1 Corinthians 1 Commentary


The Corinthian Christians may be in a sad spiritual condition, but Paul addresses them as God’s holy people. They are sanctified in Christ Jesus, having a holy standing before God because of what Christ has done for them. Paul now wants to instruct them so that they might live as God’s holy people should (1:1- 3).

Through the grace of God, the Corinthian Christians have been specially enriched in such gifts as knowledge and speech, enabling them to understand and explain the truth (4-5). In fact, they are not lacking in any spiritual gift. They have plenty of ability, but they must allow God to control it, if they want to be blameless when they stand before Christ (6-9).


No blame upon Paul (1:10-17)

Paul urges the Corinthian Christians to stop their quarrelling and be united (10). He has heard from people from Chloe’s household that the Christians have divided themselves into factions. Some called themselves Paul’s party. Others, who were impressed with the preaching of Apollos (cf. Acts 18:24-28), formed the Apollos party. Perhaps it was the Jewish group who claimed to be followers of Peter; while a fourth group claimed even higher leadership than that of Paul, Apollos or Peter, by calling themselves Christ’s special party (11-12).

With a few ironical questions, Paul rebukes all the parties. He is thankful that he baptized only a few people in Corinth, namely, Crispus, Gaius and the household of Stephanus (cf. Acts 18:8; Rom 16:23;

1 Cor 16:15,17). No one can now accuse him of baptizing people with the aim of gaining a personal following. Nor did he make any attempt to attract followers by displaying much wisdom or ability in his preaching. His sole aim was to preach the gospel of Christ crucified, so that people might be saved (13- 17).

Contrasts in wisdom and power (1:18-31)

The whole idea of salvation from sin through the death of Christ on the cross appears foolish to the average person, but to believers it shows God’s power (18). God’s way has always been different from that of people in general. Whether they be Greek philosophers, Jewish scholars, or just ordinary citizens, people always think their schemes and ideas are full of wisdom; but God shows them up to be foolish (19- 20).

God, in his wisdom, saves people by way of the cross and no other. People think this way to be foolish, but no matter how much they try to know God through their own wisdom, they will never succeed (21).

The Jews want miraculous signs to prove that Jesus is the mighty Messiah, but instead they see him crucified. To them this shows not power, but weakness. A crucified Messiah is in their view a stumbling block, something that they will not believe and that consequently prevents them from receiving God’s salvation. As for the Greeks, they consider the whole idea to be mere foolishness. But to believers, Jews or Greeks, it gives proof of God’s power and wisdom. The cross alone can conquer sin and bring salvation (22-24). That which the Greeks think to be foolish proves to be wiser than anything people can imagine. That which the Jews think to be weak proves to be stronger than anything people can accomplish (25).


As further proof that this salvation has nothing to do with human wisdom, Paul reminds the Corinthians of the types of people who make up their church. Few of them hold important positions in the academic, political or social world. Yet God has taken them and made them his people, to prove that he does not accept anyone on the basis of natural ability or worldly status. No one can therefore boast before him (26-29). Wisdom is found not in personal achievement but in what God has done in Christ. Through Christ, God has put believers right with himself, declared them to be holy and set them free from the power of sin. Everything centres in Christ. Believers boast in him alone (30-31).

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