Study 3 – 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:3

The Power of the Cross

Discussion Question

If you were given ten minutes to speak on any topic, what would you feel confident to speak about?


Paul is able to write to the church in Corinth because they are all servants of the gospel together. Without the grace of God, there would be no church and there would be no authority of Paul to preach and teach. “God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

After reminding the church of their foundation and unity in Christ, he appeals to them as a brother in Christ to stop creating clubs within the church. The importance in church is not the preacher or the denomination but the message of the cross of Christ – that is the power of God!

Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:3

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;

the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”l

20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

26 Brothers and sisters, 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 God 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 the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”l

2 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.

What did you see?


  • We look to God for wisdom, not ourselves (18-25)
  • We boast in the Lord, not ourselves (26-31)
  • We preach God, not ourselves (2:1-3)

We look to God for wisdom, not ourselves (18-25)

“…the message of the cross…” Surprisingly, the phrase ‘the cross’ is used rarely by Paul and only twice in 1 Corinthians (1:17-18). It refers obviously to the crucifiction of Jesus but Paul always treats it as a clear division between those for Christ and those against him. This is a watershed moment in history where the sins of mankind are taken care of justly and lovingly and is a watershed moment in the minds of humanity – you are either proclaim the cross of Christ or you reject it. See Galatians 5:11; 6:12-14; Ephesians 2:16; Philippians 3:18 and Colossians 1:20; 2:14-15 for how carefully Paul uses this statement.

…is foolishness to those who are perishing…” The message of the cross is central to the faith of Christianity. Anyone who claims to be Christian and yet rejects the clear teaching in scripture (see references above) that this is how God makes right with unrighteous people (those who are perishing) are not Christians at all. A mark of the perishing is to misunderstand the message of the cross or to disdain it.

…but to us who are being saved…” The tense of the word SAVING or BEING SAVED does not infer that we are not yet in Christ since we are, as 1 Corinthians 1:2 states, both holy and being made holy. But Paul describes us as those who have found the life-boat and are being taken back to our home.

…it is the power of God.” God’s power is summed up in the message of the cross. Romans 1:16-17 describe the message of the gospel as nothing to be ashamed of as this is God’s power on display! He is able to conquer sin, death and rebellion – turn death to life, dark to light and flesh to spirit! Paul puts the cross of Christ on a pedestal and says: look at it! Do you see the power of God and worship him? Or do you perceive stupidity and yawn? Answer that and you’ll know if you are saved or not.

For it is written…” Isaiah 29:14. See the verse in context (11-16). God shake his head at those who think they know a thing or two but don’t need to listen to God! They treat him like they are the boss and like they are the ones who decide who he is like! What nonsense. This is a perfect quote for Paul to use to say to the church: remember who made you and who saved you!

…wise person…teacher of the law…philosopher of this age…” Paul challenges the world to come up with a solution that beats God’s. The wise man is the one who instructs kings. The teacher of the law is the theologian. The philosophers are those who look at the world and deduce truth from it. Paul moves on to say that all have failed because all have concluded untruths about God.

…in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him…” God can sit back and watch the world write essays on how the world works and move further and further in their own minds away from the truth about God.

…through the foolishness…to save those who believe.” I think of the story of Naaman in 2 Kings 5 who was cured of leprosy by the prophet Elisha. But he was angry at first because the prophet did not declare him cured with a mighty and powerful conjuring of the power of God. Rather, he was instructed to simply wash in the dirty Jordan River several times. God’s power is to save us through the death of his Son. The world wants powerful miracles and clear visions from heaven and signs that the Spirit is working. We are saved because we believe that God is right and the cross is precious.

…Jews…Greeks…but we…” Greece was the influential culture in Paul’s day – that is, the culture inherited from Alexander the Great, now under Roman power, is a world of philiosophy and clever thinking. Greeks want logic and clear explanation. The Jews want signs like those received by Moses. Our present culture is a bit of both. We are like the Greek, wanting scientific proof. Yet we are like the Jew, wanting experience. And in Christ, both are satisfied at the cross! Although Paul’s point is that the foolishness of the cross is what we thrive on.

…but we preach Christ crucified.” A crucified man is guilty, shameful, disowned and dead. And this is what we preach. We don’t mix up this gospel with cleverness to win people over. To the Jew who demands signs and wonders, a dead Messiah is a stumbling block. This is not what God seemed to be promising. To the Greek who demands logic, a crucified Messiah who is claimed to have risen to life again is just fairytale nonsense and superstition. They want strength and 7 tips to a better life! But we preach Christ crucified.

…but…to those God has called…the wisdom of God.” When the cross makes sense, it just makes sense. It can be very frustrating to speak to someone and just know that they do not understand the power of the cross. They may have followed all of the steps and nodded as you described sin, penalty, substitution, grace and forgiveness. But they do not see the power of God in those words. It’s like the difference between someone who describes a sunset in terms of what caused it, when it happened and that it indicates the end of a day – compared with someone who sees the sunset! The cross of Christ is not simply a sign from God nor a logical lesson in forgiveness, it is the personal sacrifice God has made for my sins and for yours.

“...wiser than human wisdom…stronger than human strength.” No generation can step forward and declare that they have found God, found the cause of life, found the meaning of existance, found eternal life, found contentment in all circumstances, found the answer to pain and suffering, found peace in truth. Every human effort only ends in frustration and defeat sooner or later. Find a culture anywhere on earth ever that has worked out how to live in unity without violence, deception or corruption. Only God brings peace and can guarantee it for eternity. And it took the so-called son of a carpenter to be nailed to a cross to achieve it! Verse 25 must also be believed in order to be a Christian because it involves submission to God as God. Any attempt to match Him in wisdom or strength is an outright challenge to his deity.

We boast in the Lord, not ourselves (26-31)

“…when you were called.” The scriptures teach that those who believe the message of the cross have also been called by God. This is part of the doctrine of grace as well as the doctrine of assurance. Grace, because if we first moved toward God, then we would credit ourselves with the first righteous act. Assurance, because since it is by grace you have been saved, then it is a sure deal that you are saved. While it is the god of this age that blinds mankind from seeing the wisdom and power of God (2 Corinthians 4:4), it is God who calls us out of darkness and into his marvelous light (2 Corinthians 4:6; 1 Peter 2:9).

“…wise…influential…noble.” This may be a triplet paralelling the wise man, the teacher of the law and the philosopher. But it is another layer of Paul teaching that we are not to be praised for our friendship with God. When we look at the church, how many governors and PHD doctors and kings and CEOs etc do you see? Paul doesn’t mean that you can never see a CEO in church – of course not! But look around and tally all the influential people in the church and what do you get? God is not building his church through important people. And we should not pretend that this is what God is looking to build in his church. But the Corinthians had caught the vision that they needed great preachers and world-standard geniuses in their midst (1 Corinthians 1:12).

“…so that no one may boast before him…” Humility has always been part of the message of the gospel. The last will be first and the first last. God brings down the proud.

“…our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” Another trilogy by Paul to match the wise, the influential, the noble and the wise, the teacher, the philosopher. We, in Christ are made righteous, holy and redeemed. Christ is the wisdom of God. All three of this statements can only be applied to us because of Christ – his death and resurrection. We must always stop ourselves if we credit any part of these to ourselves.

“…therefore…boast in the Lord.” Bible reading TIP: Paul’s writing style (as is common to his age) is to place an important sentence at the end of his arguments. This is not always the truth, but while we train our modern students to begin a paragraph with the point of the paragraph, Paul will often conclude his section with a statement of what he has been arguing for. Look out for it and see if you notice this as we read through this letter.

We preach God, not ourselves (2:1-3)

“… I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom…” It’s quite probable that Paul was not an excellent speaker. Of course, he had some great moments and he is described as persuading people as he talked (Acts 18:4) since this is the job of a teacher and preacher. But he also almost preached a boy to death (Acts 20:9)! Paul is saying that his tool of the trade is not so much being an excellent salesman but that the product he is promoting is just excellent. His product is the testimony about God. He is simply letting people know what God has revealed to the world already. God’s church is not built upon the excellence of great speakers – but on the power of the gospel.

“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” It’s not that Paul doesn’t have other things to tell people – perhaps he could go on and on about how to make tents! But he has decided in his mind that his mission is to preach the gospel and so that is what he will do. Perhaps Paul has a particular view on politics or on who will be the next winner of Survivor Australia! But he forgets all of this and preaches Christ crucified. All Scripture is about Christ and the cross of Christ. Paul’s mission is clear.

“I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.” Does this match your impression of Paul? Don’t you imagine him as a confident, bold preacher who walks into town and says, “where’s the synagogue. Let me tell you what’s real about God! Repent and know Christ!” Boom! Then he stays a while before being driven out or convinced that the Spirit wants him elsewhere and off he goes – only heard of again when he sends a letter from prison saying, “I’m all chained up but that’s cool! No worries, God’s got this and I fully trust him!” Well, here is his confession in 1 Corinthians 2:3. When he arrives in town and finds some people to talk to, he opens his mouth because he has resolved to speak the truth about God but he is feeling weak, perhaps unworthy, perhaps ill-equipped, but nervous about how people will respond and what will happen next. Heaven forbid that we should presume that our preachers and heroes of the faith are any bolder than Paul? The gospel did not spread because Paul was a great man. It spread because God called Paul and he put one foot in front of the other. Because, against his natural instinct to flee, Paul stood and spoke. Many Christians say they are too shy or something else to go around talking about Jesus – they are no St Paul! Well, perhaps St Paul is not as St Paul as we imagine him to have been!

What did we learn?

People will not swarm to the church and to the gospel because it shines like the most powerful message in the world. This world will continue to respond with a face of pitty. But to those who hear the gospel and repent because they believe they are unworthy of God and yet through Christ they are made righteous, holy and redeemed – they will know that they are called by God and that the cross of Christ is amazing. Before we look for amazing charismatic, energetic, inspiring preachers, check that they are ministers resolved to preach Christ crucified.

Now what?

Topic A: If God is God, why do we put science or the human heart above Him? It seems that we only believe things that have either been proven by science or that our hearts long to be true. The gospel of God rejects both of these and simultaneously satisfies them. To those who do not wish to know God will use science and human experience to dispel the logic of salvation by grace. But to those whom God has called and saved, we find that the gospel satisfies science and completes our human heart! Scientifically, the resurrection is the only sound solution to the havoc caused after Jesus was crucified. Emotionally, the gospel reveals that we are broken apart from God. Why, though, does humanity insist on putting faith in God on hold until a) we see him or b) we feel him?

Topic B: How long does it take before you are found boasting in God? Discuss ways you have found to speak about God in your life? Listen to one another with encouragement to praise God more.

Topic C: Is fear and weakness reason to say nothing? Courageous people are not those who do amazing things but those who overcome their fears and weaknesses. It’s a sign of faith to testify of God’s goodness through Christ when we are personally convinced that this is the greatest news of all – especially in times when it is not easy to speak up.

Study 2 – 1 Corinthians 1:10-17

The Divided Church

Discussion Question

What is it that sets your church apart from other churches?


In the introduction to his letter, Paul praised God for calling the church in Corinth into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ their Lord. It is God who has given them every spiritual blessing in Christ. They are blameless in God’s sight and God is faithful to keep them firmly established in Christ until the day that Jesus is revealed.

You would be forgiven for thinking that this church then had it all together! If God is faithful and will bring them to eternity blameless, then what an amazing group of people they must have been! Well, the heart of the gospel and the message of the entire bible is that human beings are in a battle against selfish sin and this church was not quarantined from the effects of it. We see in this week’s reading that Paul has a matter to raise with them. Let’s allow the text to teach us what the issue was as well as the solution.

Read 1 Corinthians 1:10-17

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters,t in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

What did you see?


  • The appeal (10)
  • The accusation (11-12)
  • Let’s keep it about Jesus (13-17)
    • Am I Jesus? (13)
    • Was my mission to baptise? (14-16)
    • It’s not about me but about Christ crucified (17)

The appeal (10)

“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters…” The great apostle Paul uses reason to speak to this church and calls them his brothers and sisters. (The Greek word adelphoi is for brothers only but the implication is both genders. One major change with the NIV2011 version is the inclusion of both gender language.) Rather than ordering the church or demanding them to listen to him, he addresses them as equals and wants them to understand rather than simply obey. The Christian church must always have this type of approach to people. There is no room for leaders to appear superior or somehow more important than others. Christ died for the church and there is no hierarchy other than Christ as head and everyone else as the body. Pastors and teachers have gifts for this area but not in order to boss or demand obedience. Rather, we appeal to and exhort people to listen to the gospel and see how this gospel impacts all of life. Going deeper into the Christian faith is not about grand lessons but about seeing how all-impacting the gospel is.

“…in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…” Paul provides Jesus as the authority and the basis of his logic. To us, living in the 21st century and having 2000 years behind us developing the religions named after Jesus, this line from Paul may seem ordinary. But in the 1st century, this was paramount to preaching the gospel and declaring that there is no authority greater than the name of Jesus Christ. This is not old news but new news! There is only one name through whom we can be saved and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the reason we know we are blameless before God.

“…that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.” Let’s be careful not to put the cart before the horse on this one. Seamless unity is not the goal. Rather, it is the result from the church all loving the gospel, the cross of Christ, the headship of Jesus, the authority of the Holy Spirit through the word of God and so on. The flavour of our society at the moment is to strive for unity achieved by promoting individuality that does not impose on others. For example, as long as what you believe is your choice and not to be imposed on others, then you are accepted and welcome. Everyone will love and celebrate your decisions to be who you want to be as long as you are equally happy for others to express themselves in their own way. This is striving for unity for the sake of unity – not for the sake of truth and life. The gospel provides access to eternal truth that is open and available free of charge for everybody and everyone who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved AND in unity with all the brothers and sisters who have also been called by God. This is not dictatorship, rather, enjoying unity among all who have found the truth. The outworking of submission to Christ is the absence of divisions and unity in thought and mind. The church is not a political battle for strength and unity – it is established by Christ to be equal and all on board with growing in Christian maturity.

The church in Corinth had taken their eyes off the way they had been formed and were divided over method, quality of preaching, and who their allegiance was to…

The accusation (11-12)

“…some from Chloe’s household…” This name does not appear anywhere else in the New Testament and so we can only fill the missing information with assumptions. Obviously, Chloe is a person known by both the Corinthian church and Paul and who has been in contact with Paul.

“…informed me that there are quarrels among you.” I don’t think that it is gossip if Paul is confronting them directly about what he has heard. Rather than writing off the church or grumbling about how pathetic they are or whinging that Paul wished God had raised up a better bunch of people for him to lead, Paul has given thanks to God for what has been happening and addresses the accusations head on. He is ready to rebuke or correct what they are doing, which is what the bible is designed to do for us (2 Timothy 3:16).

“…quarrels among you.” Paul will later declare that this is the very nature and habit of unsaved people (1 Corinthians 3:3). He wrote in Romans to embrace relationships at all levels and not to quarrel over disputable things (Romans 14:1). He addressed quarrelling a number of times, always concluding that it was of no value and unprofitable since it does not produce growth in others, rather it ruins people (1 Tim 6:4; 2 Tim 2:14, 23; Titus 3:9). James, the brother of Jesus, blames selfish desires as the cause of quarrelling (James 4:1-2). Compare the negative view of quarrelling with the up front of Paul’s to appeal to his equals on the basis of the gospel.

“What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow…” another. “I follow…” Pauls’ discussion is not based on a feeling but on quotable facts that he has heard reported to him. This is the first place where the Corinthians can stop Paul and tell him that he has misheard. If Paul’s report is wrong, then they can dismiss what comes next. If they agree that he has heard correctly, then they must continue to listen to his appeal. The division hinges on the church taking team leaders and declaring themselves to be disciples of different groups.

“…Apollos…” Acts 18:24-19:1 give a great summary of the type of person Apollos was. From that we know, a) he was a genuine Christian, b) smart and well taught c) he spoke passionately d) had much to do with the Corinthians.

“…Cephas…” This is Aramaic for Peter and is clearly the Apostle Peter, formally known as Simon. John 1:42.

“…Paul…Apollos…Cephas…Christ…” Four extraordinary men to choose from as your object of admiration and inspiration! Each has some reason for loyalty – even Apollos is the local legend. It is not hard to name people in our day who are worth “following”. I love listening to John Piper, Tim Keller, as well as John Calvin and JC Ryle. Some of those are still living and some are dead. The issue is not that the church had found bad people to follow and the issue in this passage is not against any of those four. But Paul will go on to say that the amazing speakers of this world are all pointing us to Jesus – not themselves.

Paul may have been flattered to be listed in the report but he is deliberate to correct this misdirected loyalty.

Let’s keep it about Jesus (13-17)

“Is Christ divided?” This is a peculiar thing to say. But the required answer is “no”. So why create subdivisions of the Christian faith. We are one in Christ and it is his work and substitution that we celebrate. He did not do a partial work on the cross and then hand it over to the next legend to continue.

“…Was Paul crucified for you…” No leader of the faith can claim that! Church leaders need to watch that they never imagine themselves to be the reason that their church exists. Also, answer Paul’s question here and see what you get – No! But Jesus was crucified for…YOU! Our saviour died for you. Your minister never died for you! Jesus died for the minister of your church! Christ died for Paul!

“…were you baptised in the name of Paul?” No! Because Paul is not the reason for the community! See, baptism is about committing to the identity of a community – Paul ain’t it!

“I thank God that I did not baptise any of you except…” I love this little natural phrasing of Paul. Thank God! But he uses it in the true sense with no room for blaspheme. He knows that it has been a blessing for him that his “career” is not on baptising but on preaching the gospel. The least that can be said right here about baptism is that Paul is giving every reason to say you don’t need to be baptised to be saved! This was not his priority – but he didn’t avoid it either since he lists several names he remembers.

“For Christ did not send me to baptise…” So, the Great Commission commanded the disciples to go and baptise disciples. But the command was not to baptise but that when baptising, it is to be in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus was directing all future baptisms to be in his name and no other! Paul knew that his calling was to preach the gospel.

“…but to preach the gospel – not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” The power of the cross is the simple message and reason of the cross. Greeks look for wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:22) meaning that they look for some kind of powerful representation of truth. A beauty in the words expressed. They look for a strong narrative to get behind and celebrate. But Paul’s message is a crucified leader! His goal was to present the truth of the gospel so that God would call his people to the cross to be saved. The power of the cross is the redemption that it brings to all who believe. There are some people that you just don’t get into an argument with because they are so good with words. It doesn’t matter if they are wrong, because they present their argument so forcefully and persuasively. But the cross of Christ is where God’s justice, wrath, love and mercy all meet.

What did we learn?

Paul hopes to remind the church in Corinth that their identity and legend is the gospel itself. The Lord Jesus Christ was the one who was crucified and commanded that all who want redemption are to be baptised into His name and no other name. No church is built upon the legend of a sinner who needs saving. The one true, united church is the one that loves the Lord with all their heart. They are one in mind and thought because they are united under one sacrifice for sins, once for all.

Now what?

Topic A: The centrality of the gospel in Christian community. Every church that loses its way will show that at some point they lost sight of the cross of Christ. They added to it, subtracted from it, ignored it, got bored of it, undervalued it or misunderstood it. The point of church is to encourage and mature the saved in Christ and the way that you do that is to remind one another of the source of our salvation. We do that through song, preaching, teaching, and bringing every activity that we do in the church under the banner of our mission which is to be Christian community devoted to maturing in Christ for the glory of God.

Topic B: Disagreeing in order to agree. This passage illustrates the difference between quarrelling and disagreeing. Paul expressed his disagreement with the way that the church had begun to quarrel over who is right. Paul saw this as nonsense because the very issue they quarrelled over should have been the reason for unity. Paul’s method of disagreeing was to appeal as an equal and to present his case to them with examples and logic. Quarrelling, rather, results in factions and side-taking. As Paul and James point out, quarrelling does not come from a gospel heart but from an unconverted selfish mind (Romans 14:1; 1 Tim 6:4; 2 Tim 2:14, 23; Titus 3:9; James 4:1-2).

Topic C: Name some differences that could create division. There are different international preachers that we can declare allegiance to. The different styles of worship, ie, music and liturgy. Fine-lines of theology such as baptism, church eldership and the last days. Overemphasis on certain truths like “I am a Calvinist”, “I am an evangelist”, “I am about feeling faith”, or “I am a pragmatist.” Can you think of any other divisive things that exist only because the followers make them too important?

Study 1 – 1 Corinthians 1:1-9

The Faithful Work of God

Discussion Question

What makes a church great?


After Jesus’ death and resurrection, he commanded his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). The gospel started in Jerusalem and spread out into the world. One unexpected disciple was Saul who began as a persecutor of the church but was dramatically converted and became the greatest missionary the world has ever known. In Acts Chapter 18, we read of him preaching the gospel in the city of Corinth and, although there was great persecution there, he sowed the seeds of a church.

He now writes a letter to this church to encourage, correct, rebuke and train them in righteousness. Paul knew this church personally, having spent 18 months with them at the beginning, but has been absent as the church continued to grow in their knowledge of the gospel. Rather than predict what issues had arisen before reading the letter, it is sufficient to simply read the text and allow the story to unfold before us.

Read 1 Corinthians 1:1-9

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,

2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours:

3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

4 I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5 For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—6 God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8 He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

What did you see?


  • From Paul via God (1-3)
    • Who is the writer? (1)
    • Who are the readers? (2)
    • A relationship made in heaven (3)
  • Evidence of God’s work in them (4-6)
  • Confidence in God’s faithfulness (7-9)

From Paul via God (1-3)

“…called to be an apostle” Paul did not climb the ladder seeking to be a world-wide missionary for God – he was called. Paul (FKA Saul) was miraculously reborn on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). Paul began many letters with this credential because he does not speak from human philosophy or religion but as a servant of Christ Jesus (Romans 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:1). See Galatians 1:1 and 2:8.

Apostle” means messenger – someone commissioned by another to represent him in some way. Like every word in the bible, it is just a word but when used in context, it refers to those commissioned by God through Christ to represent Christ in the world.

“…and our brother Sosthenes…” This is the same synagogue leader who was beaten by fellow Jews for allowing Paul to preach in his synagogue. The beatings did not stop him from being a follower of Jesus! See Acts 18:12-17. What a glorious picture of a man who will choose truth over earthly protection. He, like Paul, had given up everything to serve the gospel of our LORD.

To the church of God…” The letter is addressed to a brotherhood of believers meeting in Corinth. They are…

“…sanctified in Christ…” ie, made holy in Christ. This is not to be overlooked as we begin a journey through 1 Corinthians. They are not a church becoming holy but a church that IS holy in Christ. That is, for all who call upon the name of Jesus, they are saved, redeemed and made righteous in the eyes of the LORD. Paul expands on this later in these first 9 verses.

…called to be his holy people…” As holy people in Christ, they are called to be holy! We are not saved in order to return to our old selves. Sanctification is a now and progressing language in the bible. We cannot progress TO holy without being MADE holy by grace. And we must not remain in sin once we have been called out of it!

…together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ – their Lord and ours…” The gospel is the gospel no matter where you go. There is only one way to be saved and it is through Jesus Christ. Likewise, there is no super church anywhere that has better access or higher knowledge than any other church of God anywhere in the world. An illiterate man saved by God is just as sanctified as a multi published theologian. As God has called us to be holy, we call on the name of the Lord to be saved (Gen 4:26; 12:8; 13:4; 21:33; 26:25; 1 Kings 18:24; Psalm 116:4; Joel 2:32; Zephaniah 3:9; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13). Calling on the name of the LORD is a sign that you are putting your trust and hope in Him – it is a way of describing faith. This is not a personal invite to the Corinthians but an invitation to the whole world to call on Jesus to be saved.

…Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” At the end of this first section, which is the announcement of who is writing to who – we see the reason the letter is being written. Namely, that because of God, this relationship exists. Without God, who is Paul and who are the people in Corinth? Both are nobody! Neither is anybody. Both those sentences are true! Paul’s authority comes from Christ to write to them; the people’s assembly is in the name of Jesus, otherwise it would not be a church of God made holy in Christ; and the relationship that exists is on the basis of grace and peace that only God the Father through Christ the Son can have achieved! Church exists because of the grace of God and the peace of God. Outside of this dome of truth, Paul is a nobody to these people and why should they care to listen further?

Evidence of God’s work in them (4-6)

I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.” Paul was a prayer. His letters are filled with the prayers that he offered up for the church. An excellent book by Don Carson called “A Call to Spiritual Reformation” takes the prayers of Paul in the Scriptures to show us the heart of a faithful prayer praying the mind of God for the church. The simple reason for Paul’s thankfulness for the church in Corinth is for the gospel of Jesus being effective among them. He doesn’t praise them for what he hears. He thanks God for what he has heard. And he doesn’t praise the Corinthians for being anything but he praises Christ for his grace reaching the church in Corinth! Paul is thankful that his grace is at work in Corinth. The church is not brilliant apart from the grace of God.

For…” because – and here is the proof…

“…in [Christ] you have been enriched in every way…” Their speech and their knowledge are examples of how they have been enriched but notice that their deposit book is filled already with the grace of God. They have been fully enriched. There is no lacking area of investment yet to be accessed and deposited. The church may be boastful about their speech and their knowledge, but Paul reminds them that this is from God. So don’t get cocky.

“…God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you.” This appears to be Paul saying that they are showing signs of the gospel taking root in their lives. The confirmation of salvation is in their conduct and enriched lives of faith. In other words, Paul came and told them about Jesus (his testimony about Christ), and God confirms the testimony about Jesus by bearing fruit in the lives of the Corinthians.

Confidence in God’s faithfulness (7-9)

Therefore…” and so. It follows, that since God has blessed you and enriched you fully…

…you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.” Firstly, what we do now that we are saved is wait for the return of Christ. We have been living in the last days since the resurrection and ascension. Secondly, there is no second blessing. God has saved the church by bringing the testimony of Jesus to them and the evidence of conversion is in the way that the church talks about God and Christ and faith. There is not second blessing of the holy spirit to await, no special gift that we need to beg God to bring to seal the deal. The church in Corinth have every page in their Kingdom of God passport stamped already – and each was a free gift of grace through Christ.

He will also keep you firm to the end…” A promise of God to the saved. Not only is there no second blessing, but there is also no higher order of working hard to stay saved. Those called by God will be kept safe by God. That is why it is called grace. Be careful of who we might call ‘strong Christians’ since God has promised to keep all of his little ones safe.

…so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul said in Colossians 2:6-7 that we grow up in Christ be sticking with him. We are made righteous by Christ and we will be kept righteous by Christ on the last day. This is God’s promise. NB that it is called the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. A day when all will see him as Lord of all.

God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” See how Paul is on point here? He has begun the letter describing the church of God in Corinth as sanctified, called to be holy, made holy by Jesus, given everything they need for salvation and sanctification and reminded that God will continue the work that he begun in them till the end. They have no reason to boast in themselves and every reason to give thanks and praise to God for his grace shown to them in Christ Jesus.

What did we learn?

See Verse 9!

Now what?

Topic A: Getting grace right. Christianity 101 is about the grace of God. Can you explain God’s grace with ease? What issues arise when you try to explain it? Discuss.

Topic B: Prayer as faith speaking. Although this passage is not about prayer at the heart, it shows the natural flow of Paul giving thanks to God for what he sees happening in the church. Prayer has been described as ‘talking to God’. But real prayer is much more than that because it flows out of a relationship and true knowledge of God. We pray the very things that God has promised to answer and out of thankfulness for everything we see that God is doing. Prayer is faith speaking. What we pray for is a reflection of our knowledge and trust in God.

Topic C: What is church? Discuss what we can say of church from this passage. Are we able to correct or train our thinking about church because of this passage? For example, church is not about rosters or watered grounds, or a 75 minute meeting once a week. What is church then?