1. Introduction: Greetings
Author: Apostle Paul from Ephesus in Asia Minor (Turkey
Receiver: church of Corinth in Greece, and saints
The Corinthian Church is a church that has similar
characteristics as the church of our times:
situated in a cosmopolitan city, with members from
different economic, ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
blessed with material prosperity and abundance of
characterized by the accommodation of the gospel
to the surrounding culture in many ways such as the strident individualism
that emerges in so many of their behavioral aberrations.
plagued by many serious problems: divisions among
members, emphasis of human wisdom, lack of disciplinary action toward sin,
abuse of Christian liberty, misuse of spiritual gifts, misunderstanding
The letter is the result of a conflict between Paul
and the Corinthian church, as evidenced from Paul's language and style
which is often rhetorical and combative. The contention is over:
(a) Paul's authority and (b) his teaching on what it means to be "spiritual".
The doubt is whether he is truly an apostle because:
Corinthians think of their new faith in terms of
wisdom (partially a result of Apollos' ministry) (ch.1-2) and consider
Paul's gospel as milk for babes (ch.3).
They reject Paul's prohibition of idol feasts (ch.10)
because they thought he was inconsistent by eating meat from the market
They question why Paul did not accept patronage from
them (ch.9), thus doubting whether Paul thought himself unworthy (i.e.
not an apostle) (ch.4) and rejecting his authority.
The Corinthians have different beliefs about "spirituality"
(i.e. what is regarded as spiritual):
emphasize gift of tongues (tongues as language of
emphasize wisdom and knowledge (ch.1-2), believe
their own spiritual superiority
have "spiritual" understanding of sacraments (ch.11):
that one who has been baptized and partakes of the spiritual food finds
security irrespective of behaviour
have dim view of the body (from Hellenistic dualism
and from an over-realized eschatology): they believe of living already
as angels, thus the body is insignificant, thus denying bodily resurrection
(ch.15), denying sexual relations within marriage (ch.7), at the same time
affirming that moral laxity is unimportant (ch.5-6)
Context: This passage follows the typical letter
format of the day, beginning with greetings (1:1-3) and then thanksgiving
(1:4-9). Paul thanks God for the blessings of spiritual gifts and
knowledge to the Corinthians -- exactly the same things that cause Paul's
grief. But he knows that the problem lies not in the gifts but in
their attitude toward these gifts.
Paul asserts his authority based on: (a) divine
call, (b) divine origin "by the will of God",
(c) nature of his vocation as "apostle of Jesus
Christ". Sosthenes is possibly the ruler of the
synagogue mentioned in Ac 18:17. In this
letter, Paul uses "I" indicating he is the sole author,
different from 1Th and 2Th where Paul uses "we"
(including Silas and Timothy).
"sanctified" -- set apart for God; "holiness"
-- observable behaviour
Traditional greeting word among Greeks (Greek
chairein or greeting) becomes grace (Greek
charis) indicating God's activity towards
man. Traditional greeting word among Jews (Hebrew
shalom or peace) means well-being and
wholeness, indicating benefits from God.
"grace" (Greek charis) and "gift" (Greek
charisma) -- closely associated and are given by God,
thus no grounds for boasting.
"speaking" (Greek logos) -- "spiritual
utterance" in ch.12-14 including tongues, prophecy;
"knowledge" (Greek gnosis) -- prophetic
revelation (same two Greek words used in 12:8); "you
have been enriched" -- used to remind them that
they are from God.
Paul uses "wait" and "keep you strong" to remind
them that the end time has not yet arrived (in
contrast to their inaccurate eschatology).
The "already/not yet" motif is common in the biblical
perspective. In Mt 28:18, "all authorities"
are in Jesus' hands de jure (in law, by right, or in
principle) but they will ultimately be exercised
de facto (in fact) in the future.
Why did Paul use "grace and peace" for greetings
in all his 13 letters in the New Testament?
greetings for both the Jews and the gentiles: sensitive
to cultural differences, showing concernfor all people
focus on God: his activity and his blessing
What is the proper attitude towards others in church
with different opinions?
General principle: "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials,
liberty; in all things, charity"
While exhortations and discipline are sometimes needed,
everything must be done out of love.
Emphasize our unity of common foundation in Christ,
common objective, and common destiny. ("Christ" used 9 times and "our"
used 7 times in this passage)
Remember how evil is gaining influence on non-Christians
as well as Christians in the world today, how can we waste our energy to
fight among ourselves?
Use loving words even in dispute. When we must
correct others, it helps to begin by affirming what God has already accomplished
Unity in Christ is our basis of love.