1 Corinthians 1

SUMMARY 1 Cor. 1:1 - 1:31
I. v1-3 Greetings
  • A. Paul greets the Corinthian church
  • B. Emphasis on being called by God
II. v1-9 Recognizing Gifts
Paul rejoices that the Corinthians have been given gifts of speech and knowledge.
  • A. Their “enriching” is for the purpose of waiting for Jesus
  • B. Strengthen them to be blameless
III. v10-17 Division
Paul notes there are divisions, different camps following different “heroes” or thinking.
  • A. He won’t take part in them.
  • B. The divisions seem to fall along debates about speech and knowledge, and wisdom, which are prominent in later verses.
IV. v18-25 Earthly wisdom vs. God’s wisdom
Paul explains their thinking is misplaced: it’s backwards.
  • A. The world can’t know God through wisdom
  • B. “Christ crucified” is the power and wisdom of God
  • ------1) Stumbling block to Jews
  • ------2) Foolishness to Greeks.
  • ------3) This suggests to us how the Corinthians were reasoning.
V. v26-31 The Corinthians were low to shame the world.
He points out they were weak when chosen by God.
  • A. Despite their reasoning now, the Corinthians were weak when called.
  • B. This call to many lowborn people
  • ------1) It's how God shames world’s strength
  • ------2) Means the only boasting is in God’s work through Christ.

We discussed how from the beginning of the book Paul is concerned about the Corinthian preoccupation with wisdom and knowledge. It seems people are creating factions and groups, -we called them “country clubs,” to make themselves feel stronger, important, more "right" than everybody else in an effort to be noteworthy. Paul demonstrates their thinking is flawed and doesn’t recognize that God’s power is different: it comes amidst weakness and shame, from the “low and despised in the world,” and ultimately from Christ crucified. In application we considered how our own insecurities lead us to create factions and images to feel strong and powerful instead of relying of Christ. More particularly, we discussed how feeling that we have nothing to give or offer leads to such “image-building” and grasping for a powerful identity.

For further reflection:
These are just that- further tendrils to consider. As such, they don’t necessarily represent our discussions or suggest a primary application, though they could. They’re just some further food for thought.

1. A clear note sounded in the passage is the connection between the search for wisdom and power. There's a lot that could be said here. In the search for rhetoric and teaching, the church is divided up and it’s a powerful portrait of how the “low born” Corinthians so quickly grasped for worldly power; for acclaim, prestige and privilege, -to be established in some public sense, even in church. It’s worth asking, “How does a sense of being ‘low-born’ contribute to our own grasping for status and power in church and all of our lives?”

There is also an implicit critique of culture. In 1 Corinthians it is a critique of the Greco-Roman search for wisdom in rhetoric and presentation, but Paul critiques their cultural assumptions precisely at the point where they lead to grasping power and seeking status instead of leading to a crucified Christ. In this sense, all cultures are judged. What is a redeemed role for culture? How might it lead us to Christ either generally or specifically in different cultures?

2. Paul’s statement that “the world through its wisdom did not come to know God,” is a pretty direct assault on the effectiveness of natural revelation, that is, the ability of the world around us to reveal God to us. According to Paul, it was part of God’s plan that the wisdom of the world would be mute. This has some far-reaching implications- like the end of apologetics. Not the end of explaining the faith, but the end of using natural sciences to give an account of God and justify belief in Him. How can one prove the resurrection of Christ? It was supernatural. There are not tools of science available to us to prove such a thing. It might be argued that the Intelligent Design crowd is ignoring Paul’s instruction here and it also dismisses the God-of-the-Gaps idea, that God is just the term to explain things we can’t.

It should also, I think, temper a lot of Christian arrogance about the “truth” since we are all in the same boat, condemned to the same natural world, apart from where the Spirit reveals Christ. Further, it removes natural processes from determining who we are: the natural world is not our guideline nor is it our blueprint. Paul’s teaching here frees us from the tyranny of “that’s just the way it is,” and the slow death that comes from of understanding the church’s survival as founded on natural, scientific (read: business) practices.


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