Here is the outline for this week’s reading, with some comments:

1 CORINTHIANS  1:1-9 Opening: God’s Calling

1:1-3 Greeting:  By now you are becoming familiar with the way Paul’s letters typically open. For more about Sosthenes see Acts 18:17.

1:4-9 Thanksgiving: Paul touches here on some of the major topics to which he will return latter in this letter.

1:10-4: 21  Baptized into Christ: The Power and Wisdom of God

1:10-17 The Problem

1:18-2:16 Discourse on Divine Wisdom

1:18-2:5 The Wisdom of God , the Wisdom of the World : Notice how Paul in the previous verses, while encouraging unity, foolishness and weakness also manages to carefully support his claim to have apostolic authority.

2:6-16 Wisdom for the Mature : Paul contrasts the wisdom prized by the world- eloquence and what one is taught to the wisdom of God, hidden, received in relationship with the Spirit.

3:1-23 Rhetorical Proofs : In this section Paul  gives proofs for his argument in 1:10- 4:21

v1-4 introduction: This connects back to what Paul has just discussed Spiritual wisdom with the Corinthian problem of divisions, jealousy and strife.

v5-9 Paul and Apollos: working in a common field

v10-17 Community: Building a common building

v18-23 summation: wisdom, unity found in Christ. Notice how Paul brings all that he has discussed so far into these few verses.

4:1-21 Paul’s Authority : an argument for unity under Paul’s spiritual authority

V7 contains three rhetorical questions which are followed by three ironic statements in v8a.

v10-13 an apostle’s life is the ironic opposite of the previous verses. Paul exaggerates here to make his point.

v14 – 21 Paul changes his tone and shifts his argument. All apostles are servants of Christ but Paul is the father of the Corinthian church and worthy of imitation. In the ancient world, imitation of father figures was a common and expected practice.

5:1-6:20 Disorders in Corinth

5:1-13 Association with Immoral Members:

v 1-5 Both Jewish and Roman Law forbade such a marriage. One wonders why the Corinthians allowed this relationship to continue in the church. One commentator suggests that the answer might reside in two Jewish beliefs. First was the idea that converts are like newborns, ( see 2 Cor 5:17 where Paul refers to believers as “new creations”.). Similarly there was the belief that a convert’s previous social relationships no longer existed. So, in theory at least, the rules of incest and marriage no longer apply. However, the Rabbis only applied this rule with respect to pagan laws. Perhaps the Corinthians reasoned that in their new life as Christians the old pagan rules no longer applied.

v 6-8  Paul corrects that thinking, by stating that this situation is a remnant of old behavior which must be removed. (v7 and 8 allude to the practice of removing all leaven from a house before the Passover feast. )

v 9 Suggests that the Corinthians misunderstood Paul in an earlier letter. The admonition to avoid the sexually immoral did not mean to avoid the immoral in the non Christian world, but rather with the Christian community.

A prayer from Origen (c. 185 – c. 254) an early church father from Alexandria, for your use as you read 1 Thessalonians.

Lord, inspire us to read your Scriptures and meditate upon them day and night. We beg you to give us real understanding of what we need, that we in turn may put its precepts into practice. Yet we know that understanding and good intentions are worthless, unless rooted in your graceful love. So we ask that the words of Scriptures may also be not just signs on a page, but channels of grace into our hearts. Amen.

Read More About It

Johnson, Luke Timothy, The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation, rev. ed. (Minneapolis:Fortress Press) 1999. Chapter 12 “The Corinthian Correspondence”.

Knox, John, John Reumann “I Corinthians” in  The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Bruce M. Metzger, Roland E. Murphy eds. (New York: Oxford University Press) 1994.

Schussler Fiorenza, Elisabeth “1 Corinthians” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary, rev. ed.James L Mays, ed. (New York: Society of Bible Literature) 2000.


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