1 Corinthians Study Notes
1 Corinthians 9:19-16:24
1 Cor. 9:19-23:
Paul had already declared that there is no longer a distinction between Jew and Gentile in Christ (Acts 15:9; Rom 3:22; 10:12; 1 Cor. 10:32). Yet here Paul makes a distinction for the sake of gospel clarity. Although in Christ we are valued equally, there remains distinctions between those in the body of Christ, such as varying spiritual gifts (Eph. 4:1-16; 1 Cor. 12:12-31). We also learn that God respects cultural differences and sensibilities, insofar as we learn things best through the medium of our own culture. This is why Paul becomes like the culture he is around: to clearly communicate the gospel. Thus, we should utilize the cultural patterns that we find the lost in to our advantage, and we should be sensitive to the consciences of Christians who have more troubled consciences over matters of liberty than ourselves.
1 Cor. 9:24-27:
Paul uses athletic metaphors elsewhere (Phil 3:14; 2 Tim 4:7-8) to show the hard work and dedication required to grow as a Christian and press into the kingdom of God. If athletes are so disciplined for something that perishes, all the more Paul disciplines himself for the preaching of the Word, an eternal investment which reaps the prize of the elect he leads to Christ and the elect he waters in the church.
1 Cor. 10:1-5
Regarding “cloud” see Ex. 13:21; for passing through the sea, Ex. 14:22. Incredibly, Paul says that the Israelites in the wilderness were drinking from Christ, and yet God was displeased with most because they lacked genuine faith.
1 Cor. 10:6-14
See Numbers 25:1-9 regarding Israel’s sexual immorality and God’s judgment. Even though the Corinthians are part of the covenant community and in the church, not all have true faith in Christ. Paul warns Corinth that many who indulge in sexual immorality and even idolatry (the area was known for these things at that time) may not have true faith and thus may be on the outside of God’s family.
1 Cor. 10:15-22:
The people of Corinth should be careful not to eat meat offered to idols, not because an idol or the meat offered to it has any evil powers in itself, but because the heart motive behind such an act for the pagans is to worship a false god, something which the Lord detests. God’s people are of one body, illustrated when Christians come together to partake of the one loaf of bread that represents Christ’s body broken for His people. To eat the meat offered to idols with pagans would be to sever the body of Christ by dining with demons.
1 Cor. 10:23-33
This echoes what Paul said in 1 Cor. 9:19-23. Christians are to do everything to the glory of God as an act of worship by giving thanks. Paul says our liberty should not be limited by others when we thank God for His provision. Thus, we should not worry about eating meat sold in the marketplace that may have been sacrificed to idols, because we are not partaking of the meal and the meat as an act of worship to a demon or idol, but as an act of worship to God by giving Him the thanks (credit) and thus the glory. So we are at liberty to drink beer for example, but for the sake of the gospel, to win some who may take offense to this, we should abstain in their presence.
1 Cor. 11:1-16
A much debated passage, head coverings are to be worn by women to show their reflection of the glory of man. This does not mean that women are not made in the image of God, nor does it mean that women are inferior to men. Rather, there is economic ordering that God has established between man and wife, just as there is in the trinity. Paul expresses this in verse 3, saying Christ is the head of every man, man is the head of wife, and the head of Christ is God.
1 Cor. 11:17-22
Paul shifts gears hear and now addresses issues at the Lord’s Table. The rich and snobbish go ahead and eat sumptuously at the Lord’s table, getting drunk before the others even have time to eat, and the poor believers are humiliated because they do not even have a morsel to bring with them to participate. This misrepresents the very purpose of the Lord’s Table and the unity that Christ’s sacrifice brings to His people and is thus a grave offense.
1 Cor. 11:23-34
Paul explains that communion is about proclaiming the sacrifice of Christ until He returns. Yet, those in Corinth are coming together for selfish purposes, to eat due to hunger, and not to remember and reflect on their Savior’s sacrifice. Verse 30 shows that some have become sick and even died due to partaking in the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner.
1 Cor. 12:1-11
In v. 2, the word pagan (Gk. Ethne) means “Gentiles,” or non-Jews. Those in Corinth were not Jews by birth but, now in Christ, are seen as spiritual Israel, true Israel, and thus considered Jews. Even in the giftings that God gives through His Spirit, there is diversity in unity. There are differences of activities (v. 6) but the same Spirit empowers them all. This further supports the understanding that we are all members of the body of Christ, but like a physical body, each person is a different part with a different function or gifting that the rest of the body needs.
1 Cor. 12:12-26
Paul says something profound- without diversity within the unity of the one body of Christ, without each constituent body part, there would be no body (v. 18-19)! A body is more than the sum total of its parts, because a body cannot function properly without each body part doing its specific and unique duty. Some body parts receive more glory than others, just as some in the body of Christ receive more glory for their callings than others, but each calling is important and constitutes a part of the body of Christ. Christ’s whole body was offered on the cross. Thus, we should be excited and content with whatever God has called us to, for whatever the calling is, it is a part of the body of Christ, and as such, is indispensable to the whole.
1 Cor. 12:27-31
Paul tells us that not everyone will have every spiritual gift, and then gives a ranking of gifts and tells us to pursue the highest ones most earnestly. And yet, the last sentence tells us that there is yet a better way, a higher mark, than simply the callings that we are called to.
1 Cor. 13:1-3
The Corinthians have overemphasized the gift of tongues and have used it for selfish gain and not love, which would seek the higher gifts, benefitting not merely the individual but the whole body of Christ. In this eloquent passage, Paul speaks of the preeminence of love in all that we do. It should be the driving force behind all our pursuits and actions, because it sums up all the commandments, to love God with all of our being and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Luke 10:27).
1 Cor. 13:4-7
Love should color all that we do. We should do our work jobs, our family activities and life, our attitude toward our children and parents, or preaching and teaching and rebuking, with love. The posture of love is others before self, others instead of self. Thus, in this fallen world, we Christians should bear the burdens of one another with love (Gal. 6:2) and understand that true love will have to endure mistreatment, injustice, and browbeating. In love we will be misunderstood and hated, and thus a loving attitude is longsuffering and patient, not rude and resentful, not returning evil with evil but evil with good. Love loves the truth, because the truth is what love aims for.
1 Cor. 13:8-13
Tongues and prophecy are not permanent but perishable, passing away when their use is finished, but love is everlasting because it is rooted in the being of God Himself. Love will endure because God is love, and when He is fully revealed, tongues and prophecy will no longer be needed since they simply reveal what will one day be fully and clearly seen- God Himself. Some take this passage to mean that the Bible is our full revelation, but others point out that v. 12 indicates we will know Christ as He knows us, and since that has not yet occurred, prophecy and tongues are still needed.
1 Cor. 14:1-5
Even though tongues and prophecy are temporary, they do serve a purpose at Paul’s time and, because of this, he still encourages the church in Corinth to speak in tongues, but especially to prophesy. Prophesy is more beneficial to the church because it requires no interpreter and thus caters to the church, while tongues are unintelligible without an interpreter and is spoken to God. Moses wished for all God’s people to have His Spirit placed on them so that they could prophesy (Num. 11:29).
1 Cor. 14:6-14
Paul further describes the importance of interpreting tongues, saying it is of little value without an interpreter because it is like a cymbal or bugle making an indistinct sound. No one can decipher its meaning.
1 Cor. 14:15-20
Paul explains that praying with both your mind and spirit is important. He says in Romans 8:26 that the Spirit intercedes for believers with groanings too deep for words because we do not always know what we ought to pray for. Tongues then may be an expression of great affection for God that one cannot quite put their finger on logically, with the mind, but they nonetheless know is genuine. Paul says for the sake of the outsider our expressions of praise need to be intelligible so they can “Amen” our affection as well.
1 Cor. 14:21-25
V. 21 cited from Isa. 28:11-12. See also Deuteronomy 28:49. Tongues are a sign to unbelievers not in a positive sense but in a sense of judgment, because Paul says unbelievers may conclude Christians are out of their minds when speaking in tongues. Yet, when a Christian speaks prophesy, the unbeliever may also be convicted and come to salvation.
1 Cor. 14:26-33
Singing, teaching, prophesying, and speaking in tongues with an interpreter was the order of worship in the early church. Paul prohibits speaking in tongues without an interpreter, and both it and prophesy are to be done one at a time, for the building up and edification of the whole body of Christ. In worship, whether we believe in the continuing revelation and tongues for today or not, our actions and behavior should be governed by those around us in the church body. This is a further application of Paul’s command to love, for if we behaved in worship without regard for others around us, we would be acting selfishly and not for the benefit of the whole body of Christ. We should worship corporately at church, not individually.
1 Cor. 14:34-35
Another difficult passage to interpret, Paul says in 11:5, 13 that women dishonor their husbands and themselves if they prophesy with their heads uncovered. This would imply that with the proper attire, women could prophesy. See also Acts 2:17, 21:8-9 where Scripture foretells women will prophesy and then an example of women prophesying. In light of this, the prohibition against women prophesying is likely not absolute.
1 Cor. 14:36-40
Those who do not heed Paul’s ordering of importance of spiritual gifts and ordering of church worship should not be recognized as spiritual or prophets, since what Paul says here is a command from God and not mere human opinion.
1 Cor. 15:1-11
Paul turns to address the issue of the future bodily resurrection of Christians, something the educated in the Greco-Roman world would scoff at. He lays out the historical evidence for the bodily resurrection of Christ, citing His fulfilling of Scripture by dying for sins (Isa. 53; Dan. 9:26; Zech. 13:7), then appearing to His disciples and over five hundred believers at one time, many of which were still alive. Then Paul refers to His conversion on the road to Damascus, where the resurrected Christ appeared to him and transformed his life from a Christian killer to the greatest Christian of his time.
1 Cor. 15:12-19
Paul argues strongly here, rebuking those who denied the resurrection of believers. If Christ is proclaimed as rising from the dead, and they deny this, then they deny the resurrection of Christ, thus nullifying salvation and their faith altogether. If this is true, Paul says, then we only have hope in this life, and are of all men most to be pitied.
1 Cor. 15:20-34
Christ has been raised as the firstfruits (Gk. Aparche) of those who have faith in Him. The term firstfruits refer to the first harvest of a crop that will indicate what the rest will be like. Therefore, Christ rising means our future rising as well. This changes everything; Paul shows that all Christ’s people will be raised with Him, and then we, with Christ, will rule and reign, and Christ will make all His enemies His footstool (see Ps. 110:1, 2 Tim. 2:12-13 and Rev. 20). Since death is victory for Christ, dying every day is victory for the Christian! Let us live life not for today in drunkenness, but for the life to come. Let us walk soberly and cease from sinning, pressing into the kingdom through our daily sacrificing and sufferings for the sake of our Savior and each other.
1 Cor. 15:35-50
Paul explains that are heavenly bodies will be different from our earthly bodies. Our earthly bodies reflect the man of dust, Adam, but our heavenly bodies will reflect the image of the man of heaven (v.49), Christ. Our earthly bodies are susceptible to deterioration, they are perishable, but our heavenly bodies are eternal and imperishable.
1 Cor. 15:51-57
Some Christians will be alive when the resurrection occurs, and those who are will be transformed, taking off the perishable bodies and putting on the imperishable. Indeed, Paul says it is not until this occurs that what is said in Isa. 25:8 and Hos 13:14 is fulfilled- death is swallowed up in victory.
1 Cor. 15:58
Taking all that has come before in the chapter, Paul gives application, saying our laboring for the wellbeing of believers and proclaiming the gospel to the lost is not pointless, it is not in vain. Rather, the fruits of our labor are eternal, springing forth into never ending life, a perpetual harvest, because the elect live on and prosper forever with Christ in glory.
1 Cor. 16:1-4
Paul discusses his collecting money for the poor Christians in Jerusalem. He tells those in Corinth to set aside a little money each week starting right now, so that when Paul arrives, the money will already be gathered for the collection. The first day of every week was a Jewish expression for the Lord’s Day, which indicates that the early believers gathered for worship on Sunday rather than Saturday, emphasizing the transforming nature and power of Christ’s atonement.
1 Cor. 16:5-9
Paul plans to visit Corinth for an extended stay if the Lord permits. In v. 8-9 Paul says he will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost because an opportunity for the gospel has opened there. Paul the Apostle himself does not know the future and God’s will for his life. This shows us that, rather than determining our calling by some mystical confirmation from the inner rumblings of our stomach, we should be logical, reasonable, and discerning when it comes to our life choices, jobs, and callings. We should not pray for a door to open while doing nothing, but rather look for opportunities to open doors and create opportunity while at the same time praying that God would bless our efforts to please Him and do His will.
1 Cor. 16:10-12
Timothy is on his way to Corinth, and Paul wants him to be greeted cordially since he is a co-laborer with him in the Lord. Paul also encourages Apollos to come see them (see Acts 18:24-28 for more on Apollos).
1 Cor. 16:13-18
“Act like men” is used often in the Old Testament (Gk. Andrizomai) to encourage others, especially soldiers, to trust in the Lord and be courageous in the face of danger and resistance. Paul also commands the Corinthians to treat other workers and laborers well, and to recognize their authority over them.
1 Cor. 16:19-24
A holy kiss in the Corinthian culture would be like a handshake in our culture today. Paul gives his greetings along with the churches of Asia and says he writes the greeting with his own hand, probably to emphasize his warning in v. 22 where he wishes those who have no love for the Lord to be accursed. Paul also says Our Lord, come, in v. 22, which is Aramaic rather than Greek (marana tha). This may have been an early Jewish prayer expressing longing for the return of Jesus and also recognizes Jesus as God.