The introduction to the epistle is found in verses 1-9.
This is divided into two parts:
1. The opening salutation (v. 1-3).
2. The thanksgiving (v. 4-9).
v. 1—Paul was an apostle of Jesus Christ by divine calling and by divine will. Acts 18:17.
v. 2—Unto the church of God. Despite the many failures, divisions, etc. It was not Cephas’ church, nor Paul’s, nor Apollo’s—it was God’s.
“To them who are sanctified in Christ Jesus.”
This is our standing in Christ, the result of Christ’s saving work on the cross. This can never change. Out state and walk is a different thing entirely.
“Called to be saints”—Called to be God’s people.
The rest of the verse shows that this letter, although written tot eh church at Corinth, was intended for “all who call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Their Lord and ours. The Lordship of Christ.
v. 3—“Grace and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Grace is the unmerited favor of God. They needed peace in this disorderly church. Also, God’s peace which passes all understanding.
This grace and peace came equally from God the Father and God the Son, a testimony to the deity of Christ.
Verses 4-9 are the thanksgiving. His thanksgiving was constant. He thanked God for the “grave given unto them”, for the effects of the grace of God in them. Despite the many bad things occurring in the assembly there were evidences of the working of the grace of God.
v. 5—That in everything you are enriched in Him. This enrichment is spiritual blessing.
Utterance—speech, outward expressions.
Knowledge—the inward apprehension of the truth.
v. 6—“Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you.”
v. 7—“So that you come behind in no gift.”
The Corinthian church was richly endowed with spiritual gifts. But, according to the later chapters, rather than use them they were abusing them.
“Waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” “Waiting for” conveys the idea of earnest expectancy. “The coming” or the revelation of Christ would refer to the rapture or the return of the Lord to receive His saints to Himself.
v. 8—“Who shall also confirm you unto the end.” See John 13:1. He shall keep them either unto the end of their earthly journey or until the revelation of Christ at His coming.
“That you be unreprovable in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The report which the household of Chloe had brought to Paul was quite extensive. They reported contentions—there were those who were glorying in wisdom, there was carnality among them, immorality was being practiced, brethren were taking each other to law.
The first six chapters are Paul’s instructions regarding these sins. After the introduction, verses 1-10 expose the fault and gives remedial measures.
v. 10-11—Divisions and contentions. First of all he beseeches them, then he reminds them that they are brethren, and his authority for doing so is the Lord Jesus Christ.
The conditions were serious. First of all there were contentions (verbal strife and arguments), and these brought about divisions. There were factions in the assembly—those who claimed Paul as their leader, those who claimed Apollos, some who claimed Peter, and some who actually claimed Christ. To add to this unhealthy conglomeration there would also be some who were faithful to the word as revealed by Paul who were the true followers of Christ.
v. 13—Is Christ divided? There is one Christ, therefore there is one body. Ephesians 4:4-6. Was Paul crucified for you? Or any of the other leaders? Were you baptized in Paul’s name? or any of the other leaders’ names? The obvious answer to these questions is NO. Christ was crucified for them, and they were baptized into Christ’s name.
v. 14-17—Paul explains and seems to be relieved that he had not baptized many. He believed his mission was to preach the gospel, not to baptize.
The last phrase of verse 17 introduces us to the next error, “Not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.”
Paul’s preaching was not in wisdom of words or in human eloquence.
From verses 18-25 Paul contrasts human wisdom with the wisdom of God. Human wisdom despised the cross. The cross, says Paul, was actually the display of the wisdom of God.
v. 18—To those who are perishing, the cross is foolishness. To those who are saved, it is the power of God.
v. 19-20—Quotation from Isaiah. Paul applies it to the present situation.
v. 21—The world has never found God through its wisdom. This was ordained by God. But it has pleased Him through the preaching of the Gospel (which includes the Cross) to save many.
v. 22—The Jews ask for signs or miracles. The Greeks seek wisdom or philosophy.
v. 23—But we preach Christ crucified. This to the Jews is a stumbling block. To the Greeks it is absolute foolishness.
v. 24—To them who are called (saved)—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God’s power and wisdom.
v. 25—Unregenerate men do not believe this. Man calls the cross-work of Christ foolishness. This so-called foolishness of God is for wiser than the wisest plan of the wisest man. Moreover, what seems weak and feeble, the death of Jesus, is stronger than man’s power.
v. 26—“For you see your calling, brethren.” Not many are wise or noble.
v. 27—God has chosen whom the world counts foolish to confound the worldly wise. He has chosen the weak to confound the mighty.
v. 28—God chose what the world counted poor and insignificant. God chose people of humble birth.
v. 29—All this was for the purpose that no flesh should glory or boast in His presence.
v. 30—Paul reminds the Corinthians that what they are and have they obtained it by their union with Christ. He is made to us Wisdom (chs. 1-4), Righteousness (chs. 5-10), Sanctification (chs. 11-14), Redemption (chs. 15-16).
v. 31—We cannot glory in our own achievements. If we are going to boast we must boast in the Lord.