God created it; therefore, they should not deprive their spouse.

7:5-6 Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer, and then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.NRSV The only time the spouses should deprive one another of sexual intimacy would be if they mutually agree, for a set time, to abstain from sex in order to devote [themselves] to prayer. Times of devoted prayer to God are vital for all believers; some may feel that they want to do this with total focus on God and so would abstain from sex or even food if it were a time for fasting. This is laudable, but Paul also explained that it should not be a habit. Because those married are already “one flesh,” they must maintain that union and come together again. Otherwise, they would leave themselves open for Satan’s temptations with sexual immorality because of a possible lack of self-control.

This I say by way of concession, not of command.NRSV Some scholars think that this statement most likely refers to all that Paul had said thus far concerning his answer to their marriage question (7:1). Marriage is desirable, and certainly needful in order to procreate under God’s guidelines, but marriage is not commanded by God. However, this statement could just as easily conclude his statement in 7:5-6—which he doesn’t want to them to understand as if it were a command.

7:7 I wish everyone could get along without marrying, just as I do. But we are not all the same. God gives some the gift of marriage, and to others he gives the gift of singleness.NLT Paul made a personal note, further explaining that celibacy is acceptable, by stating that he wished everyone could get along without marrying just as he did. Paul well knew that his lifestyle—itinerant travel, difficult work, not having a permanent home, danger, often being mocked and ridiculed, sometimes being beaten and jailed, all for the sake of the gospel—was not one that he could easily adhere to with a wife and children along. He would feel the need to protect them; he would worry about them as any good husband and father would. So Paul thanked the Lord for his gift of being able to remain celibate by doing what God wanted him to do with the freedom that a married man would not have. He wished that others could serve the Lord with such complete abandon.

Paul also realized, however, that if everyone remained unmarried, there would be no Christian children and no furthering of the Christian faith to the next generation. Thus all believers are not the same. To some God gives . . . the gift of marriage, and they can serve God well in that capacity. To others he gives the gift of singleness so they can fulfill other roles in the furthering of his kingdom. Because these are gifts from God, one should not try to force either one on anyone’s life.

Both marriage and singleness are gifts from God. One is not morally better than the other, and both are valuable for accomplishing God’s purposes. It is important for each believer, therefore, to accept his or her present situation. When Paul said he wished that all people were like him (that is, unmarried), he was expressing his desire that more people would devote themselves completely to the ministry without the added concerns of spouse and family, as he had done. He was not criticizing marriage—after all, marriage and sex are God’s created way of providing companionship and populating the earth.
Are you married? Seek to honor God with your marriage commitment by honoring your spouse. Seek to serve God in whatever situation, position in life, or surroundings that you and your spouse share. If your spouse is not a believer, pray that your life and faithfulness will lead him or her to faith in Jesus Christ.
Are you single? Seek to honor God with your singleness. Do not feel that you are less of a person, alone in a world of couples. Instead, see your singleness as a gift from God. Ask him how he would have you serve him with that gift. You may find opportunities available to you that might never have been possible if you were married.
Trust God with your life. Seek to serve him with the gifts he has given.

Paul laid down the general principles regarding marriage in the previous verses; here he began to speak to various people’s situations specifically. First, he wrote instructions to the unmarried and the widows (and widowers). Paul’s single-minded focus was always on God’s kingdom and service for it, so his advice to these believers in Corinth is couched in his concern for their ability to bear up under persecution for their faith and to serve the Lord wholeheartedly (see 7:26, 32-35). (Note that in a different place and situation, Paul counseled the younger widows to marry. See 1 Timothy 5:14.) So he suggested to those presently not bound in marriage that it would be well for them to remain unmarried as he himself was.

It is unknown whether Paul was ever married, if his wife left him (perhaps when he became a Christian), or if he was widowed. Some believe he was probably married at one time because marriage was required of Jewish men in positions of leadership among the Jews, as Paul had been before he became a Christian.

7:9 But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.NIV The Corinthians seemed to have a problem with self-control—as suggested by the kind of sexual immorality so common in the city. The believers came out of that lifestyle, yet probably many still were struggling with their sinful natures in that area. Paul did not suggest enforced celibacy on such people. Instead, he told married people to give themselves to each other (7:3-4); he told single people to try to use their singleness as an opportunity to give all to the Lord (7:7-8). Yet, he also understood that those who struggled with self-control should not put themselves in the position of enforced celibacy, for Satan would use many temptations right there in the city to bring them down. Instead, Paul said these people should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. This is not a put-down of marriage as being no more than a legitimate way to release sexual pressure; instead, it is tied with the gifts of marriage and singleness that Paul had mentioned in 7:7. Those who do not have the gift of singleness, and thus have a passion that will need a proper release, ought to marry. It would be difficult to live with such a desire without having been given the grace to do so.

Sexual pressure is not the best motive for getting married, but it is better to marry the right person than to “burn with passion.” Some in Corinth taught that all sex was wrong, so engaged couples may have been deciding not to get married. In this passage, Paul was telling couples who wanted to marry that they should not frustrate their normal sexual drives by avoiding marriage. This does not mean, however, that people who have trouble controlling themselves should marry the first person who comes along. It is better to deal with the pressure of desire than to deal with an unhappy marriage.

7:10-11 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.NIV Having spoken to the unmarried people in 7:8-9, Paul here turned his attention to the married. He explained to the Corinthian believers the Christian view of divorce, given as a command, not from Paul himself, but from the Lord, referring to Jesus Christ. Jesus had taught about divorce during his time on earth (see Matthew 5:31-32; 19:3-9; Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18), saying that married people were not meant to be divorced. While divorce was permitted as a concession, it was not God’s plan for married people. Paul either had received this teaching by divine inspiration, or he may have heard it in one of his conversations with the disciples.

Paul explained, therefore, that a wife must not separate from her husband. Apparently it was possible in the Greco-Roman culture for a wife to leave her husband (in Jewish culture, divorce laws focused on the husband separating from his wife). If a woman has already separated from her husband, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. She does not have the option to marry another man. In the same way, the husband must not divorce his wife. Although Paul gave an exception in 7:15, the ideal remains.


Genesis 2:18-24 Marriage is God’s idea.
Genesis 24:58-60 Commitment is essential to a successful marriage.
Genesis 29:10-11 Romance is important.
Jeremiah 7:34 Marriage holds times of great joy
Malachi 2:14-15 Marriage creates the best environment for raising children.
Matthew 5:31-32 Unfaithfulness breaks the bond of trust, the foundation of all relationships.
Matthew 19:6 Marriage is permanent.
Romans 7:2-3 Ideally, only death should dissolve marriage.
1 Corinthians 7 In marriage, the husband and wife belong to each other.
Ephesians 5:21-33 Marriage is based on the principled practice of love.
Ephesians 5:23-32 Marriage is a living symbol of Christ and the church.
Hebrews 13:4 Marriage is good and honorable.
1 Peter 3:1-7 In marriage, each partner has responsibilities in caring for the other.

7:12-13 Now, I will speak to the rest of you, though I do not have a direct command from the Lord. If a Christian man has a wife who is an unbeliever and she is willing to continue living with him, he must not leave her. And if a Christian woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he is willing to continue living with her, she must not leave him.NLT Next, Paul turned his attention to the rest of you—the people who were married but felt “single” because their spouses were unbelievers. Undoubtedly, there were many such couples in the Corinthian church. About this particular situation, Paul said he did not have a direct command from the Lord. So he did what all believers must do when Scripture doesn’t state exactly what must be done in a particular situation—he inferred what should be done from what Scripture does say. Scripture has plenty to say about marriage. The “command” about the permanence of marriage (7:10) comes from the Old Testament (Genesis 2:24) and from Jesus (as noted above). Paul based his advice on God’s commands about marriage and applied them to the situation the Corinthians were facing.

By forbidding divorced persons from remarrying, Paul was upholding the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5:31-32; 19:3-9; Mark 10:11-12; and Luke 16:18. Jesus’ main point was to teach that the divorce laws should not be used to dispose of one partner in order to get another one.

Because of their desire to serve Christ, some people in the Corinthian church thought they ought to divorce their pagan spouses and marry Christians. But Paul affirmed the marriage commitment. God’s ideal is for marriages to stay together—even when one spouse is not a believer. To leave the marriage—even for the noblest of goals in serving the Lord—would actually be to disobey God’s express command regarding marriage (Mark 10:2-9). Instead, the believing spouse should try to win the other to Christ (7:16). It would be easy to rationalize leaving; however, Paul makes a strong case for staying with the unbelieving spouse and being a positive influence on the marriage. Paul, like Jesus, believed that marriage is permanent. Paul commanded this for the believers in the church whose unbelieving spouses were willing to continue living with them. He gave other advice to those whose unbelieving spouses wanted to dissolve the marriage because the husband or wife had become a Christian (see 7:15).

7:14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.NIV The church included individuals who had become believers but whose spouses had not. Paul had already stated that these believers must remain with their unbelieving wife or husband. He explained that the unbelieving spouse has been sanctified by the believing spouse. The word “sanctify” can mean to cleanse, make pure, regard as sacred. It is used in the Old Testament to describe the items that become holy because of their relationship to something already deemed holy by God. For example, the temple sanctified the gold connected with it, or the altar sanctified the gift laid on it (see Matthew 23:17, 19). There are two views of how “sanctified” is applied to the unbeliever. One view is that there is a moral influence on the unbeliever as the Christian spouse bears witness to Christ and lives obediently to God. The other view is that the Christian, now blessed by God, includes his or her spouse in the promised blessings of the covenant as they overflow to the unbeliever. “Sanctification” does not carry the meaning of “salvation”; that is, the unbelieving husband is not “saved” through his wife’s salvation. That would make no sense because of Paul’s words in 7:16 about the desired conversion of these pagan partners. More likely, the Corinthians had heeded Paul’s advice in 5:9-11 not to associate with unbelievers. They had interpreted Paul to mean that sex with an unbelieving marriage partner would defile them. Paul affirmed the opposite. When believers have sexual relations with their unbelieving spouse, the unbelievers are blessed in a certain way. The marriage and its sexual relations set up or lead into the possibility of the conversion of the unbeliever.

In this context, Paul pictured the unbelieving husband or wife, although remaining pagan, would assume “sanctification” in the eyes of God because of his or her intimate relationship with a believer. An unbelieving husband, as guardian and caretaker of a home and of his Christian wife, is sanctified by God due to the man’s role in the life of one of God’s chosen ones. The same is true of the wife.

The blessings that flow to believers don’t stop there but extend to others. Among those most likely to receive benefits from God’s work in believers’ lives are their spouse and children. God regards the marriage as “sanctified” (set apart for his use) by the presence of one Christian spouse. The other partner does not receive salvation automatically but is helped by this relationship. The unbeliever is in a relationship with one upon whom God has his hand and whom God will use for his service. This will have an effect because of the close relationship and love between the partners that presumably already exist.

Paul calls the children of such a marriage holy because of God’s blessing on the family. Many feel that the blessing given to the Christian parent extends to the children (though this is not expressly stated in Scripture), and they are to be regarded as Christian until they are old enough to decide for themselves. “Holy” here means dedicated to God by the believing parent. But the believing parent, called upon to raise his or her children in the faith, will hopefully have such an influence that the children will accept salvation for themselves.

7:15 But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.NIV While the believing spouse must not leave the marriage if the unbeliever wants to stay married (7:12-13), the opposite may also happen. The unbeliever may decide that, because his or her spouse has become a Christian, the marriage should be dissolved. In this case, the believer’s only choices would be to deny faith in Jesus Christ in order to maintain the marriage, or maintain faith in Christ and let the marriage be dissolved. As difficult as it might be, and as much as marriage is sanctified by God, the high calling of God must not be denied for any reason. So the believer must let the unbeliever go. When a divorce happens for this reason, a believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances to God’s law regarding divorce. This may be the second exception to remarriage, along with adultery (see Matthew 5:31-32). So the Christian man or woman can allow the divorce to happen and not be disobeying God. Another reason to not block this divorce is that God has called us to live in peace—a situation that would be impossible in a home where the unbeliever felt hostile toward the believer. It would be better for such a marriage to be dissolved.

7:16 You wives must remember that your husbands might be converted because of you. And you husbands must remember that your wives might be converted because of you.NLT Another reason for believers to try not to dissolve their marriage to an unbeliever is that they can be a good influence on their spouse. The intimacy and day-to-day-ness of marriage provide ample opportunity for the Christian to be a powerful witness to his or her spouse. So powerful can it be, Paul reminded them, that the unbelieving wife or husband might be converted because of the faithful testimony of the believing wives and husbands. For those couples who can stay together “in peace” (7:15), this would be the most joyous result of all.


Paul had just finished explaining to the believers who were married to unbelievers that they should stay in their situation peacefully if at all possible and live for Christ in their marriage. This passage expands his thought on that topic, explaining that just because people become Christians, this does not call for wholesale changes in every part of their outward lives.

7:17-19 You must accept whatever situation the Lord has put you in, and continue on as you were when God first called you. This is my rule for all the churches. For instance, a man who was circumcised before he became a believer should not try to reverse it. And the man who was uncircumcised when he became a believer should not be circumcised now.NLT Christ makes changes from within and calls people from all walks of life. While some changes are made in behavior and attitudes, the believers ought not make some kinds of changes. For example, they ought not change marriage partners. They need not even try to change jobs (unless the job was dishonoring to God). Instead, accept whatever situation the Lord has put you in, and continue on as you were when God first called you because God can use his faithful followers in all areas of life. This was not Paul’s advice just to the church in Corinth but his rule for all the churches.

For instance, Paul wrote, a man who was circumcised before he became a believer should not try to reverse it. The ceremony of circumcision was an important part of the Jews’ relationship with God. In fact, before Christ came, circumcision was commanded by God for those who claimed to follow him (Genesis 17:9-14). But after Christ’s death and resurrection, circumcision was no longer necessary (Acts 15; Romans 4:9-11; Galatians 5:2-4; Colossians 2:11). For the Jews, circumcision was the sign of their covenant with God; the Greeks, however, looked down upon it as the mark of lowly people. Some Jews, in an attempt to become more acceptable in Greek culture, could attempt to surgically reverse the marks of a circumcision. To add to the confusion, the Judaizers (a group of false teachers) were claiming that Gentiles had to be circumcised before they could become Christians. Paul pointed out that, in God’s kingdom, circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters.NKJV Jewish Christians did not need to reverse their circumcisions, and Gentile Christians did not need to be circumcised (Romans 2:25, 29; Galatians 5:6). Instead, they should stay exactly as they were when they became believers; any outward change would make no difference. The inner change is all that matters. They should focus on keeping the commandments of God, desiring to conform their heart and will in obedience to him.

Apparently the Corinthians were ready to make wholesale changes without thinking through the ramifications. Paul was writing to say that people should be Christians where they are. You can do God’s work and demonstrate your faith anywhere. If you became a Christian after marriage, and your spouse is not a believer, remember that you don’t have to be married to a Christian to live for Christ. Don’t assume that you are in the wrong place or are stuck with the wrong person. You may be just where God wants you (see 7:20).

7:20 You should continue on as you were when God called you.NLT Paul repeated what he had said in 7:17 for emphasis and because he had said this was his rule for all the churches. The believers should continue on as they were when God called them. This refers to examples such as marriage, circumcision or uncircumcision (as noted above), job, or station in life (slave or free, 7:21-23). Obviously, it does not refer to one’s spiritual, inward life; that should be growing and changing every day as believers draw closer to and learn more about God.

Often we are so concerned about what we could be doing for God somewhere else that we miss great opportunities right where we are. Paul says that when someone becomes a Christian, he or she should usually continue with the work he or she has previously been doing—provided it isn’t immoral or unethical. Every job can become Christian work when you realize that the purpose of your life is to honor, serve, and speak out for Christ. Because God has placed you where you are, look carefully for opportunities to serve him there. After all, if God found you there, God can certainly use you there!

7:21 Are you a slave? Don’t let that worry you—but if you get a chance to be free, take it.NLT From religious variations in the church (between those circumcised and those uncircumcised), Paul moved on to the varied social states of the believers. The church in Corinth also included people from every station in life—many of them slaves. Therefore, if a believer was a slave when he became a Christian, he could continue as a Christian slave, doing his work as for the Lord (Ephesians 6:5-9). The key phrase is “don’t let that worry you.” The slaves should not feel that because they became Christians they could no longer serve as slaves because they deserved freedom. Unfortunately, they might have to keep living as slaves, but they should serve Christ wholeheartedly in their position. Of course, they also were free to seek to better themselves, for Paul says, if you get a chance to be free, take it. Obedience to God, as always, is what matters most (7:19). For more on Christianity and slavery, see the following Life Application Bible Commentaries: Ephesians 6:5-9, Colossians 3:22-4:2, and Titus 2:9-10.

7:22-23 And remember, if you were a slave when the Lord called you, the Lord has now set you free from the awful power of sin. And if you were free when the Lord called you, you are now a slave of Christ. God purchased you at a high price. Don’t be enslaved by the world.NLT Slavery was common throughout the Roman Empire, so many of the believers in Corinth were slaves when the Lord called [them]. Paul said that although the Christian slaves remained enslaved to other human beings, they were free from the awful power of sin in their lives (Romans 6:18, 22). These slaves had been made free. In the same way, if a person was free when the Lord called him, he was now a slave of Christ. The free people had become servants of the Savior who purchased [them] at a high price, higher than any rich person ever paid for a slave, for the Savior had paid with his blood (6:20; Romans 5:9; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Because God paid a great price to bring his people to himself, he has complete authority over their lives. Believers’ lives and service come under his control; all that they do is for his kingdom and his glory. Because believers are servants of God, they should no longer be enslaved by the world. They live in the world, but they are not of it, looking forward to a future citizenship in heaven.

People are slaves to sin until they commit their lives to Christ, who alone can conquer sin’s power. Sin, pride, and fear no longer have any claim over them, just as a slave owner no longer has power over slaves who have been sold. The Bible says that people become Christ’s slaves when they become Christians (Romans 6:18), but this actually means that they gain freedom, because sin no longer controls them. Don’t let the society around you dictate the rules. Make Christ your final authority.

7:24 So, dear brothers and sisters, whatever situation you were in when you became a believer, stay there in your new relationship with God.NLT This passage repeats Paul’s statement of 7:17 and 7:20. God can use people from all areas of life, so whatever situation God found them in, they should stay there in [their] new relationship with God. Because believers have been set free from sin and are free to live for God, they ought not feel either pride or shame in their station in life. Instead, they should serve God from that position, seeking to share the gospel with those who might not otherwise hear it. For further discussion on living with unbelievers, see the LAB Cmy: 1 Peter 3:1-7.


Throughout this chapter, Paul has been telling believers not to seek to change their situations but to remain where they are and to seek to serve the Lord there. A person should not make drastic changes during difficult times. Paul wanted the believers to focus on making the most of their time before Christ returns—sharing the faith so that many more can become believers. Paul’s urgency and single-minded focus on God’s kingdom come through in the advice he gives to married and single people in these verses. As always, he did not want anything to hinder their work for the advance of God’s kingdom.

7:25-26 Now, about the young women who are not yet married. I do not have a command from the Lord for them. But the Lord in his kindness has given me wisdom that can be trusted, and I will share it with you. Because of this present crisis, I think it is best to remain just as you are.NLT The words “now, about” indicate that at this point Paul began addressing another matter about which the Corinthian church had asked. In their culture, a young woman’s parents usually would make the decision about whether or not their daughter would marry. So these parents had written wondering what decisions to make regarding their daughters—the young women who are not yet married.

Paul clearly stated that he had no specific command from the Lord for the believers on this subject; that is, he did not have a direct teaching from Jesus to draw from. This does not mean, however, that Paul’s words here should be taken as any less inspired. Paul offered them this advice because he knew that the Lord in his kindness [had] given [him] wisdom that can be trusted. Paul shared that wisdom with the believers when they asked such questions as this.

Paul advised the young women to remain as they were, unmarried. He reasoned that it would be easier on them to be single than married during this present crisis. There has been discussion among scholars regarding the nature of this “crisis.” Some have suggested that Paul expected the Lord’s return and was referring to the certain calamities that would take place prior to the Second Coming. Most likely, however, Paul foresaw the impending persecution that the Roman government would soon bring upon Christians. He gave this practical advice because being unmarried would mean less suffering and more freedom to throw one’s life into the cause of Christ (7:29), even to the point of fearlessly dying for him. Paul’s advice reveals his single-minded devotion to spreading the Good News. He wanted these unmarried believers to consider the times in which they were living and how well they could follow the will of God for them in their unmarried state as compared to being married.

7:27 Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife.NIV Speaking to the young women not yet married, Paul had explained that “it is best to remain just as you are.” This means that it would be best for them not to put their energies into worrying about getting married. Paul expanded his advice for everyone, both men and women, married and single. A married person should not seek a divorce; an unmarried man should not look for a wife. Paul’s reasoning rested with what he had said in 7:26. It would be difficult to be a Christian in the Roman Empire in coming days. Paul was advising church members to stay focused on the Lord and on the business of sharing the gospel.

7:28 But if you do get married, it is not a sin. And if a young woman gets married, it is not a sin. However, I am trying to spare you the extra problems that come with marriage.NLT Lest he be misunderstood, Paul explained that he was not saying that it would be sinful for these young unmarried women to get married. That would be inconsistent with all of Scripture. Instead, Paul was trying to spare [them] the extra problems that come with marriage. Life holds plenty of difficulties—and in the first-century Roman world, one of those difficulties would be persecution of Christians. Paul wanted the believers in Corinth to be able to let go of everything in their faithfulness to God—that would be much easier without the attachment of marriage. Thus, he advised the unmarried to remain that way. If they chose to marry, however, that would not be wrong.

Many people naively think that marriage will solve all their problems. Here are some problems marriage won’t solve:
Sexual temptation
Satisfaction of one’s deepest emotional needs
Elimination of life’s difficulties
Marriage alone does not hold two people together, but commitment does—commitment to Christ and to each other despite conflicts and problems. As wonderful as it is, marriage does not automatically solve every problem. Whether married or single, be content with your situation and focus on Christ, not on loved ones, to help address your problems.

7:29-30 Now let me say this, dear brothers and sisters: The time that remains is very short, so husbands should not let marriage be their major concern. Happiness or sadness or wealth should not keep anyone from doing God’s work.NLT As Paul had challenged the unmarried to consider their situation in light of the call of God on their lives and their brief time on earth to accomplish it, so he challenged all the brothers and sisters to look at life and realize that the time that remains is very short. Paul probably did not have the Second Coming in mind here; rather, he probably was thinking of coming persecutions and the resulting curtailment of the believers’ freedom to witness for their faith. Paul urged the believers not to regard marriage, home, or financial security as the ultimate goals of life. As much as possible, they should live unhindered by the cares of this world, not getting involved with burdensome mortgages, budgets, investments, or debts that might keep them from doing God’s work. Married men and women, as Paul pointed out (7:33-34), must take care of earthly responsibilities—but they should make every effort to keep them modest and manageable. They must live for the Lord in their marriages. If life brings them happiness or sadness or wealth, they should not be bound up in any of it; these situations must not keep [them] from doing God’s work.

Paul’s focus, as always, was that believers make the most of their time before Christ’s return. Every person in every generation should have this sense of urgency about telling the Good News to others. Life is short—there’s not much time!

7:31 Those in frequent contact with the things of the world should make good use of them without becoming attached to them, for this world and all it contains will pass away.NLT Believers must live detached from this world. Those who have been blessed with the things of the world should make good use of them without becoming attached to them. Material blessings can be used to further God’s kingdom. Jesus commended the unbelievers in his day who used money wisely, and he encouraged the disciples to learn from them: “I tell you, use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. In this way, your generosity stores up a reward for you in heaven” (Luke 16:9 nlt). All of our possessions and opportunities can be shared with those in ministry or put to good use. Our homes can be opened, our cars loaned out, and our possessions shared. Believers who have been blessed with material wealth must always remember that they have been blessed in order to bless others. Paul did not want the believers to be “attached” to anything in this life as if that were all there is—to do so would be to forget that this world and all it contains will pass away (see also 1 John 2:8, 17).

7:32-34 In everything you do, I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. But a married man can’t do that so well. He has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. His interests are divided. In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be more devoted to the Lord in body and in spirit, while the married woman must be concerned about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband.NLT Marriage is a tremendous responsibility for each of the spouses involved. For a marriage to be successful, husband and wife must work at their relationship—they will both have to be concerned about earthly responsibilities and about how to please each other. This is good and important for those who are married. Paul was not saying that this was wrong in any way; he was simply pointing out that unmarried people can focus their energies elsewhere. For example, an unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him, and an unmarried woman can be more devoted to the Lord in body and in spirit. As Paul had noted in 7:28, his advice rests on his desire that these believers be free from the concerns of this life. Later, Paul would uphold the privilege of marriage (9:3-5), but this was his advice to those who had asked about their personal situations.

Some single people feel tremendous pressure to be married. They think their lives can be complete with a spouse. But Paul underlines one advantage of being single—the potential of a greater focus on Christ and his work. If you are unmarried, use your special opportunity to serve Christ wholeheartedly.

7:35 I say this for your own benefit, not to put any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and unhindered devotion to the Lord.NRSV Paul gave the advice in the previous verses for their benefit, but not to put any restraint upon the believers. These were not regulations that the churches had to follow. Instead, this advice came from Paul’s heart, to help the struggling believers in Corinth to be able to promote good order and unhindered devotion to the Lord. This would be helpful as they lived their Christianity in the midst of the gross immorality of Corinth and as they anticipated persecution for their faith.

7:36-37 If anyone thinks he is acting improperly toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if she is getting along in years and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married. But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin—this man also does the right thing.NIV The phrase “getting along in years” means past the prime age for marriage. In their culture at that time, a young woman was considered “fully developed” and ready for marriage at eighteen to twenty years old. The young man should marry if he feels he ought to marry. But if he has made up his mind not to marry, he should let the young woman go. In so doing, this young man also does the right thing. That he is under no compulsion means that he does not have outside pressure such as from parents or through a prior agreement. Such a man has control over his own will and can thus make his own decision.

7:38 So the person who marries does well, and the person who doesn’t marry does even better.NLT When Paul wrote that the person who doesn’t marry does even better, he was referring to the potential time available for service to God. The single person does not have the responsibility of caring for a spouse and raising a family. Singleness, however, does not ensure service to God—involvement in service depends on the commitment of the individual.

7:39 A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.NIV The Bible teaches that marriage is a lifelong contract between a man and a woman—”as long as they both shall live.” Therefore, a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. The relationship was not to be dissolved for any reason. If the woman’s husband were to die, however, the marriage contract would be void, and she is free to marry anyone she wishes, providing that this person were a Christian (he must belong to the Lord). This also applied to men whose wives had died.

There may have been some teaching in either Jewish or Greek society stating that a widowed woman could not remarry because she was bound forever to her husband, even if he had died. Paul stated clearly that this was not to be the case. But the widow or widower should still be very careful about whom he or she chooses to get married to—that part is prescribed by God, for he would not have them marry unbelievers.

7:40 But in my opinion it will be better for her if she doesn’t marry again, and I think I am giving you counsel from God’s Spirit when I say this.NLT While the widow can remarry (7:39), that doesn’t necessarily mean that she should. In fact, Paul’s opinion was that it will be better for her if she doesn’t marry again for the same reasons he said that the unmarried people might think about remaining single (7:25, 28, 32-34).

When Paul stated I think I am giving you counsel from God’s Spirit when I say this, there was nothing tentative in his meaning. At times he gave these believers commands from the Lord because he could bring words directly from Jesus or from the Old Testament; at other times, he gave them his “advice” or “counsel,” but this still carried the weight of divine inspiration. Paul’s advice came from the Holy Spirit, who gave him the words he needed to answer the Corinthian church’s questions.

Although Paul’s words were written almost two thousand years ago, his counsel rings true. Struggling marriages, quick divorces, and lonely singles are not a modern invention. Life in a fallen world is difficult. Paul’s responses to the Corinthian questions and mistakes are filled with wisdom, realism, truth—the evidences of inspiration by God’s Spirit. Some of his guidelines may not apply directly to us personally; others may be difficult to understand. But neither of those points relieves us from acting on what does apply and what we do understand. Take the clear steps of obedience, and much of the ambiguity will fall away.

Life Application Bible Commentary – Life Application Bible Commentary – 1 & 2 Corinthians.

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Posted by on December 1, 2022 in 1 Corinthians


1 Corinthians #6 The Church: Made Up of Saints (Forgiven Sinners!) 1 Corinthians 6:9–11

Ann Landers Quote: “Church is not a museum for Saints, but rather a hospital  for sinners.”

Someone has said, “The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for the display of saints.” That was certainly the case with the Corinthian church…there were people who had been guilty of every sin known to mankind.

When Paul looked at that audience, he was looking at people who have committed adultery and fornication, who have been guilty of wife abuse or child molestation, who have robbed or murdered others, and who have spent time in jail—not to mention those who have succumbed to lust, covetousness, hate, and pride.

The church is not made up of perfect people; it is composed of people who have been made righteous by the blood of Christ.

The difference between people in the church and people outside the church is not that those in the church are “saints” and those outside the church are “sinners”; it is simply that those inside the church are sinners saved by grace, while those outside the church have not yet made “the most important decision for their life here and into eternity.”

The list of the disinherited that Paul included in 6:10 served very much like a well-known Old Testament parable. God had sent the prophet Nathan to confront David about his sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:1–14). Nathan’s parable about the rich man who had stolen the poor man’s only lamb and then had killed the lamb enraged the king. At that point, Nathan pointed out that the case they were discussing was David’s own behavior.

Paul used a similar tactic. He reminded the Corinthians of the behaviors that are evidence of sin. He appealed to their shared conviction that such lives, if left unchanged, would not lead to eternal life. Then, as they nodded their heads in agreement, he stated the punch line: “And that is what some of you were” (6:11).

Any time Christians downplay or forget their condition without Christ, there are two negative results:

(1) It makes them value the freedom they have in Christ less

(2) it makes them less compassionate about people who have never heard the gospel.

In no New Testament passage is the relationship between members of the church and sinners better illustrated than in 1 Corinthians 6:9–11 (ESV)

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

This passage teaches three significant truths about the church and sinners.


In this context, Paul was teaching the Corinthian church to live righteously. This involved, for example, not going to law against one another (1 Corinthians 6:1–8) and not committing fornication (6:15–20).

To convince them that they ought to avoid the sins that were common in the city of Corinth, Paul said bluntly that those guilty of certain  sins  “will   not   inherit  the  kingdom  of  God.” “Inheriting the kingdom of God” is the equivalent of going to heaven.

Paul did not intend to say that these sins alone will keep people out of heaven. Rather, these ten are representative of all kinds of unrighteousness. Anyone participating in the sins common among the world will not “inherit the kingdom of God.”

What  should  we  realize  from  this  list  of sins?

  1. The practices listed are all sins.They are sins because God has said that they are sins. If we believe the Bible, we must have the same view of these behaviors that God has of them.
  2. 2. These sins are equal in their eternal consequences. The social, physical, and temporal consequences of some sins may be worse than others, but the ultimate consequences of all sins are the same.
  3. 3. People who had been guilty of these sins comprised the membership of the church at Corinth.Paul went on to make this shocking statement: “Such were some of you” (6:11a). He did not say, “Such were all of ” Not all of the members in Corinth had been guilty of the kinds of sins he listed.

And such were some of you, Paul continues. The Corinthian church, as churches today, had ex-fornicators, ex-adulterers, ex-thieves, and so on. Though many Christians have never been guilty of the particular sins just discussed, every Christian was “a sinner in need of a Savior.” Every Christian is an ex-sinner…and even as Christians, we are still “sinning saints.”

Christ came for the purpose of saving sinners (Matt. 9:13). That is the great truth of Christianity: no person has sinned too deeply or too long to be saved.

“Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom. 5:20). But some had ceased to be like that for a while, and were reverting to their old behavior.

It made no difference what they were before they were saved. God can save a sinner from any sin and all sin. But it makes a great deal of difference what a believer is like after salvation. He is to live a life that corresponds to his cleansing, his sanctification, and his justification. His Christian life is to be pure, holy, and righteous. The new life produces and requires a new kind of living.[1]

He ate with tax collectors and sinners (Luke 15:1, 2). He loves the lost—all the lost, those who are despised as well as those who are “not far from the kingdom” (see Mark 12:34). Consequently, in the New Testament church, everyone was welcome—no matter what kind of sinner he had been before!

Let us consider this analogy: How does one qualify to be admitted to a hospital? He is sick! Likewise, to get into the church of our Lord, the first requirement is that the person is spiritually sick! He is a sinner! Any sinner—regardless of the sins he or she has committed—is welcome in Christ’s church, the hospital for sinners!

Pauls Message to Us

We can rejoice that the sinners in the church Paul stressed that there is no kind of sin that cannot be forgiven.

  • When the Corinthians received Jesus Christ, they were washed. This refers to a cleansing process of baptism that had washed away their sins through the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 10:22; Revelation 7:14).
  • They were sanctified, meaning that they had been set apart by God (John 17:17; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 5:23).
  • And they were justified, meaning that God had declared that these believers were righteous and just in his sight. Believers are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Because Jesus took their punishment, sinners are able to come to God. With the full name as given here, “the Lord Jesus Christ,” comes the full title of the One who is God, who became a man, and who then returned to heaven to reign forever.

Sin Should Be in the Past

Notice the tense of the verb in 6:11: “Such were some of you” (emphasis mine). “Were” is past tense. In other words,  the  adulterers were no longer committing adultery; the idolaters were no longer worshiping idols; the thieves were no longer stealing; and the homosexuals had quit practicing homosexuality!

The Church Should Be A Support Group

Perhaps, rather than comparing the church to a hospital, we should also liken it to a rehabilitation center or a mutual support group. “12­step groups” like Alcoholics Anonymous offer advice, encouragement, and accountability for people who are trying to change their lives.

We all are part of this support group, trying to help

one another overcome a common problem. We all have weaknesses; we are all tempted to sin.

When we see ourselves as helping one another, none of us can feel superior to anyone else. While one Christian may struggle with covetousness or greed, another may battle immorality. Still another may be trying to overcome lying or anger. We are all trying to be more like Jesus, trying to conquer fleshly desires and take on the divine nature. We are all sinners saved by grace.

We must truly be striving to put off the old man, to quit the sin we were guilty of before we became Christians. Christ accepts sinners, but He does not tolerate sin!

Just as there is a danger of thinking that—because of God’s wrath—one can sin so much he cannot be saved, there also is a danger of thinking that—because of God’s grace—one can keep on sinning and God will always forgive. God will forgive, but you must repent! Repentance involves change. We must do our best to stop sinning and obey the will of God!

1 Corinthians 6:18–20 (ESV) Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Paul says that our bodies are the temple of God (6:19–20). In sexual sin, a person removes his or her body from God’s control to unite with someone not in his plan. Thus, those people violate God’s purpose for their bodies.

Paul says, don’t walk, but run away from sexual sin. Believers need to exercise alertness and awareness to stay away from places where temptation is strong, and they need to use strong, evasive action if they find themselves entrapped.

Paul asked for the sixth time in this chapter Do you not know? indicating that this was a fact the Corinthians should have known but apparently had missed or forgotten.

The words “your body” in this verse refer not to the corporate “body of Christ,” but to each believer’s individual, physical body.

How should the Corinthian believers think about their bodies? Paul explained that each should view his or her body as a temple of the Holy Spirit, who was living in them.

Because your body belongs to God, you must not violate his standards for living. Make it your practice to have an occasional body checkup in prayer. Reflect on how you are treating your body and ask God to point out any thoughts or behaviors that need change or improvement

This Holy Spirit had come into them when they had believed, having received him from God. The believers, therefore, ought to honor God with their bodies. Just as the temple was a place for worship, sacrifice, prayer, and communion with God, so should our bodies be used to implement these high purposes.

[1] John F. MacArthur Jr., 1 Corinthians, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984), 143.

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Posted by on November 28, 2022 in 1 Corinthians


1 Corinthians #5 Church Discipline: Taking Sin Seriously — 1 Cor. 5:1-13

In the first four chapters of 1 Corinthians, Paul introduces a shameful problem in the church. The Corinthians proudly attach themselves to certain leaders, whose teaching seems to disclose a “wisdom” not known or taught by other teachers, and certainly not by Paul or his fellow-apostles. These cliques and factions are undermining the unity of the church and are a denial of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Chapter 5 is not actually about the immorality of one church member, as much as it is about the pride and passivity of the entire church in response to this sinner.

The church at Corinth was not only a divided church, but it was also a disgraced church. There was sin in the assembly and everybody knew about it.  But the church was slow to do anything about it.

No church is perfect, but human imperfection must never be an excuse for sin. Just as parents must discipline their children in love, so local churches must exercise discipline over the members of the assembly. Church discipline is not a group of “pious policemen” out to catch a criminal. Rather, it is a group of brokenhearted brothers and sisters seeking to restore an erring member of the family.

The first things the Corinthians needed to see was the need for discipline. Because they apparently had rationalized or minimized the immorality in their midst, they saw no need for discipline. Paul presented to the church three important considerations.

Consider the church: “What will this sin do to the church?” is certainly an important consideration. Christians are “called to be saints” (1 Cor. 1:2), and this means holy living to the glory of God. If a Christian loves his church, he will not stand by and permit sin to weaken it and perhaps ruin its testimony.

How should we respond? Paul gave three specific instructions for the church to follow.

Mourn over the sin (vv. 1-2). It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. 2  And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this?

This is the word used for mourning over the dead, which is perhaps the deepest and most painful kind of personal sorrow possible. Instead of mourning, the people at Corinth were puffed up. They were boasting of the fact that their church was so “open-minded” that even fornicators could be members in good standing!

The sin in question was a form of incest: a professed Christian (and a member of the church) was living with his stepmother in a permanent alliance. While Paul is distressed by the sin of this one man, he is even more disturbed by the sinful response of the church. They have “become arrogant,” and at the same time, are virtually doing nothing to correct this matter. Paul is distressed by the arrogance of the saints at Corinth.

Pride is the result of turning from the truth. Pride keeps one from seeing the truth. The Corinthians maintain an attitude of pride when the situation should produce mourning.

Paul shamed the church by saying, “Even the unsaved Gentiles don’t practice this kind of sin!”

In this therapeutic age when the church is often looked upon more as a “support group” than a “holy temple,” church members refuse to discipline members and continue to embrace sinning saints, even when it is clear they have no intention of repenting of their sins, and even when they publicly persist in their sinful ways. If this is the case in Corinth, they would love the expression of our day, “unconditional acceptance.”

An easy-going attitude to sin is always dangerous. It has been said that our one security against sin lies in our being shocked at it. Carlyle said that men must see the infinite beauty of holiness and the infinite damnability of sin. When we cease to take a serious view of sin we are in a perilous position. It is not a question of being critical and condemnatory; it is a question of being wounded and shocked. It was sin that crucified Jesus Christ; it was to free men from sin that he died. No Christian man can take an easy-going view of it.

Christians are not to tolerate sin within the church any more than they are to tolerate it within their own lives. “But do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints.… And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them” (Eph. 5:3, 11).

Judge the sin (vv. 3-5). Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. 4  When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5  hand this man over to Satan, so that the fleshly nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.

While Christians are not to judge one another’s motives (Matt. 7:1-5) or ministries (1 Cor. 4:5), we are certainly expected to be honest about each other’s conduct.

Paul wants to be absolutely clear that the arrogance of the Corinthians is not good. Why not? Because it is destructive. We surely know it is harmful to the man living in sin. But now Paul seeks to show us how destructive failing to deal with sin is to the church.

Paul described here an official church meeting at which the offender was dealt with according to divine instructions. Public sin must be publicly judged and condemned. The sin was not to be “swept under the rug”; for, after all, it was known far and wide even among the unsaved who were outside the church.

The church was to gather together and expel the offender. Note the strong words that Paul used to instruct them: “taken away from among you” (1 Cor. 5:2), “deliver such an one unto Satan” (1 Cor. 5:5), “purge out” (1 Cor. 5:7), and “put away” (1 Cor. 5:13). Paul did not suggest that they handle the offender gently.

This was to be done by the authority of Jesus Christ—in His name—and not simply on the authority of the local church. Church membership is a serious thing and must not be treated carelessly or lightly.

To put the professed believer out of their fellowship, to excommunicate him, would be to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh. Satan is the ruler of this world, and turning a believer over to Satan, therefore, thrusts the believer back into the world on his own, apart from the care and support of Christian fellowship. That person has forfeited his right to participation in the church of Jesus Christ, which He intends to keep pure at all costs. The word deliver (paradidōmi) is a strong term indicating the judicial act of sentencing, of handing over for punishment. The sentence passed on a sinning believer is to be given to Satan.

Purge the sin (vv. 6-13). Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? 7  Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast–as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

8  Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.

 9  I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people– 10  not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11  But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. 12  What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13  God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.”

Paul turns his readers to imagery of leaven, and the way a little bit of leaven can change the whole lump of dough in which it is found. The sinner whom the Corinthians embrace and fail to put out of the church is likened to a little leaven placed in a lump of dough. If left there for long, it changes the whole batch of dough.

By removing this man from their midst, the church at Corinth not only seeks the sinner’s restoration, they also promote their own purity.

The image here is that of the Passover supper (Ex. 12). Jesus is the Lamb of God who shed His blood to deliver us from sin (John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:18-25). The Jews in Egypt were delivered from death by the application of the blood of the lamb. Following the application of the blood, the Jewish families ate the Passover supper. One of the requirements was that no yeast (leaven) be found anywhere in their dwellings. Even the bread at the feast was to be unleavened.

Leaven is a picture of sin. It is small but powerful; it works secretly; it “puffs up” the dough; it spreads. The sinning church member in Corinth was like a piece of yeast: he was defiling the entire loaf of bread (the congregation). It was like a cancer in the body that needed to be removed by drastic surgery.

The church must purge itself of “old leaven.” However, the church must not judge and condemn those who are outside the faith. That judgment is future, and God will take care of it. In 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, Paul emphasized once again the importance of separation from the world. Christians are not to be isolated, but separated. We cannot avoid contact with sinners, but we can avoid contamination by sinners.

Paul does not mean for the Corinthians to try to keep the church out of the world, but to keep the world out of the church. He means that those who profess to be saved must live like one who is saved. A person should not be embraced as a believer whose profession and practice are in contradiction.

If a professed Christian is guilty of the sins named here, the church must deal with him. Individual members are not to “company” with him (1 Cor. 5:9—”get mixed up with, associate intimately”). They are not to eat with him, which could refer to private hospitality or more likely the public observance of the Lord’s Supper (see 1 Cor. 11:23-34).

Church discipline is not easy or popular, but it is important. If it is done properly, God can use it to convict and restore an erring believer. Second Corinthians 2:1-11 indicates that this man did repent and was restored to fellowship.


Whatever happened to sin? Years ago, a secular psychiatrist, Dr. Karl Menninger, wrote a book entitled, Whatever Became of Sin. Even this man realized that evils have become too “psychologized,” and that a simple diagnosis of “sin” is needed. I can imagine the kinds of diagnosis we would have today for the malady of this Corinthian man, living with his father’s wife.

For Paul, the diagnosis is simple, and so is the prescription. The problem is the sin of immorality, and the prescription is to remove him from the church. When the Bible is the standard for conduct, and it is viewed and used for defining sin and righteousness, the diagnosis of this man’s problem is not that difficult.

Whatever has happened to church discipline? I have seen very little of it. Even when such discipline is taken, all too many church members are tempted to second-guess the church and to privately continue to fellowship with the one under discipline. This is a most serious matter, for if I understand the Scriptures correctly, to do so is to become a partner with that person in the sin.

Church discipline is one of those very clear duties of the church and of the individual Christian. Why, then, is it not practiced more often? These verses suggest that arrogance or pride can be one cause.

I would also suggest that these days fear may now be a cause for not taking disciplinary action. We may be afraid to take a stand against sin because we are afraid of rejection. We may be afraid of appearing to be narrow and unloving. We may be unwilling to lose the friendship and the fellowship of those we love. Some church leaders are afraid of being sued for taking disciplinary action against a church member. It can and does happen. I suspect that it will happen more and more in the coming days.

Sinful men and women should not and cannot be comfortable in the presence of a holy God, save through the cleansing of their sins by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Men and women cannot come to faith without first becoming uncomfortable about their sin and God’s judgment. That is what being saved is all about—being saved from the wrath of God upon sinners.

God takes sin seriously. That is why the cross of Calvary was necessary. God took our sin so seriously that He sent His Son to die in our place, to suffer the punishment for our sins.

The good news of the gospel is that while God takes our sin seriously, and while our sin must be judged, He has judged our sins in Christ. To enter into this forgiveness, all we need do is to receive the gift of salvation which God offers to us by faith in His Son. Believe that Christ is the Savior and be willing to repent of the sin and confess that you want Christ to be both Savior and Lord. And be immersed in water so you wins can be forgiven.

When we see how seriously God has taken our sins, we see how serious we must be about sin as well.

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Posted by on November 24, 2022 in 1 Corinthians


1 Corinthians #4 God Gives the Increase – 1 Corinthians 3


The church is a family and the goal is maturity (1 Cor. 3:1-4).

1  Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly–mere infants in Christ. 2  I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3  You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? 4  For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men?

Why—when we have God’s own Spirit within us, the mind of Christ, and the power of God—could it be so difficult to do what is right, to do what our Lord wants us to do?

There are two reasons: the world and the flesh. The first is outside us, the second is inside us. They are Satan’s supreme instruments in tempting believers and keeping them from faithfulness and victory

The church has often thought of worldliness only in terms of bad habits. But worldliness is much deeper than bad habits; it is an orientation, a way of thinking and believing. Basically it is buying the world’s philosophies, buying human wisdom.

It is looking to the world—to human leaders, to influential and popular people, to neighbors, associates, and fellow students—for our standards, attitudes, and meaning. Worldliness is accepting the world’s definitions, the world’s measuring sticks, the world’s goals

The world and the flesh are closely related. They are used by the same power, Satan, and they serve the same purpose, evil. They complement each other and are often hard to distinguish. But it is not necessary to precisely distinguish between them, because both of them are spiritual enemies, and both must be fought with the same weapons—God’s Word and God’s Spirit.

Paul already explained that there are two kinds of people in the world—natural (unsaved) and spiritual (saved). But now he explained that there are two kinds of saved people: mature and immature (carnal). A Christian matures by allowing the Spirit to teach him and direct him by feeding on the Word. The immature Christian lives for the things of the flesh (carnal means “flesh”) and has less interest in the things of the Spirit. Of course, some believers are immature because they have been saved only a short time, but that is not what Paul is discussing here.

Paul was the “spiritual father” who brought this family into being (1 Cor. 4:15). During the eighteen months he ministered in Corinth, Paul had tried to feed his spiritual children and, help them mature in the faith. Just as in a human family, everybody helps the new baby grow and mature, so in the family of God we must encourage spiritual maturity

A Christian is not habitually characterized by sin; it no longer represents his basic nature. But he is still able to sin, and his sin is just as sinful as the sin of an unbeliever. Sin is sin. When a Christian sins, he is being practically unspiritual, living on the same practical level as an unbeliever. Consequently Paul is compelled to speak to the Corinthian believers much as if they were unbelievers.

Perhaps somewhat to soften the rebuke, he also compares them to babes in Christ. It was far from a compliment, but it did recognize that they truly belonged to Christ.

What are the marks of maturity? For one thing, you can tell the mature person by his diet. As children grow, they learn to eat different food. They graduate (to use Paul’s words) from milk to meat.

What is the difference? The usual answer is that “milk” represents the easy things in the Word, while “meat” represents the hard doctrines.

The Word of God is our spiritual food: milk (1 Peter 2:2). bread (Matt. 4:4), meat (Heb. 5:11-14), and even honey (Ps. 119:103). Just as the physical man needs a balanced diet if his body is to be healthy, so the inner man needs a balanced diet of spiritual food. The baby begins with milk, but as he grows and his teeth develop, he needs solid food.

It is not difficult to determine a believer’s spiritual maturity, or immaturity, if you discover what kind of “diet” he enjoys.

There is another way to determine maturity: the mature Christian practices love and seeks to get along with others. Children like to disagree and fuss. And children like to identify with heroes, whether sports heroes or Hollywood heroes.

Because self-centeredness is at the heart of fleshly behavior, jealousy and strife are always found in an immature congregation. Jealousy is the attitude, and strife is the action that results from it. One is the inner emotional condition, the other the outward expression of selfishness.

Jealousy and strife are not the least of the symptoms of fleshly living. Those sins are more destructive than many Christians seem to think. They are far from being petty sins, because, among other things, they cause division in the church, Christ’s body, for whom He gave His life. They are among the surest marks of fallen humanness, just as unity is one of the surest marks of divine transformation.

Jealousy is a severe form of selfishness, begrudging someone else what we wish were ours. And selfishness is one of the most obvious characteristics of babyhood. An infant’s life is almost totally self-centered and selfish. Its whole concern is with its own comfort, hunger, attention, sleep. It is typical of a young child to be self-centered, but it should not be typical of an adult, especially a Christian adult. It is spiritually infantile to be jealous of and to cause strife among fellow believers, and it betrays a fleshly perspective.

The cure for division is turning away from self and setting our eyes on the one God whom we all glorify. When our attention is focused on our Lord, as it always should be, there will be no time and no occasion for division. When our attention is on Him it cannot be on ourselves or on human leaders or human factions.

Apollos and Paul were simply the servants through whom you believed. They were the instruments, not the source, of salvation.

The church is a field and the goal is quantify (1 Cor. 3:5-9a). What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe–as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6  I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8  The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 9  For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Paul goes on to show the essential folly of this party spirit with its glorification of human leaders. In a garden one man may plant a seed and another may water it; but neither can claim to have made the seed grow. That belongs to God and to God alone.

“Planted” and “watered” – Single action, completed in the past.

“God gave the increase.” “Gave” – Perfect tense which denotes continuing action on the part of the Lord.

The man who plants and the man who waters are on one level; neither can claim any precedence over the other; they are but servants working together for the one Master—God. God uses human instruments to bring to men the message of his truth and love.

Paul will have more to say about spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14, but this should be said now: A mature Christian uses his gifts as tools to build with, while an immature believer uses gifts as toys to play with or trophies to boast about. Many of the members of the Corinthian church enjoyed “showing off’ their gifts, but they were not interested in serving one another and edifying the church.

What is the ministry all about? It involves loving, feeding, and disciplining God’s family so that His children mature in the faith and become more like Jesus Christ.

The Temple—Quality (1 Corinthians 3:9b-23 (NIV)

…God’s building. 10  By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12  If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13  his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. 14  If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15  If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. 16  Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? 17  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple. 18  Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. 19  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20  and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” 21  So then, no more boasting about men! All things are yours, 22  whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future–all are yours, 23  and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.

The usual explanation of this passage is that it describes the building of the Christian life. We all build on Christ, but some people use good materials while others use poor materials. The kind of material you use determines the kind of reward you will get.

God is concerned that we build with quality. The church does not belong to the preacher or to the congregation. It is God’s church. “Ye are God’s building” (1 Cor. 3:9). If we are going to build the local church the way God wants it built, we must meet certain conditions.

First, we must build on the right foundation (vv. 10-11). That foundation is Jesus Christ. When Paul came to Corinth, he determined to preach only Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:1-2). He laid the only foundation that would last.

The foundation is laid by the proclaiming of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The foundation is the most important part of the building, because it determines the size, shape, and strength of the superstructure. A ministry may seem to be successful for a time, but if it is not founded on Christ, it will eventually collapse and disappear.

Second, we must build with the right materials (vv. 12-17). Paul described two opposite kinds of materials, as the chart reveals.

Gold, Silver, Precious Stones Wood, Hay, Stubble
Permanent Passing, temporary
Beautiful Ordinary, even ugly
Valuable Cheap
Hard to obtain Easy to obtain

What did Paul want to symbolize by his choice of materials? He is not talking about people, because Christians are the “living stones” that make up God’s temple (1 Peter 2:5). I personally believe Paul is referring to the doctrines of the Word of God. In each section of this chapter, the Word is symbolized in a way that fits the image of the church Paul used. The Word is food for the family, seed for the field, and materials for the temple.

THE LOCAL BODY – THE HOLY OF HOLIES (3:16-17). Divine Judgment Promised. Warning about destroying the church through disunity.

  1. “Sanctuary or temple” – Word used in the Old Testament when referring to the Holy of Holies.
  2. God indwells the church, because He indwells each member of the church.
  3. Destruction of the temple was taking place by the Corinthians having divisions in the church (boasting in men).
  4. The consequences of destroying the Temple of God (verse 17) – him will God destroy. They were destroying the church through their carnality and glorying in men.

NOTE: The warning is clear: Do not attempt to harm “God’s temple.” To avoid this sin, realize three truths: (1) corporately they were the Temple of God; (2) the Spirit of God lives in their congregation; (3) they were holy.

Third, we must build according to the right plan (vv. 18-20).

The world depends on promotion, prestige, and the influence of money and important people. The church depends on prayer, the power of the Spirit, humility, sacrifice, and service.

1 Corinthians 3:19 warns that man’s wisdom will only trap him (a quotation from Job 5:13); and 1 Corinthians 3:20 warns that man’s wisdom only leads to vanity and futility (a quotation from Ps. 94:11). Though the church must be identified with the needs of the world, it must not imitate the wisdom of the world.

Dangerous Practices – Pride In Men. There will be no divisions if each person places Christ at the center of their lives.

  1. Negative: Let no man deceive himself that he is wise (v. 18a). The word “deceive” means “one caught up in complete or total deception.”
  2. Positive: Let him become a fool in order to be wise (v. 18b). Reject the “wisdom” of men that you may accept the “foolishness” of God, which is the cross.
  3. No possession in human leaders (v. 21a). The Corinthian believers did not belong to Paul, Apollos, or Cephas.
  4. They, in fact belong to the Christians as God had sent them to bring instruction.
  5. Everything is possessed in Christ (v. 21b-23). All things belong to us through God. The world belongs to Christians that we might glorify God. Death belongs to Christians that we might anticipate its coming (Philippians 1:21).

Finally, we must build with the right motive (vv. 21-23). That motive is the glory of God.

Paul closed this appeal by pointing out that each believer possesses all things in Christ. Each one of God’s servants belongs to each believer. No member of the church should say, “I belong to Paul!” or “I like Peter!” because each servant belongs to each member equally.

“All are yours”—the world, life, death, things present, things to come! How rich we are in Christ! If all things belong to all believers, then why should there be competition and rivalry?

“Ye are Christ’s”—this balances things. I have all things in Jesus Christ, but I must not become careless or use my freedom unwisely.

“All things are yours”—that is Christian liberty. “And ye are Christ’s”—that is Christian responsibility. We need both if we are to build a church that will not turn to ashes when the fire falls.

In this passage Paul is surely speaking from personal experience. He was of necessity a foundation layer and was forever on the move. True, he stayed for eighteen months in Corinth (Ac 18:11) and for three years in Ephesus (Ac 20:31); but in Thessalonica he can have stayed less than a month, and that was far more typical.

Wherever he went, he laid the same foundation. That was the proclamation of the facts about and the offer of Jesus Christ. It was his tremendous function to introduce men to Jesus Christ because it is in him, and in him alone, that a man can find three things.

(a) He finds forgiveness for past sins. He finds himself in a new relationship to God and suddenly discovers that he is his friend and not his enemy. He discovers that God is like Jesus; where once he saw hatred he now sees love, and where once he saw infinite remoteness he now sees tender intimacy.

(b) He finds strength for the present. Through the presence and help of Jesus he finds courage to cope with life, for he is now no longer an isolated unit fighting a lonely battle with an adverse universe. He lives a life in which nothing can separate him from the love of God in Christ Jesus his Lord. He walks life’s ways and fights its battles with Christ.

(c) He finds hope for the future. He no longer lives in a world in which he is afraid to look forward but in one where God is in control and working together all things for good. He lives in a world where death is no longer the end, but only the prelude to greater glory. Without the foundation of Christ a man can have none of these things.

But on this foundation of Christ others built. Paul is not here thinking of the building up of wrong things, but the building up of inadequate things. A man may present to his fellow men a version of Christianity which is weak and watered down; a one-sided thing which has stressed some things too much and others too little, and in which things have got out of balance; a warped thing in which even the greatest matters have emerged distorted.

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Posted by on November 21, 2022 in 1 Corinthians


A study of 1 Corinthians: #3b Those God Has Saved Have No Status – 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

What Does 1 Corinthians 2:8 Mean?

1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (NIV) Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28  He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, 29  so that no one may boast before him. 30  It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31  Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

You want success? Here’s your model. You want achievement? Here’s your prototype. You want bright lights, pageants, and media attention? Consider the front-page, center article of the nation’s largest daily newspaper.

It is a caricature of “Miss America.” The vital data of the fifty one participants has been compiled to present the perfect woman. She has brown hair. She has brown eyes. She knows how to sing and has a perfect figure: 35–24-35. She is Miss America.

The message trumpets off the page: “This is the standard for American women.” The implication is clear: Do what it takes to be like her. Get your body ‘in shape.’ Pamper your hair. Improve your walk.

No reference is made to her convictions … to her honesty … to her faith … or to her God. But you are told her hip size.

In a small photo, four inches to the left, is another woman. Her face is thin. Her skin is wrinkled, almost leathery. No makeup … no blush … no lipstick. There is a faint smile on her lips and a glint in her eyes. She looks pale. Perhaps it’s my imagination or perhaps it’s time. The caption read, “Mother Teresa: In serious condition.”

Mother Teresa. You know her story. When she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985, she gave the two hundred thousand dollars to the poor of Calcutta. When a businessman bought her a new car, she sold it and gave the money to the underprivileged. She owns nothing. She owes nothing.

Two women: Miss America and Mother Teresa. One walks the boardwalk; the other walks the alley. Two voices. One promises crowns, flowers, and crowds. The other promises service, surrender, and joy.

Now I have nothing against beauty pageants (although I have my reservations about them). But I do have something against the lying voices that noise our world.

You’ve heard them. They tell you to swap your integrity for a new sale. To barter your convictions for an easy deal. To exchange your devotion for a quick thrill.

They whisper. They woo. They taunt. They tantalize. They flirt. They flatter. “Go ahead, it’s O.K.” “Just wait until tomorrow.” “Don’t worry, no one will know.” “How could anything that feels so right be so wrong?” …

For amidst the fleeting promises of pleasure is the timeless promise of [God’s] presence.

“Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

There is no chorus so loud that the voice of God cannot be heard … if we will but listen. (From In the Eye of the Storm by Max Lucado)

The Corinthians had a tendency to be “puffed up” with pride (1 Cor. 4:6, 18–19; 5:2). But the Gospel of God’s grace leaves no room for personal boasting. God is not impressed with our looks, our social position, our achievements, our natural heritage, or our financial status. Note that Paul wrote many, not any. In the New Testament, we do meet some believers with “high social standing,” but there are not many of them. The description Paul gave of the converts was certainly not a flattering one (1 Cor. 6:9–11).[1]

The world is full of ‘somebodies’ and ‘nobodies’,  and it does neither  of them any good. That’s  not the way God intended it to  be. Every human   being,  man,  woman,  child,  and  even unborn child, bears the image and  likeness of God, and  has neither more nor less dignity because some other people have heard  of them, look up to them, or think  they’re  special.

But in most parts  of the world, at most  periods  of history – and, as the story shows, often enough  in the church  itself – people feel  that  it’s better  to  be ‘somebody’. The  cult  of fame  has reached  monstrous proportions in recent days, to the absurd point  where  many  people are now famous  for being famous. We know their names, we recognize their faces, but can’t remember whether  they are footballers, film stars  or fashion models.

The Corinthian saints were status seekers. Paul wanted them to see how foolish this was in the light of divine wisdom and power and how inconsistent status-seeking is with the gospel.

Paul challenges his readers to take a good look around the church to note who was not present among them. This he did in verses 18-25. Glaringly absent in the church are those people who hold positions of status in the secular world, in accordance with secular values. The church is not made up of wise men, scribes, and debaters: 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?[2]

Paul reminded them of what they were (v. 26). One would be gravely mistaken to think that 1:26 contained the doctrinal seed needed to promote Christianity as a religion of the proletariat (workers or working-class people, regarded collectively). All the evidence points to the fact that Paul’s urban churches contained wealthy members.

This Corinthian church contained people of wealth who served as host not only to Paul, but to the entire congregation (Rom 16), people who owned homes in which they could eat (1 Cor 11:22), and at least one of the influential members, namely Erastus (Rom 16:23), was an administrator in the Roman colony of Corinth.

The religious perspective of this verse is one which runs throughout the Scriptures, and Paul’s choice of ideas here was influenced and inspired by the long history of God expressing his sovereign will through his choice of foolish and weak individuals to carry out his agenda. Whether one considers God’s choice of Israel, or of Moses, or of Gideon, or of David, or of Mary the mother of Jesus, the Scripture is clear in its depiction of a God whose list of friends portrays a lot of foolishness and weakness by human standards.

The following chart of the links will help make Paul’s correlation of the ideas of 1:26 with 1:27–28 clearer.

Corinthian Status


God’s Choice


God’s Purpose


Not many wise (sophos) Foolish things


To shame the wise (sophos)


Not many influential


Weak things


To shame the strong


Not many of noble birth (eugenes)


Lowly things (agenes)


To nullify existing things[3]


Paul possibly went over the membership of the Corinthian church in his mind as he wrote verse 26. He reminded them that they had very few who were famous, wealthy, highly educated, powerful, or influential when they believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is likely that, when they became Christians, they lost a great deal of the prestige, influence, and income they did have.

Consider your calling, brethren, he says. Paul always uses the term calling to refer to the saving call of God, the effectual call that results in redemption. “You know what sort of persons you were when God called you out of darkness. You know that He did not accept you as His child because you were brilliant or wealthy or intelligent or powerful. If you were any of these things,” he says, “you were saved in spite of them not because of them. If anything they were stumbling blocks that hindered you, obstacles between you and God’s grace.” He implies that they should be glad that not many were wise according to the flesh or mighty or noble. Such things often keep people from the sense of need that leads to salvation. If more of them had been wise, mighty, or noble, it is likely that fewer of them would have been saved.

God is not looking for Phi Beta Kappas to save and to do His work. Nor is He looking for millionaires or famous athletes or entertainers or statesmen. His salvation is open to them just as surely as to others, but only on the same basis of faith. The very things that put them ahead in the world may actually put them behind with God. It is the feeling of inadequacy that makes people aware that they have need, and often draws them to the gospel.

Jesus prayed on one occasion, “I praise Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou didst hide these things from the wise and intelligent and didst reveal them to babes” (Matt. 11:25). As the context makes clear, this prayer was spoken publicly as a part of His preaching to the crowds. He was addressing His hearers as much as His Father when He prayed these words. He wanted them to know that God wanted only their faith and nothing else. He was also warning that “the wise and intelligent” were at a disadvantage as far as spiritual life and understanding are concerned. It is not that they could not accept and believe, but that pride in and dependence on their accomplishments and abilities could keep them from the kingdom. Weakness and insufficiency are the climate in which God’s strength is made manifest.

God’s wisdom is a kind of paradox. In human thinking, strength is strength, weakness is weakness, and intelligence is intelligence. But in God’s economy some of the seemingly strongest things are the weakest, some of the seemingly weakest things are the strongest, and some of the seemingly wisest things are the most foolish. The paradox is not by accident but by God’s design.

A simple, uneducated, untalented, and clumsy believer who has trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior and who faithfully and humbly follows His Lord is immeasurably wiser than the brilliant Ph.D. who scoffs at the gospel. The simple believer knows forgiveness, love, grace, life, hope, God’s Word—God Himself. He can see eternity. The unbelieving Ph.D., on the other hand, knows nothing beyond his books, his own mind, and his own experience. He sees nothing beyond this life, and he cannot be considered anything but foolish.

We are often tempted to think that it would be wonderful if such-and-such a great athlete—or brilliant scientist, popular entertainer, or world leader—would become a Christian. But Jesus did not think this way when He chose His disciples. Some were probably well known in their local circles and perhaps a few of them were well off financially. But He did not choose them for their wealth or influence, and in His training of them He did not try to capitalize on any such things. None of them had anything so great that he was not ready to leave it to follow Christ.

Paul glories in the fact that, for the most part, the Church was composed of the simplest and the humblest people. We must never think that the early Church was entirely composed of slaves. Even in the New Testament we see that people from the highest ranks of society were becoming Christians. There was Dionysius at Athens (Acts 17:34); Sergius Paulus, the proconsul of Crete (Acts 13:6–12); the noble ladies at Thessalonica and Beroea (Acts 17:4, 12); Erastus, the city treasurer, probably of Corinth (Romans 16:23). In the time of Nero, Pomponia Graecina, the wife of Plautius, the conqueror of Britain, was martyred for her Christianity. In the time of Domitian, in the latter half of the first century, Flavius Clemens, the cousin of the Emperor himself, was martyred as a Christian. Towards the end of the second century Pliny, the governor of Bithynia, wrote to Trajan the Emperor, saying that the Christians came from every rank in society. But it remains true that the great mass of Christians were simple and humble folk.[4]

In a.d. 178 the philosopher Celsus mockingly wrote of Christians: Let no cultured person draw near, none wise and none sensible, for all that kind of thing we count evil; but if any man is ignorant, if any man is wanting in sense and culture, if anybody is a fool, let him come boldly [to become a Christian].… We see them in their own houses, wool dresses, cobblers, the worst, the vulgarest, the most uneducated persons.… They are like a swarm of bats or ants creeping out of their nest, or frogs holding a symposium around a swamp, or worms convening in mud.

That is also what much of the rest of the world of his day thought of Christians. The simplicity of the gospel and the humility of faithful believers is incomprehensible to the world; it seems to be abject foolishness. The Lord planned it that way. God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and … has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are. It is interesting to note that the despised means, in the root form, “to be considered as nothing.” The Greek is in the perfect tense here, indicating that what was once despised will continue to be despised. So people who were thought to be nobodies in society would continue to be thought of as nobodies. The phrase things that are not translates the most contemptible expression in the Greek language. “Being” was everything to the Greeks, and to be called a nothing was the worst insult. The phrase may have been used of slaves.

The world measures greatness by many standards. At the top are intelligence, wealth, prestige, and position—things which God has determined to put at the bottom. God reveals the greatness of His power by demonstrating that it is the world’s nobodies that are His somebodies.

According to God, the greatest man who ever lived, apart from Jesus Himself, was John the Baptist. He had no formal education, no training in a trade or profession, no money, no military rank, no political position, no social pedigree, no prestige, no impressive appearance or oratory. Yet Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist” (Matt. 11:11). This man fit none of the world’s standards but all of God’s. And what he became was all to the credit of God’s power.[5]

Now, in verses 26-31, Paul wants the Corinthians to give thought to who is present in the church. “Look at yourselves,” Paul challenges the Corinthians. Granting the possibility of a few exceptions, Paul reminds the Corinthians of the rule. By and large, the church is not composed of the wise, the mighty, or the noble, when judged by fleshly (unbelieving) standards: 1 Cor. 1:26: For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.

Instead, God has chosen to save the foolish, the weak, the base and despised, the “nobodies.”

Following the principle set down in verse 19, Paul explains why God selected the undesirables of this world for salvation. God has purposed to nullify the wisdom of the wise and to humble the proud. He has chosen to do so by employing means and people that the world rejects as weak and foolish and worthless.

They were not wise, mighty, or noble. God called them, not because of what they were, but in spite of what they were! The Corinthian church was composed primarily of ordinary people who were terrible sinners. Before his conversion, Paul had been very self-righteous; he had to give up his religion in order to go to heaven! The Corinthians were at the other end of the spectrum, and yet they were not too sinful for God to reach and save them.

Paul reminded the Corinthians of why God called them (vv. 27–29).

27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,[6]

he purpose of god’s wisdom: The first and primary purpose of the wisdom of God that produces salvation is that He be glorified.

(i) He is wisdom. It is only in following him that we walk aright and only in listening to him that we hear the truth. He is the expert in life. No man will ever have a reason to boast before God. Foolish, weak, base man can do nothing for himself; God has done everything. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship” (Eph. 2:8–10).

God also has a purpose for those who are saved. His purpose for His redeemed has many aspects, four of which are mentioned in verse 30. Because they are in Christ Jesus, they receive God’s wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.

First, believers are given God’s wisdom. They not only are saved by God’s wisdom rather than their own but are given God’s wisdom to replace their own. The truly wise of this world are those whose wisdom is not of this world but is from the Lord. Christians can say, without pride or self-boasting, that they have become wise in Jesus Christ. They stand as a testimony for all time that God in His wisdom chose the sinful, the weak, and the unwise in order to make them righteous, strong, and wise. God grants them His wisdom that He might be glorified, that it might be clearly seen that the wisdom Christians have is not their own but is by His power and grace.

Men are saved not by their intelligence, accomplishments, or human wisdom. Those who trust in these will never receive God’s salvation and life and wisdom—because these may be had only by humbly receiving what His Son has done on our behalf on the cross. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6), and, on another occasion, “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (8:31–32).

The wisdom received from God through Christ is both instant and progressive. In his next letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). The maker and giver of physical light is also the source and giver of spiritual light. The first thing a believer learns is knowledge of God’s glory.

The glory of God signifies His majesty and His greatness. But in its fullest sense it represents all that God is—all of His attributes, His whole nature, the fullness of His divine being. We come to know personally the creator of the universe and the source of all life and all goodness.

Godly wisdom also has a progressive aspect. The God whom we have come to know through Christ we come to know better as we live by His Spirit. Paul prayed for the Ephesian believers to be given “a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him,” that is, of Christ (Eph. 1:17). They already had the initial gift of God’s wisdom, received when they first believed. But the apostle was concerned that they continue to grow in His wisdom and truth (cf. 2 Pet. 3:18).

Wisdom from God also has a future aspect. In this same prayer Paul asks, “that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” (v. 18). Both “hope” and “inheritance” suggest future fulfillment of wisdom and knowledge. God has given us wisdom, He is now giving us wisdom, and He will ultimately give us wisdom.

The person of the world cannot see or receive God’s wisdom, the wisdom that could show him God Himself, His plan for the world and for His people, and the future eternity that He gives through His Son. And so men live only for the moment, for the now, having no idea where they came from, where they are going, or what they are doing here in the first place. Yet the simplest, most uneducated person who humbly places his life in Christ’s hands is given the truth about all of these things. He knows what all the sages and philosophers of all time have never been able to discover or will ever be able to discover. He has God’s wisdom as one of His Savior’s precious gifts.

Second, believers receive God’s righteousness. In the writings of Paul righteousness always means a right relationship with God. Of our own efforts we can never achieve that. It is ours only by realizing through Jesus Christ that it comes not from what we can do for God, but from what he has done for us.

They are made right with God and they participate in His righteousness, His rightness.

Rightness means to be as something or someone should be—right as opposed to wrong, good as opposed to evil, sinless as opposed to sinful. God is totally righteous because He is totally as He should be. He cannot vary from His rightness. When we trust His Son, He shares His Son’s righteousness with us. “To the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness” (Rom. 4:5). God “made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). When God looks on a Christian He sees His Son and His Son’s righteousness. When a person trusts in Christ, his unrighteousness is exchanged for Christ’s righteousness, “that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith” (Phil. 3:9). Man has never had any righteousness of his own and can never have any righteousness of his own, that is, which originates in him. The only righteousness he can have is that which God gives him through His Son. It is the only righteousness he needs, because it is perfect righteousness.

Third, believers receive God’s sanctification. He is consecration. It is only in the presence of Christ that life can be what it ought to be. Epicurus used to tell his disciples, “Live as if Epicurus always saw you.” There is no “as if” about our relationship to Christ. The Christian walks with him and only in that company can a man keep his garments unspotted from the world.

In Christ we are set apart, made holy. We are declared righteous in Christ and are made holy in Christ. When we receive Christ’s nature we receive His incorruptible seed, the seed which is not, and cannot be, habitually corrupted by sin. With the flesh still present, we can slip into sin, but only intermittently. As we spiritually mature the frequency of sin decreases. The righteousness that is counted to us judicially also becomes ours in actuality—in holiness, in sanctification. We are given life in the Spirit and we begin to walk in the Spirit (Rom. 8:4–11). We begin to bear the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23) as we are being transformed into Christ’s image (2 Cor. 3:18). Our new nature is “created in Christ Jesus for good works,” for holiness (Eph. 2:10).

Fourth, believers receive God’s redemption. He is deliverance. Diogenes used to complain that men flocked to the oculist and to the dentist but never to the man (he meant the philosopher) who could cure their souls. Jesus Christ can deliver a man from past sin, from present helplessness, and from future fear. He is the emancipator from slavery to self and to sin.[7]

To redeem means to buy back. God by Christ has purchased us from the power of sin. Christ “is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:14). Peter reminds us that we “were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold … but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:18–19).[8]

God has not done this because the weak and foolish are any better than the powerful and the proud. He has set aside the highly regarded and employed those things which are disdained so that all the glory might come to Himself and not to mere men. This is the concluding point Paul makes in verses 29-31.

29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

This verse provides the results and rationale of God’s ‘strange’ choices throughout history. The upshot of Paul’s point is that God’s intention was to remove all possibility of mankind’s boasting. The term boast is used here because it specifically represents one of the fundamental causes of the quarreling and division at Corinth. Unlike the sin of boasting that is referred to in other Scriptures and is rooted in ritual or moralistic self-righteousness, Paul here mentions a type of boasting that is rooted in party loyalty and worldly evaluation. In the presence of God and in light of the divine modus operandi highlighted in 1:27–28, every form of human boasting is precluded once for all, especially a boasting in human status (cf. 3:21).[9]

Finally, Paul reminded the Corinthians of all they had in Jesus Christ (vv. 30–31). 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,

Paul has explicitly mentioned the term God thirteen times in the section 1:18–29 and has thereby maintained a visible theocentric focus. In verse 30 Paul gives attention to Christ, though still in the framework of a theocentric Godhead. This theocentricity is evident in the phrase “it is because of him (God) that you are in Christ.” This attention to the work of Christ, or rather God’s work (from God) in Christ is intended to prepare the way for the Scripture quotation in 1:31 which clearly points to Christ. Paul reaffirms a Christ-centered focus for God’s wisdom given to Christians. The Apostle then explains what God’s wisdom consists of for those in Christ Jesus. The three concepts of righteousness (δικαιοσύνη, dikaiosynē), holiness (ἁγιασμός, hagiasmos) and redemption (ἀπολύτρωσις, apolytrōsis) are all well known doctrinal concepts in the Pauline corpus. Fee captures Paul’s sense here in these words, “[God’s] wisdom does not have to do with ‘getting smart,’ nor with status or rhetoric. God’s wisdom—the real thing—has to do with salvation through Christ Jesus.”

This world believes the “shakers and the movers” are the ones who make things happen. Even the church seeks to evangelize and train those whom the world regards as “most likely to succeed.” But God chooses the opposite, those whom we expect to fail (or, more accurately, those we already deem to be failures), so that when His wisdom and power are evident, there are no wise and powerful men to take their bows before men. Instead, men must bow before God, giving all the glory to Him. To God be the glory, great things He has done!

Corinth,  as a proud  Roman  city, was exactly  the  sort  of place where people would look up to the ‘somebodies’,  and do their best to join them. Then, as now, there were the obvious routes to fame: political power, and royal or noble birth. And, as we’ve seen (though this doesn’t hold for all cultures), Corinth paid special attention to people who could speak well, public rhetoricians, lawyers and the like. The wise, the powerful, the noble: these were the ‘somebodies’ in Corinth.

And Paul reminds  his readers  that  most  of them  were, on the  same  scale, ‘nobodies’. When  he first came  to  town  and announced the gospel of King Jesus as Lord, and they believed it, most of them weren’t among the ‘wise’ whom society looked up  to. Most  of them  didn’t have any social power  (though Erastus, the city treasurer, is mentioned as a Corinthian Christian  in Romans  16.23 . Most of them didn’t come from well-known, ‘noble’ families.

‘But God . . . ‘ Those are some of Paul’s favorite words. He often describes a human  situation or problem  and then takes delight  in showing  that  God has stepped  in and  done  something  to change  it drastically. They were ‘nobodies’,  but  God has  made  them  ‘somebodies’.   Not  the  sort  of ‘somebodies’ the  world  would  recognize  as such, but  the  only sort  that mattered.

And what is important in this paragraph is the fact that  God has taken the initiative in it all. The Christian  gospel is a matter of  grace  from  start  to  finish.  God  chose  these Corinthian  ‘nobodies’  (verses  27,  28);  God  ‘called’   them through Paul’s  announcement of the  crucified  Jesus as Lord (verse 26; the word  ‘call’ is Paul’s regular  word  for  what  we sometimes  call ‘conversion’);  God gave them  the status  in his eyes that  the  Messiah himself has  (verse 30). They are who they are, as he says in a rather shorthand way, ‘from God in the Messiah’ (verse 30). This is the same sequence  (chosen, called, justified) as Paul sketches in the famous  summary in Romans 8.29-30, though there  he extends  the sequence backwards to God’s original plan and forwards to ultimate glorification  as well.

God chose the foolish, the weak, the base (“low born”), and the despised to show the proud world their need and His grace. The lost world admires birth, social status, financial success, power, and recognition. But none of these things can guarantee eternal life.

The message and miracle of God’s grace in Jesus Christ utterly confounds (“puts to shame”) the high and mighty people of this world. The wise of this world cannot understand how God changes sinners into saints, and the mighty of this world are helpless to duplicate the miracle. God’s “foolishness” confounds the wise; God’s “weakness” confounds the mighty!

The annals of church history are filled with the accounts of great sinners whose lives were transformed by the power of the Gospel. In my own ministry, as in the ministry of most pastors and preachers, I have seen amazing things take place that the lawyers and psychologists could not understand. We have seen delinquent teenagers become successful students and useful citizens. We have seen marriages restored and homes reclaimed, much to the amazement of the courts.

And why does God reveal the foolishness and the weakness of this present world system, even with its philosophy and religion? “That no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Cor. 1:29). Salvation must be wholly of grace; otherwise, God cannot get the glory.

It is this truth that Paul wanted to get across to the Corinthians, because they were guilty of glorying in men (1 Cor. 3:21). If we glory in men—even godly men like Peter and Paul and Apollos—we are robbing God of the glory that He alone deserves. It was this sinful attitude of pride that was helping to cause division in the church.

 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” [10]

Because the Christian stands before God in Christ Jesus and because the benefits of righteousness, holiness, and redemption come through Christ, Christ is the only one in whom the believer should boast. To a church whose fragmentation arose as a result of boasting, Paul gives the exhortation that boasting is only acceptable if it is boasting in the Lord. It is only from the immediate context that one can identify the term Lord with Jesus Christ.[11]

Although in Christ we have received God’s wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, we have no grounds for pride or boasting, because we did not deserve, earn, or produce any of them. Man’s wisdom can produce none of those things. It can only produce pride, misunderstanding, strife, and division. As Jeremiah had written hundreds of years before Paul quoted him, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” “May it never be,” he wrote the Galatians, “that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14).[12]

Since every believer is “in Christ,” and he has all that he needs, why compete with each other or compare yourselves with each other? It is the Lord who has done it all! “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:31, a quotation from Jer. 9:24, quoted again in 2 Cor. 10:17).

The spiritual blessings that we need are not abstractions that elude our grasp; they are all in a Person, Jesus Christ. He is our wisdom (Col. 2:3), our righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21), our sanctification (John 17:19), and our redemption (Rom. 3:24).

Actually, the emphasis here is that God shows His wisdom by means of the righteousness, sanctification, and redemption that we have in Christ. Each of these theological words carries a special meaning for Christians. Righteousness has to do with our standing before God. We are justified: God declares us righteous in Jesus Christ. But we are also sanctified, set apart to belong to God and to serve Him. Redemption emphasizes the fact that we are set free because Jesus Christ paid the price for us on the cross. This will lead to complete redemption when Christ returns.

So, in one sense, we have the three tenses of salvation given here: we have been saved from the penalty of sin (righteousness); we are being saved from the power of sin (sanctification); and we shall be saved from the presence of sin (redemption). And every believer has all of these blessings in Jesus Christ!

Therefore, why glory in men? What does Paul have that you do not have? Does Peter have more of Jesus Christ than you do? (It was likely that Jesus Christ had more of Peter, but that is another matter!) We should glory in the Lord and not in ourselves or our spiritual leaders.

Is Christianity a Crutch for the Weak?


    Is Christianity just another crutch for people who can’t make it on their own? In one sense, yes. “Those who are well have no need of a physician,” Jesus said, “but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners, to repentance” (Luke 5:31, 32). Jesus bypasses those who pretend to be invincible, those who think they have it all together. Instead He reaches out to those who know that something is wrong, that their lives are “sick” with “illnesses” such as greed, lust, cruelty, and selfishness.

Jesus knows that no one is spiritually healthy. No one is righteous enough to stand before a holy God. That’s why He came into this world, to restore people to God. The good news is that Christ gives us the power to overcome sin and the ways it pulls us down time after time.

What happens to the “weak” who avail themselves of this “crutch”? Consider Mother Teresa, who emerged from an insignificant nunnery to love the helpless and homeless of Calcutta and became a worldwide symbol of compassion. Or consider Alexander Solzhenitsyn, a forgotten political prisoner rotting away in the gulag system of Stalinist Russia. Surrendering himself to Jesus, he gained renewed strength to challenge a totalitarian regime on behalf of human dignity and freedom.

These are but two examples from the millions who have thrown away the self-styled crutches on which they used to limp along the road of life, opting instead for the seasoned wood of the cross of Christ which has transformed their weakness into strength.

In one sense, Christianity is a crutch for the weak. But those who dismiss it for that reaon usually do so to deny their own inadequacies. They use that excuse as a way to evade the claims God has on their lives. They cannot accept that He takes wounded, fractured people and makes them whole.[13]

As you review this chapter, you can see the mistakes that the Corinthians were making, mistakes that helped to create problems in their church. They were not living up to their holy calling, but were instead following the standards of the world. They ignored the fact that they were called into a wonderful spiritual fellowship with the Lord and with each other. Instead, they were identifying with human leaders and creating divisions in the church. Instead of glorifying God and His grace, they were pleasing themselves and boasting about men.

They were a defiled church, a divided church, a disgraced church!

But, before we pass judgment on them, we should examine our own churches and our own lives. We have been called to be holy, called into fellowship, and called to glorify God.

Are we living up to this calling?[14]













[1] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 571.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Co 1:20.

[3] Richard Oster, 1 Corinthians, The College Press NIV Commentary (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., 1995), 1 Co 1:27.

[4] William Barclay, ed., The Letters to the Corinthians, The Daily Study Bible Series (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster John Knox Press, 1975), 21.

[5] John F. MacArthur Jr., 1 Corinthians, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984), 50–52.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Co 1:26–28.

[7] William Barclay, ed., The Letters to the Corinthians, The Daily Study Bible Series (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster John Knox Press, 1975), 22–23.

[8] John F. MacArthur Jr., 1 Corinthians, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984), 52–54.

[9] Richard Oster, 1 Corinthians, The College Press NIV Commentary (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., 1995), 1 Co 1:29.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Co 1:29–31.

[11] Richard Oster, 1 Corinthians, The College Press NIV Commentary (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., 1995), 1 Co 1:31.

[12] John F. MacArthur Jr., 1 Corinthians, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984), 54.

[13] Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald Barclay Allen, and H. Wayne House, Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary (Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers, 1999), 1462.

[14] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 571–572.

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Posted by on November 17, 2022 in 1 Corinthians


A study of 1 Corinthians: #2b  A Divided Church – 1 Corinthians 1:12-17

Paul is not discussing the differences that exist between denominations and brotherhoods. In his day, there were no denominational or brotherhood divisions. Paul is striking out against division in a local congregation of the church. Most division in the local congregation today is not over matters of faith, but rather the result of personalities that are in conflict.

The problem was a burden, not something to be covered up. They went to an inspired apostle with the problem. We can often do that by going to the Scriptures.[1]

Division has always been a problem among God’s people, and almost every New Testament epistle deals with this topic or mentions it in one way or another. Even the 12 Apostles did not always get along with each other.

The church at Corinth was in a sad state. The fellowship among believers had deteriorated to such a degree that it was about to crumble and collapse. There was severe division and dissension in the ranks: verbal accusations, differing opinions, competitive positions, power struggles, envy, contention, grumbling, griping, complaining, murmuring, quarreling, attacking, and gossiping. Believer stood against believer, and there was no give in any corner. Disaster was about to strike; the church was divided and a severe split was threatened.

This was the first problem dealt with by Paul. It had to be dealt with first, for a house divided against itself cannot stand. There were other problems in the church, other matters that had to be handled, but the people could not handle them unless they were brought together in one spirit and mind. The ministry and mission of the church could not effectively go on until the people stood together. Worship, exhortation, missions, and reaching and ministering to people—the very cause of Christ, the very reason He came to earth and died—were affected and would continue to suffer until the people were brought together.

The word division (schismata) means to split, to rend, to tear apart. Note the words “among you.” The division or dissension is not outside the church; it is not out in the world. It is inside the church.

  • The divisive church is not working to bring peace, love, and brotherhood to the world; the divisive church is not seen out in the world ministering to the starving, diseased, and lost masses of the world.
  • The divisive church is seen fuming and fighting. The sinful and devastating problems of dissension are within the divisive church.
  • The divisive church is splitting, rending, and tearing itself apart.[2]

Most of us who have attended church for a number of years have been in or know of a congregation where there was a split or at least serious quarreling. The problem has existed in the church from New Testament times. The Corinthian believers fell short of the Lord’s standards in many ways, and the first thing for which Paul called them to task was quarreling.

Quarreling is a reality in the church because selfishness and other sins are realities in the church. Because of quarreling the Father is dishonored, the Son is disgraced, His people are demoralized and discredited, and the world is turned off and confirmed in unbelief.

In His high priestly prayer, the Lord prayed repeatedly that His church would be one (John 17:11, 21–23). Immediately after Pentecost the newly empowered believers were in perfect harmony with each other—sharing, rejoicing, worshiping, and witnessing together. Their unity bore great fruit in their ministry to each other, in their witness to the world, and in their pleasing and glorifying God.

The first need of the Corinthian church was for that sort of harmony. And so Paul made a plea for doctrinal agreement, for repenting of their tendency to form factions around high-profile personalities, and for remembering the great priority of the church: preaching the gospel. Paul argued that supernatural unity can occur only when God’s wisdom is valued over earthly wisdom (1:18–2:16), and when believers walk in the power of God’s spirit rather than giving in to the sinful desires of human flesh (3:1–23).[3]

Christ is not divided, and his true followers should not allow anything to divide the church. Don’t let your appreciation for any teacher, preacher, speaker, or writer lead you into intellectual pride. Believers’ allegiance must be to Christ and to the unity that he desires.

I regard it as clear that these believers were not intentionally choosing Paul or Apollos or Cephas as replacements for their devotion to God or Christ. Carnal decisions by Christians are rarely so self-evident.[4]

Paul will point out in 1 Corinthians 3 that there can be no competition among true servants of God.

This is a graphic picture of what happens when the church (the body of Christ) is divided. With so many churches and styles of worship available today, believers can get caught up in the same game of “my preacher is better than yours!” They follow personalities and even change churches based on who is popular.

To act this way is to divide Christ again. But Christ is not divided, and his true followers should not allow anything to divide the church. Don’t let your appreciation for any teacher, preacher, speaker, or writer lead you into intellectual pride. Believers’ allegiance must be to Christ and to the unity that he desires.

We might sum up the divisions in this way:

  • I follow Paul—This group may have taken the attitude that Paul started this church and he will always be our leader. These are the traditionalists. Some of the believers followed Paul, who had founded their church. Although Paul was Jewish, he had been called as a missionary to the Gentiles, so he probably attracted many of the Gentile believers. Paul used great logical arguments but apparently did not have powerful speaking ability (2 Corinthians 10:10).
  • I follow Apollos—These people may have put great emphasis on knowledge of the Scripture. Apollos was mighty in his use of the Word (Acts 18:24, 25). These may have been the Bible intellectuals. A third group chose to follow Apollos, an eloquent and popular preacher who had had a dynamic ministry in Corinth (Acts 18:24; 19:1; Titus 3:13). Apollos was from Alexandria and had become distinguished for his speaking ability. Oratory and eloquence were highly valued in the culture of the day, so Apollos probably attracted the highly educated and distinguished believers in the congregation.
  • Others chose to follow Peter (Cephas). A Jew and one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, Peter probably attracted many of the Jewish believers who had come to doubt Paul’s apostolic authority. It is unknown whether Peter had ever been to Corinth, although some of the Jews may have heard him in Jerusalem at Pentecost. Or it is likely that the believers simply knew that Peter was the leader of the apostles. I follow Peter—These may have put great emphasis on the church and were taking the attitude that Peter had been given the keys to the kingdom, instituted the church on Pentecost, and they would follow him. They may have been great “church” men without going further.
  • I follow Christ—These may have been saying, “We don’t need anyone or anything but Jesus.” Finally, a fourth group claimed to follow Christ. This group may have boasted a special relationship to Christ, or they may have been positioning themselves above the fray, saying that they had chosen to follow Christ alone, not any human leader (see 2 Corinthians 10:7).[5]

There were probably three basic problems causing the division within the church.

  1. There was the problem in preaching ability and style? There was no difference in the messages preached by Paul and Apollos. They both preached the gospel of Christ, but there was a difference in their style of preaching and ministering. Apollos was an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures (Ac. 18:24). Paul was not a great orator (2 Co. 10:10; 11:6); therefore, some undervalued Paul as a preacher and surrounded Apollos. They failed to see God’s distinct call and gifts to each minister.

Paul was a small-framed missionary, gifted in the understanding of the Scriptures and gifted as an administrator in church order. Both gifts, although not so much out in the forefront of public recognition, were of immense value. Paul excelled in strengthening believers, in growing disciples, and in establishing churches. There is a good possibility that the Apollos party began to intellectualize and socialize Christianity, to turn it away from the doctrine of salvation in Christ, and to deemphasize the utter necessity to walk in Him day by day.

  1. There was the problem of turning liberty into license? Peter’s emphasis had to deal with the traditions and rituals of the church, for he was the apostle to the Jews (Ga. 2:7). Some believers preferred that the traditions and rituals be stressed more, and that Paul’s emphasis upon doctrine, salvation, and the daily walk of the believer be stressed less. The two groups began to gather around the name of the two apostles and form cliques.
  2. There was the problem of those who claimed to be “of Christ.” These were probably fed up with the other groups and set themselves up as being more spiritual than the others. They looked upon themselves as being too spiritual to lower themselves to the level of becoming identified with any clique. They probably began to think of themselves as the only true spiritual Christians in Corinth. They claimed to follow Christ alone, and they denied needing or receiving the help of any man.

From this letter we’ll see the Corinthians considered themselves to be so advanced in maturity that it gave them a privileged position. They set themselves up as the judges of others. They usurped God’s authority. They took it upon themselves to judge teachers (1 Co. 1:12f), to judge the wise and the unwise (1 Co. 1:19; 2:1f), to establish moral standards (1 Co. 5:1f), and to judge the gifted and their gifts (1 Co. 12:1f).[6]

It is wrong to identify any man’s name with your baptism other than the name of Jesus Christ. To do so is to create division.

Ephesians 4:5 states that believers are united by “one baptism.” Believers are not baptized “into” different preachers—they are baptized into the family of believers. Baptism replaced circumcision as the initiation rite of the new order, the new covenant.

Christians need only “one baptism” by which they publicly acknowledge their one faith in one Lord.

Paul wrote in 12:13, “For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (nrsv).

This expression of faith through baptism brings unity to believers. Far from it being divisive, baptism is a key unifying factor in the church.

Style and Substance: Some speakers use impressive words, but they are weak on content. Some preachers make the Bible marginal in their sermons in order to hold people’s attention. Even Bible studies give less focus to the Bible than they do to fellowship.

Paul stressed solid content and practical help for his listeners. He wanted them to be impressed with his message, not just his style (see 2:1-5). You don’t need to be a great speaker with a large vocabulary to share the gospel effectively.

The persuasive power should be in the story, not the storyteller. Paul was not against those who carefully prepare what they say (see 2:6), but against those who try to impress others only with their own knowledge or speaking ability. Make Christ the center of your preaching, rather than trying to be impressive.

WHAT IS SECTARIANISM? (by Charles Hodge) Sectarianism is sinful thinking. It comes from evil attitudes. Notice our text. Paul said, “There were contentions.” He did not say there were mis-understandings, different consciences, various opinions, or disagreements.  There were schisms, divisions, alienations. It amounted, simply, to “my bunch over Jesus.”

It was personal pride over Jesus. An emphasis upon being in the right bunch had blinded them to their own sins. These were good people going bad. Why? A contentious attitude. Too many have been converted to a preacher, a church, an idea, or a pet peeve instead of Jesus. This is a personality disorder, not doctrine. Someone observed, “You can get off any horse but a hobby horse.” This is so true yet so sad. It is not conviction; it is being contentious. Contentious brethren cannot even get along with themselves.

A family moved from the North to the South. They were at first glad and then sad with so many congregations. One town had seven. Most came from splits. They said, “When some get annoyed, they just go start their own church.” A Hodge observation is: “Any church that started out wrongly never gets right.”

There is another evil attitude even worse than “stinking thinking.” “We did it for God!” After all, who can argue against God? Recently, the world has been shocked with the Muslims. A man authored a book, The Satanic Verses. The Ayatollah Khomeini has offered $5 million to anyone, an Arab, who would assassinate the author. In fear, bookstores have removed the book. It was not selling until a price was placed upon the author’s head. Now it can be a bestseller. But the rationale is this: “We are killing in the name of God.”

“Oh, the crimes committed in the name of religion.” In Afghanistan we finally got the Russians out. Now the war is worse among factions. Perhaps we are more Islamic than we thought! “The church of Christ is the only army that shoots its wounded!” To purify the church we will divide, yea destroy it. All in the name of God!

Paradoxically, this temptation comes with our territory. We seek the truth; we condemn error. We then conclude we are saved by knowledge not faith. We go on witch hunts. The Crusades! The Inquisitions! All were done in the name of God!

Religious wars are always the meanest and bloodiest. There is a fear-dominated law-keeping rather than grace. Beware of the bad habits learned in controversy! Beware lest you become like the monster you fight! When brethren cannot bear the sight of each other, they cannot look the world in the eye  either!

Sectarianism! Religious paranoia! Keep the unity of the  Spirit!  Be  a  peacemaker!  Avoid  sectarians. Jimmy Allen (professor of Bible at Harding University) said 30 percent of his students came from split congregations! Reuel Lemmons once observed, “Hodge, we are too fragmented to split.”

HOW IS SECTARIANISM OVERCOME? Sectarianism can only be overcome by spiritual maturity: You cannot build a community out of anything except “disciples.” We are a crowd. Will we become a church? Let us be of Jesus, not sectarians.

God is changing me. This gives me the strength to accept all others God is changing. Unity validates truth. Jesus said, “By this [love] shall men know that you are My disciples.” Until the church is one, the world cannot be won. A lost world is the price of religious division. Unity in Jesus—not agreement over personal opinions.

Unity can only be had from diversity. Unity is not union, sameness, or conformity. By the way, conformity demands a creed! Diverse elements unite because of a higher cause. This is unity. My wife and I have much in common. However, we have major and minor differences. The unity f marriage transcends these differences. Unity is not pluralism. Pluralism is only a mixture, a syncretism.

Unity transcends diversities!

Re-read Amos 3:3: “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” This misleads. Read the NIV: “Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to do so?”

Some, even in 100 percent agreement, cannot walk together. You do not walk together in agreement only; you walk together in unity. We must make a vow for unity. “I’ll stick with those I am stuck with.”

An Indian was walking up a mountain when he heard a voice.

“Carry me with you,” it requested.

The Indian turned and saw a snake. He refused. “If I carry you up the mountain you will bite me.”

“I wouldn’t do that,” the snake assured. “All I need is some help. I am slow and you are fast; please be kind and carry me to the top of the mountain.”

It was against his better judgment, but the Indian agreed. He picked up the snake, put him in his shirt, and resumed the journey. When they reached the top, he reached in his shirt to remove the snake and got bit.

He fell to the ground, and the snake slithered away.

“You lied!” the Indian cried. “You said you wouldn’t bite me.”

The snake stopped and looked back, “I didn’t lie. You knew who I was when you picked me up.”

We hear the legend and shake our heads. He should have known better, we bemoan. And we are right. He should have. And so should we. But don’t we do the same? Don’t we believe the lies of the snake? Don’t we pick up what we should leave alone?

The Corinthian Christians did. One snake after another had hissed lies in their ears, and they had believed it. How many lies did they believe?

How much time do you have?

The list is long and ugly: sectarianism, disunity, sexual immorality. And that is only the first six chapters.

But First Corinthians is more than a list of sins, it is an epistle of patience. Paul initiates the letter by calling these Christians “brothers.” He could have called them heretics or hypocrites or skirt-chasers (and in so many words he does), but not before he calls them brothers.

He patiently teaches them about worship, unity, the role of women, and the Lord’s Supper. He writes as if he can see them face to face. He is disturbed but not despondent. Angry but not desperate. His driving passion is love. And his treatise on love in chapter 13 remains the greatest essay ever penned.

The letter, however personal, is not just for Corinth. It is for all who have heard the whisper and felt the fangs. We, like the Indian, should have known better. We, like the Corinthians, sometimes need a second chance.[1]

[1] Max Lucado, Life Lessons from the Inspired Word of God: Book of 1 Corinthians, Inspirational Bible Study Series (Dallas, TX: Word Pub., 1997), 7–9.

[1] Ben Merold, Sermon Outlines on 1 Corinthians, ed. Sam E. Stone, Standard Sermon Starters (Cincinnati, OH: Standard, 1995), 9.

[2] Leadership Ministries Worldwide, The First & Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible (Chattanooga, TN: Leadership Ministries Worldwide, 1996), 14.

[3] John MacArthur, 1 Corinthians: Godly Solutions for Church Problems, MacArthur Bible Studies (Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, 2001), 14.

[4] Richard Oster, 1 Corinthians, The College Press NIV Commentary (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., 1995), 1 Co 1:12.

[5] Ben Merold, Sermon Outlines on 1 Corinthians, ed. Sam E. Stone, Standard Sermon Starters (Cincinnati, OH: Standard, 1995), 9.

[6] Leadership Ministries Worldwide, The First & Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible (Chattanooga, TN: Leadership Ministries Worldwide, 1996), 15.

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Posted by on November 14, 2022 in 1 Corinthians


A study of 1 Corinthians #2 The Cross of Christ Has No Status to the Lost – 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

Note how Paul approaches the severe problem of division: he does not have fire in his eyes nor a spirit of rebuke and fight in his heart. There is not even a trace of anger in him. On the contrary, his heart is tender and full of love. He graciously appeals to the Corinthians.

→ He says, “I beseech you.” The word beseech (parakalo) means to call to one’s side. Paul says, “I call you to my side; come, let’s share together, talk the matter over. I ask, plead, beg—hear what I have to say.”

→ He calls them brothers twice in just two verses (v. 10, 11).

→ He begs them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to heed what he is saying. He pleads with them to consider their love for Christ. They must do away with their divisions and be unified once again—for the sake of Christ. For Him and His cause they must obey Him and be united in one spirit and one mind.

Ministers of the gospel and leaders must not lambaste nor attack and censure those in the congregation who cause trouble, dissension, and division. Rather, they must approach the divisive person in a spirit of tenderness and love, and in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Sometimes it may be difficult because of the severity of the problem and the arrogance and unwillingness of the troublemaker. Nevertheless, the heart of Christ is love and restoration. Therefore, we must always reach out in a spirit of love and restoration before church discipline is ever attempted.

The exhortation is strong; it is direct and straightforward. And note: it is immediately given. There is no hesitation and no equivocation in giving it. There should be no problem in understanding it, for it is plainly and simply stated.

The exhortation is to agree in speech: reach agreement, quit talking against each other, accusing, attacking, murmuring, grumbling, griping, complaining, gossiping. Quit using the tongue to stir dissension and division.

The exhortation is to allow no dissension or division. The word division (schismata) means to split, to rend, to tear apart. Note the words “among you.” The division or dissension is not outside the church; it is not out in the world. It is inside the church. The divisive church is not working to bring peace, love, and brotherhood to the world; the divisive church is not seen out in the world ministering to the starving, diseased, and lost masses of the world. The divisive church is seen fuming and fighting. The sinful and devastating problems of dissension are within the divisive church. The divisive church is splitting, rending, and tearing itself apart.

The exhortation is to be “perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” The words perfectly joined together mean just what they say: to be in perfect union with each other; to be perfectly united and joined together; to be restored to the perfect union of being together. The idea behind the Greek word is that of a torn net being repaired and mended (Mt. 4:21), or a man’s broken and dislocated limb being restored to its proper place.

The union is to be in both mind and judgment. The mind would involve thoughts, reasonings, affections, emotions, motives, and intentions. Judgment would involve conclusions, purposes, goals, and objectives. The exhortation is for the Corinthian church to restore itself, and note: they are not just to be joined together—they are to be perfectly joined together in mind and judgment.

11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers.

The tragic report is that contention is within the church. The contention was so severe that some believer went to Paul about the matter. Just who the believer was is not known. He or she was of the household of Chloe, who was apparently a believer well known to the Corinthians. Chloe was probably a citizen of Ephesus and not of Corinth. Paul would never have identified his source of information if he or she had lived in Corinth lest some of the arguing parties turn against Chloe and her household. Paul was writing to Corinth from Ephesus, so a member of her household probably reported the matter to Paul on some return trip from Corinth.

The depth and seriousness of the division is again brought out by the word contentions (erides). The word means wranglings, strifes, quarrels, factions. Note: the nature of division is more clearly defined by the word. The church was arguing and splitting into groups, contending and quarreling over something. There was a severe strife between factions and cliques in the church. Contention is one of the terrible “works of the flesh.”[1]

Paul identifies four parties in the Church at Corinth. They have not broken away from the Church; the divisions are as yet within it. The word he uses to describe them is schismata), which is the word for rents in a garment. The Corinthian church is in danger of becoming as unsightly as a torn garment.

Like Christians in Corinth, contemporary believers often cluster around popular preachers and teachers. And the result is just as divisive as in the first century. Instead of dividing over personalities, worship styles, and theological minutiae, we need to focus on Christ. He will unify us. Give your allegiance to no one but Christ. Let him lead you.

It is to be noted that the great figures of the Church who are named, Paul and Cephas and Apollos, had nothing to do with these divisions. There were no dissensions between them. Without their knowledge and without their consent their names had been appropriated by these Corinthian factions. It not infrequently happens that a man’s so-called supporters are a bigger problem than his open enemies.

Division within the church is one of the most serious problems a church can face, if not the most serious. It can devastate the church’s fellowship, worship, mission, and witness to the world unless it is solved quickly. Paul knew this; therefore, he sought to solve the problem immediately. Every church and minister of God needs to study and keep this passage forever in their memories.[2]

The depth and seriousness of the division is again brought out by the word contentions (erides). The word means wranglings, strifes, quarrels, factions. Note: the nature of division is more clearly defined by the word. The church was arguing and splitting into groups, contending and quarreling over something. There was a severe strife between factions and cliques in the church. Contention is one of the terrible “works of the flesh.”

To be perfectly united does not mean that Paul required everyone to be exactly the same. Instead, he wanted them to set aside their arguments and focus on what truly mattered—Jesus Christ as Lord and their mission to take the light of the gospel into a dark world.

Divisions between Christians work like brick walls and barbed-wire fences to undermine the effectiveness of the message that believers are to proclaim. Focus on Jesus Christ, and the purpose he has for you. Strive for harmony. Keep arguments about allegiances off limits. The internal divisions would only cause strife and hinder the gospel, as well as make the church look ridiculous to those outside.

A thought: Shepherds of congregations and ministers of the gospel and leaders must not lambaste nor attack and censure those in the congregation who cause trouble, dissension, and division as their first action. Rather, they must approach the divisive person in a spirit of tenderness and love, and in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes it may be difficult because of the severity of the problem and the arrogance and unwillingness of the troublemaker. Nevertheless, the heart of Christ is love and restoration. We must always reach out in a spirit of love and restoration before church discipline is ever attempted.

12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”[3]

In three short questions Paul shows the critical nature of divisive cliques. Cliques strike …

  • at the Person of Christ or His Lordship.
  • at the crucifixion or death of Christ.
  • at the baptism or witness of the believer.

Note how clearly this is seen as each of the three problems with divisive groups is discussed.

  1. Cliques divide Christ. A clique always thinks it is right, no matter how divisive its position is, and it wants its way—too often at any cost.

→     A clique dethrones Christ. It sets itself up as the Lord, as the persons who are able to judge what is right and wrong for the church.

→     A clique attempts the impossible: it tries to divide Christ, to take Christ over to its side. A clique often claims that Christ supports its position, that Christ would hold the position and do exactly what the clique is doing.

Note the question asked by Scripture: Is Christ divided? Is part of Christ over here with this group and part of Him over there with that group? Who rules the church? Who is Lord? Who has the right to judge and say what is right and wrong, the Lord within the church, or cliques within the church?

Jesus Christ cannot be divided. There is only one Lord, only one Person who is called the Lord Jesus Christ. He is not two persons. He nor His will can be split into two divisive cliques. He is one Person and He has one will.

  1. Cliques elevate men to be saviors. Paul was not crucified for the Corinthians; therefore, he was not the savior of the Corinthians nor of any other body of believers. This is certain: if Paul was not a savior, then no other preacher nor any other leader of a clique is a savior. Believers do not owe their allegiance to preachers and leaders of cliques; they owe their allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ. It was Jesus Christ who died for us, not preachers and leaders of churches. Therefore, we are to obey and follow the will of Christ as dictated in Scripture, and we are to support the servants of the Lord whom He places in our midst to minister to us. The Lord places a particular minister in our midst because he has a unique gift to offer to the church and ministry—a very special contribution that is needed during a particular time.
  2. Cliques make a person a man-follower. This is tragic, for a genuine believer is always baptized in the name of the Lord, not in the name of some minister or church leader. In his baptism the believer confessed the Lord and gave testimony that he was committing his life to follow the Lord. He did not confess loyalty to some man, no matter how great and wonderful the man might be. However, when the person forms or joins a clique, he disassociates himself from Christ and the rest of the believers; he betrays his baptism and commitment to Christ and His church, and gives his loyalty to the leader or position of a divisive clique.
  3. Now note Paul’s adamant denial that he ever attempted to secure a personal following of believers. He thanks God that he had not baptized but a few believers, for no believer can rightfully accuse him of seeking to form a following or a clique.

13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.)

Paul used a series of rhetorical questions. First he asked whether Christ could be divided. This is a graphic picture of what happens when the church (the body of Christ) quarrels and argues. Christ is one; the church is one. No church ought to split into warring factions.

Second, Paul asked if he, himself, had been crucified for them. Again the answer is obviously no. Only One had been crucified for the believers—indeed, only One could be crucified to pay the penalty for sins.

Third: Were the believers baptized into the name of Paul (or even of Peter or Apollos)? Again, the answer was no. They were baptized into the name of the One who had been crucified for them. This whole idea of factions was wrong; Paul did not exempt those who desired to follow him, nor did he point out any flaws in the teachings of Peter and Apollos. They all taught the same thing—the gospel—but their demeanor and delivery were different.

Just as Jesus did not baptize people (John 4:1-2), so both Peter (Acts 10:48) and Paul allowed their associates to baptize the new converts. Until the church grew in Corinth, Paul did some of the baptizing; but that was not his main ministry.

In this section, Paul was not minimizing baptism, but rather was putting it into its proper perspective, because the Corinthians were making too much of it. “I was baptized by Apollos!” one would boast, while another would say, “Oh, but I was baptized by Paul!”

[1] Leadership Ministries Worldwide, The First & Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible (Chattanooga, TN: Leadership Ministries Worldwide, 1996), 15.

[2] Leadership Ministries Worldwide, The First & Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible (Chattanooga, TN: Leadership Ministries Worldwide, 1996), 13.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Co 1:11–12.

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Posted by on November 10, 2022 in 1 Corinthians


A study of 1 Corinthians: #1 Addressing the ‘main’ issues (an introduction)

Solomon observed in his day that “there is nothing new under the sun.” He tried to prepare his generation for a thought we need to hear today: “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, forever.”

When some of us were much younger, because of the disillusionment with organized religion, people were saying “Jesus, yes! The church, no!” They were hearing about church problems and deciding they wanted little or nothing to do “with that group,” though, if truth be known, they were not in the midst of God’s people so they weren’t getting the full picture. Those same words could also be said today.

  1. It reminds me of a phrase heard early in my ministry: “To live above with those we love, O, that will be glory. But to dwell below with those we know, well, that’s another story.”
  2. Charles Hodge has this response: “Stick with those you’re stuck with!” when discussing sectarianism, which we will discuss more completely next Sunday.

These sentiments could have been used it with sincerity in Corinth back in AD 56, because the local church there was in serious trouble. Sad to say, the problems did not stay within the church family; they were known by the unbelievers outside the church.

But what does ‘that’ have to do with ‘us?’ You are fair to ask that question, but I am of the belief (and I know many of you think the same way) that this “eternal book” has much to say to our generation.

It’s From God to us: Perhaps you are of the minority today who may wonder: How do these ancient words apply today? We are distanced from the original readers by time, space, culture, and language. But we do share five striking similarities with the Corinthian Christians:

  1. We are people equally needing God’s truthful instruction.
  2. We live in a similar aggressively pluralistic society that denies absolutes and makes “personal rights” absolute.
  3. This claim to personal rights challenges the lordship of Jesus Christ within the church today, even as it did then.
  4. The ancient philosophy that “might and money make right” continues to divide churches and destroy people’s lives.
  5. The resurrection of Jesus Christ remains the solid fact upon which our faith rests. To some, it will always be a stumbling block.

My conclusion: so, in spite of the obvious differences between ourselves and the Corinthians, the points of similarity make it crucial that we read this letter as God’s Word for our day. He is going to be talking to me and you!

Somehow, an expression of thanksgiving is not what I would have expected from Paul at this point in time. Here is a church that has begun to listen to false teachers and who is challenging Paul’s authority. Here is a church which condones immorality and “unconditionally accepts” a man whose sin shocks the unbelieving pagans of that city. Here is a church whose personal conflicts are being aired out before unbelieving eyes in secular courts. How can Paul possibly give thanks?

Paul believed that the real cause of the Corinthians’ problem was not errant philosophies but a lack of love for each other. Instead of unifying around the gospel message, the Corinthians had created divisions by asserting themselves in public worship and at the Lord’s Supper. They had sided with one teacher over another.

Paul does not give thanks for the sins and failures of these saints. Paul gives thanks to God for what He has done and for what He will ultimately do for His children.

To deal with this deeper issue, Paul encouraged the Corinthians to focus on Christ. As members of Christ’s body, they should be united to do Christ’s work. If they could learn to love each other, they would grow in their faith. Thus, the unifying theme of this corrective letter is the unity of Christians in Christ’s body, the church (12:13). [1]


If we had any doubts  about what Paul was excited  about, what was at the center of his thoughts and intentions, this first paragraph of one of his most varied and lengthy letters would soon put  us straight.

One name keeps coming  up, over and over again. It’s good to remind  ourselves where Paul’s heart  lay, because we can easily read the whole  letter merely as an  argumentative tract,  almost  bossy sometimes, setting the Corinthians right about  this and that, as though  his only concern was to lick them  into shape.

In the first 10 verses of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, the name of Jesus Christ occurs no fewer than ten times. This was going to be a difficult letter for it was going to deal with a difficult situation, and in such a situation Paul’s first and repeated thought was of Jesus Christ.

Paul couldn’t stop  talking  about Jesus, because without Jesus nothing  else he said or did made any sense. And what he wants the Corinthians (and us) to get hold of most of all is what it means to have Jesus at the middle of your story, your life, your thoughts,  your  imagination. N. T. Wright said: “If they could do that,  all the other  issues that  rush  to and fro  through the letter will  sort themselves out.”

I’ve said over the years that we need to “fall in love with Jesus Christ,” and IF we do, some of the things we’re asked to do will be less difficult!

In particular, he wants  them  to have Jesus at the center of their understanding of the world and of history.  Most of the Christians  in Corinth  had   not   been   Jews,  but   ordinary ‘pagans’.  They had  been Gentiles, believing in various  gods and goddesses….But without any idea that  history,  the story of the world, was going anywhere,  or that their own lives might be  part  of  that  forward movement.

Again  and  again  Paul wants them to learn this lesson: that they (and all Christians) have/should be caught up into  a great movement  of the love and power of the one true God, the God of Israel, whose work for the whole world had now  been  unveiled  through the  events concerning his  son. That’s why Jesus is at the center of the picture.

Sometimes in the Church we try to deal with a difficult situation by means of a book of laws and in the spirit of human justice; sometimes in our own affairs we try to deal with a difficult situation in our own mental and spiritual power. Paul did none of these things; to his difficult situation he took Jesus Christ, and it was in the light of the Cross of Christ and the love of Christ that he sought to deal with it.

How do these issues arise in the church?

  1. Church of “faith” compared to the “church of fact.”
  2. Importance of holding a “private view” after “we don’t/won’t do that here.”

The members of the church permitted the sins of the city to get into the local assembly.

Corinth was a polluted city, filled with every kind of vice and worldly pleasure. About the lowest accusation you could make against a man in that day would be to call him “a Corinthian.” People would know what you were talking about.

Corinth was also a proud, philosophical city, with many itinerant teachers promoting their speculations. Unfortunately, this philosophical approach was applied to the Gospel by some members of the church, and this fostered division. The congregation was made up of different “schools of thought” instead of being united behind the Gospel message.

Of course, when you have proud people, depending on human wisdom, adopting the lifestyle of the world, you are going to have problems. In order to help them solve their problems, Paul opened his letter by reminding them of their calling in Christ. He pointed out three important aspects of this calling.

Paul first attacked the serious problem of defilement in the church, yet he said nothing about the problem itself. Instead, he took the positive approach and reminded the believers of their high and holy position in Jesus Christ.

“Set apart” by God – 1 Corinthians 1:1-3 (ESV) Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, 2  To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: 3  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul wanted the minds of the Corinthian believers to be immediately centered upon Jesus Christ. He knew this: the answer to the Corinthian problems did not lay in his ability to discuss and reason, nor in his laying down rules and regulations for them, but in Jesus Christ. Therefore, he immediately discussed some of the resources which the believer receives when he accepts Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord.

  1. Resource 1: the grace of God, given by Jesus Christ (v. 4).
  2. Resource 2: the gifts of God’s grace and Spirit (vv. 5–7).
  3. Resource 3: Jesus Christ Himself—His security and assurance (v. 8).
  4. Resource 4: God Himself—His call (v. 9).[2]

Look how, with a few deft strokes of the pen, he sketches a picture of the Christians in Corinth so that at every point their story is intertwined with Jesus’ story.

To begin with, God has set them  aside  for  his  own  special  purposes  in  Christ; that’s  what ‘made  holy’ means  (verse 2).

From God’s point  of view; it means that   he  has  set  people  aside for  special  purposes;  and  the people in question  are expected to co-operate  with this. That, indeed, is what quite a lot of the letter will be about.

The word church in the Greek language means “a called-out people.” Each church has two addresses: a geographic address (“at Vallejo”) and a spiritual address (“in Christ Jesus”). The church is made up of saints, that is, people who have been “sanctified” or “set apart” by God. A saint is not a dead person who has been honored by men because of his or her holy life. No, Paul wrote to living saints, people who, through faith in Jesus Christ, had been set apart for God’s special enjoyment and use.

When a man and woman pledge their love to each other, they are set apart for each other; and any other relationship outside of marriage is sinful. Just so, the Christian belongs completely to Jesus Christ; he is set apart for Him and Him alone.

But once they’ve been set aside as special, they discover that they are part of a large and growing worldwide  family, brothers and  sisters of everyone  who ‘calls on the  name  of our  Lord King Jesus’. In fact, ‘calling on’ this name  is the  one and  only sign of membership in this family, though people in Paul’s day and ever since have tried to introduce other  signs of member­ ship as well.

Enriched by God’s grace (vv. 4-6).  I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5  that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6  even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—

Paul thanked God for the Corinthian believers. During the Thanksgiving holiday, we focus on our blessings and express our gratitude to God for them. But thanks should be expressed every day. We can never say thank you enough to parents, friends, leaders, and especially to God. When thanksgiving becomes an integral part of your life, you will find that your attitude toward life will change. You will become more positive, gracious, loving, and humble. Whom do you need to thank today?

As in most of his letters, Paul follows the opening greeting by  telling  them  what  he thanks  God for  when  he thinks  of them – using the opportunity, in the process, to hint at some of the  things  he’s going to be talking  about  later  on.

Notice how  he  moves  from  what  happened to  them   in  the  past, through the sort of people they are in the present, to the hope they have for the future, with Jesus at the center at every stage. God gave them his ‘grace’ in Jesus (verse 4).

‘Grace’ is one of those little words that contains a whole universe of meaning, summing  up the fact that God loved them and acted decisively on their behalf even though  they had done nothing  whatever to deserve it, but rather the opposite.

Expecting Jesus to return (v. 7).so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ…

Christians who are looking for their Savior will want to keep their lives above reproach.

Depending on God’s faithfulness (vv. 8-9).who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9  God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

As Christians, one of the strongest rebukes we can have when we sin is to be reminded of who our Father is. And reminding ourselves of whose we are should be one of our strongest deterrents to sin. Remembering our position can compel us to improve our practice.”[3]

Paul isn’t talking about  problems  at the moment.  God called them in the past, God equips them in the present, and God will complete the whole process in the future.  World history, and the story of the Christian life, has a shape, and Jesus is its shaper  at every point.

Christian  must always be leaning forwards towards  God’s finishing line, ‘eagerly waiting for our Lord, King Jesus to be revealed’. One of you called this “our exit plan” recently.

There is corning a day – like ‘the   day of  the  God   in  the   Old  Testament,   only  more so – when the hidden  truth about the world will be unveiled; this truth will turn out to be a person, and the person will turn out to be Jesus.

Writing this letter, in other words, is part of the process by which  God intends  to take these Christians  from  the one to  the  other,  from  God’s past  achievement  to  God’s  future finishing of the job. May God grant that it will have that effect on us, too.

[1] Barton, B. B., & Osborne, G. R. (1999). 1 & 2 Corinthians (pp. 9–10). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House.

[2] Leadership Ministries Worldwide, The First & Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible (Chattanooga, TN: Leadership Ministries Worldwide, 1996), 9.

[3] John MacArthur, 1 Corinthians: Godly Solutions for Church Problems, MacArthur Bible Studies (Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, 2001), 12.

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Posted by on November 7, 2022 in 1 Corinthians, Church

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