Servants of Christ
An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians
The translated Bible text has been through Advanced Checking.
Words in boxes are from the Bible.
A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.
Corinth was an important city. It was on a very narrow section of land (called an ‘isthmus’) in the southern part of Greece.
1. It was the capital city of the region called Achaia.
2. It had two harbours. The harbour on the east coast was 4 miles (6 km) from the harbour on the west coast. Today a canal joins the two harbours. In Paul’s time, people pulled small boats across from one harbour to the other one. They dragged them on a kind of ship railway. Porters carried goods from large boats to the other side. They put the goods on a different boat. The journey would otherwise have been over two hundred miles round a very dangerous part of the sea.
3. As it was a busy centre for trade, Corinth was a good place for the *gospel to spread. Merchants and travellers would hear the message and take it with them. There were many different people in Corinth. There were *Romans because it was a *Roman colony. (A colony is a city or country that another country controls.) There were Greeks, *Jews, people from Asia and from further east. There were rich people and many slaves.
4. There was a *temple to Aphrodite, the Greek female god of love. There were thousands of *prostitutes in the city. Many of them belonged to this *temple. Corinth became well-known for bad *sexual behaviour. To live ‘like a Corinthian’ meant to become a drunk often or to visit *prostitutes.
5. The Isthmian Games took place near Corinth. They were famous and only second in importance to the Olympic Games.
On his second journey to take people the good news about Jesus, Paul arrived in Corinth from Athens. He had only very little success in Athens and he did not stay there for very long. But he stayed in Corinth for 18 months. He spent longer there than in any other city apart from Ephesus. He stayed with Aquila and Priscilla, who were tent makers like himself. He *preached first in the *synagogue. When the *Jews opposed him, he used the home of Titius Justus. Titius Justus lived next door to the *synagogue. Paul *preached very successfully. Crispus, the ruler of the *synagogue, became a Christian. When a new *Roman ruler arrived, the *Jews took Paul to him. They said that Paul was teaching ‘against the law’. But the ruler refused to listen to the *Jews. This happened in about AD 51. Paul later went to Syria.
1. The ‘previous’ letter. Paul said, ‘I wrote you a letter. In that letter, I told you to have nothing to do with men with bad character’ (1 Corinthians 5:9). This letter is either lost or it may be in 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1.
2. 1 Corinthians. When Paul was in Ephesus, he received news about troubles in the church at Corinth. This news came from people who were living in Chloe’s house (1 Corinthians 1:11), and from Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus (1 Corinthians 16:17). A letter also came from the Christians in Corinth. They asked for Paul’s advice about various problems. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians.
3. The second ‘painful’ visit. Paul heard that problems in Corinth were worse. So he made a second visit. There is no record about this. But Paul writes about when he visited Corinth for the ‘third’ time (2 Corinthians 12:14; 13:1-2). So there must have been a second visit.
4. The ‘severe’ letter. Paul’s visit was not successful. So he wrote a letter when he was feeling very hurt (2 Corinthians 2:4). He was almost sorry that he had sent it. Some writers believe that chapters 10-13 in 2 Corinthians are the ‘severe’ letter.
5. The letter to show that the Christians at Corinth and Paul were friends again. Paul was so worried about his ‘severe’ letter that he went to meet Titus. Titus had taken the severe letter to Corinth. Paul met Titus in Macedonia and learned that all was well. So, he wrote chapters 1-9 in 2 Corinthians. It is possible that someone put the severe letter and the next letter together in the wrong order.
1:1-9 ~ Greetings and *thanksgiving
1:10–4:21 ~ Quarrels about leaders in the church
5:1-13; 6:9-20 ~ Bad *sexual behaviour
6:1-8 ~ Christians at the law courts
7:1-40 ~ Marriage
8:1-11:1 ~ Meat that people have offered to *idols
11:2-34 ~ Problems in Christian *worship
12:1-31 ~ *Spiritual gifts
13:1-13 ~ Love
14:1-40 ~ *Prophecy and tongues
15:1-58 ~ *Resurrection
16:1-24 ~ Money for Jerusalem; Paul’s plans and greetings
Verse 1 ‘Christ’ is the Greek word for *Messiah. It means the king that God would send to his people. Paul emphasises that he is an *apostle because of God’s plan. He describes himself in this way in other letters. But it was important for him to state his authority to the Christians at Corinth. Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:1-23 show that some Christians at Corinth doubted whether he was an *apostle. They doubted his right to tell them the truth and to give them advice.
Sosthenes may have been the same person as the ruler of the *synagogue in Corinth. People had hit him in front of the ruler Gallio (Acts 18:12-17). Sosthenes had become a Christian and he had travelled with Paul to Ephesus. He may have acted as Paul’s secretary. Paul calls him ‘our *brother’. So, the Christians at Corinth must have known him.
Verse 2 Paul had written to the church ‘of the people in Thessalonica’. Here he speaks about the ‘church of God’ in Corinth. Paul did not want the Christians at Corinth to feel proud about themselves. So, he reminds them that the church belongs to God. They are like God’s field, God’s building and God’s workers (3:9).
The Greek word for ‘church’ is ‘ecclesia’. It means the people whom God ‘called out’ to be his own people. Their behaviour must be different from the way many Christians at Corinth were behaving. God has made them ‘holy’ because they trusted Christ. Paul says to them what he has said to Christians everywhere. The Christians at Corinth are only one part of God’s church.
Verse 3 Paul does not use the usual greetings that began and ended letters. He prays that they will know peace. This peace comes as people know the *grace of God. *Grace is God’s love that they do not deserve. And they cannot earn God’s love. God has shown his love by Jesus. When they know that love, they will feel safe. God has forgiven them. So they will have inner peace.
Paul here unites Jesus Christ with God the Father. Jesus really is God. And Jesus works with God the Father to *save his people.
Verses 4-7 Paul thanks God because they have accepted *salvation as God’s gift. And that gift comes by Jesus Christ. Paul speaks about God’s *spiritual gifts to the Christians at Corinth. He mentions how they speak. And he mentions how they understand. The letter shows that the Christians at Corinth had become very proud of these gifts. Paul writes about understanding or knowledge in chapter 8 and ‘speech’ in chapter 14. Here, he says that their gifts show that they have believed the good news about Jesus. The words ‘*grace’ and ‘gift’ show that they have no right to praise themselves.
Verses 8-9 Paul also reminds the Christians at Corinth that God will keep their *faith strong. He will do so until Christ returns. God has chosen them to share Christ’s life.
Verses 10-11 Paul uses the word ‘*brothers’ twice. He speaks as one who loves them. They should love each other, because they are Christian *brothers and *sisters. They belong to the same *spiritual family. God is their father.
‘In complete agreement’ translates a medical word. It is about a way to join bones together that are broken. So, they must mend the broken unity of the church. Then the ‘body’ of the church will be healthy.
Chloe may have been a business woman whose servants had travelled from Ephesus to Corinth. They had brought back news about the quarrels in the church at Corinth.
Verse 12 Paul speaks about four groups:
1. Those who used Paul’s name. They may have been *Gentiles. They were perhaps using Paul’s teaching about Christian freedom as an excuse to behave badly. One group liked Paul. But other people opposed him.
2. Those who used Apollos’s name. Apollos was a *Jew from Alexandria. He knew the *Scriptures and he could speak very confidently. He had visited Ephesus. Aquila and Priscilla had taught him more about the Christian *faith. The Christians in Ephesus then encouraged him to go to Corinth. There he was very successful when he *preached the *gospel (Acts 18:24-28).
3. Those who used Peter’s name. We do not know whether Peter ever visited Corinth. But the people there knew that he travelled with his wife (1 Corinthians 9:5). His supporters probably said that he had been the leader of the 12 *apostles whom Jesus chose. Jesus had called him a ‘rock’. Jesus had made a special *resurrection appearance to him (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5).
4. Those who used Christ’s name. Those people probably said that they were the only real Christians in Corinth. But the words may be Paul’s own remark about the situation. ‘I, Paul, belong to Christ’.
Verses 13-16 Paul uses the word ‘Christ’. He wants to make the Christians at Corinth understand about the church. It is like Christ’s body in the world. The church cannot act as Christ’s body if it is in pieces. A body in pieces is not alive.
Only a few people could say that Paul had *baptised them. Crispus had been the ruler of the *synagogue in Corinth (Acts 18:8). Gaius must have had a large house. He could be Paul’s host and welcome ‘the whole church’ (Romans 16:23). As he wrote, Paul remembered Stephanas. He was the first person to become a Christian when Paul came to Corinth (1 Corinthians 16:15, 17). But Paul could not remember anyone else that he had *baptised. He did not want anyone to think that a person had decided to belong to him. *Baptism was not ‘in his name’, but ‘into the name of Jesus’.
Verse 17 Paul’s work was to *preach the *gospel. Who *baptised whom was not the most important point. It was important for the Christians at Corinth to know the real nature of the *gospel. The message was simple. Christ died on the *cross. To speak with clever words and ideas would attract attention to the speaker. Then the message of the *crucifixion would lose its power to *save people.
Verses 18-21 The world considers that some people are wise. But these wise people cannot use their human wisdom to understand God’s ways. They think that the message about a *crucified *Messiah is foolish. They want God to act in ways that seem wise and powerful to them. But God *saves those who are willing to trust him.
Verses 22-23 The *Jews thought that the idea of a *crucified *Messiah was an insult to God. The *Romans *crucified only slaves and dangerous criminals. And the *Jews believed that anyone who hung on a tree as a punishment would suffer God’s anger (Deuteronomy 21:23). They did not think that the message in Isaiah 53 was about someone who would suffer for other people.
The *Jews also expected wonderful signs when the *Messiah came. In the past, God had done wonderful *miracles for their nation. So they expected him to perform even greater *miracles by his *Messiah. Therefore the *Jews kept on asking Jesus for a sign to ‘prove’ that he was the *Messiah. But he refused (Matthew 12:38-39; John 6:30).
The Greeks thought that God does not feel human emotions. And they thought that he cannot change. Therefore, God could not become a man on earth. The idea that ‘the word became a *physical person’ (John 1:14) was impossible. The Greeks also liked to discuss ideas. And they liked to speak in clever ways. The message about the *gospel was simple. Paul *preached it in plain words. A *crucified God seemed to be the mad idea of people with little education.
Verses 24-25 But God’s plan was to *save all those who believe in Christ. No human wisdom or great effort can bring anyone into a friendship with God. *Sin has spoiled that friendship. However, Christ’s death on the *cross was not ‘foolish’ and ‘weak’. ‘God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. His ways are not our ways’ (Isaiah 55:8-9). The *crucifixion was a sign of God’s wisdom and power. They are greater than any wise efforts that people can make.
Verse 26 Paul reminds them that the church in Corinth has only a few important members. A few of them had more important places in society. Crispus had been the ruler of the *synagogue (Acts 18:8). Erastus was an official in the city (Romans 16:23). Gaius had a large enough house to act as host to Paul and other Christians (Romans 16:23). But many of the Christians were slaves. Some of them had once been slaves. Other Christians were ordinary workers.
Verses 27-29 Slaves had no rights. They were ‘things’ that their owners could use as tools. They were ‘nothings’ until the Christian *faith made them into persons. Then they gained respect. God chose people like these. He did this to show that he had defeated the world’s false ways to think. God does not depend on what people can offer him. Everyone needs God’s forgiveness. No one can be satisfied with himself in front of God.
Verse 30 God has acted by his Son. Jesus Christ’s death on the *cross is God’s wise plan. So those who believe accept God’s plan. By the *cross, Jesus sets us free from the *sin in our past. He makes us right with God. He helps us to live in a holy way.
Verse 31 Therefore what Jeremiah wrote (Jeremiah 9:24) is true. No one has any reason to *boast about himself. He should only be proud about what God has done.
Verses 1-2 Paul calls the Christians his ‘*brothers and *sisters’ because they are all in God’s family. Paul decided that in Corinth he would only use plain words. His ‘foolish’ message would be about Jesus’ death on the *cross. There may be two reasons for this decision:
1. Paul had come from Athens. There he had explained his message in a way that used philosophy. And he referred to Greek writers (Acts 17:22-34). But only a few people had become Christians.
2. Some people in Corinth were disappointed about the way that Paul *preached: ‘His words amount to nothing’ (2 Corinthians 10:10). Paul knew that clever words might attract attention to the speaker rather than to his message.
Verse 3 He said that he was ‘weak’. He may have meant a *physical weakness. We know that he had a problem of some kind. It made him suffer (2 Corinthians 12:7). He may have been emphasising that his message was about the ‘weakness’ of God (1:25). He was afraid and trembled. Paul did not fear for his own safety. He was anxious to carry out his work well. He probably thought about the enormous task to *preach the *gospel in a city like Corinth. Its people came from many countries. There were many gods. Everyone knew about the bad behaviour of those who lived in the city. Paul would tremble as he thought about all these problems.
Verses 4-5 Paul’s plain words had results. The *Holy Spirit’s power convinced people that the message was true. People changed and became Christians. The *Holy Spirit also showed his power in the gifts that he gave to the Christians at Corinth.
Verse 6 Those who had become Christians would know the main facts about the *gospel. These facts were that Jesus died and became alive again. God forgives those who trust Jesus. But Paul could teach more about God’s wise plans to those whose *faith was strong. Some people thought that they were wise. But Paul was not talking about their kind of wisdom. Their wisdom would have no results.
Verse 7 Paul was speaking about the way that God had planned to *save his people. God planned it, even before the beginning of the world. God’s plan was that people should finally share in the wonderful life of heaven. God’s plan was ‘secret’. Only humble people can understand what God has shown us by Jesus.
Verse 8 People cannot understand by an effort of their minds. That is why the rulers could not understand that Jesus was the *Lord. So they *crucified him. But those who love God will receive *blessings from him. Those *blessings are impossible to imagine. Paul used a verse that comes in part from Isaiah 64:4.
Verses 10-12 No one can know what another person is thinking. No one can know God’s thoughts except God himself. God’s *Spirit knows them. And he can lead us to know God. God’s people have received God’s *Spirit. So they can understand his plan to rescue people by the *crucifixion of Jesus.
Verse 13 Paul says that his message comes from the Holy *Spirit. The Holy *Spirit taught Paul what to say.
Verse 14 The person who lives only for the things in the *physical world cannot understand *spiritual things. He cannot understand *spiritual truths. They seem foolish to him. He needs God’s *Holy Spirit. The *Holy Spirit will help him to understand God’s ideas.
Verse 15 Those without the *Holy Spirit cannot understand those with the Holy Spirit. The person with the Holy Spirit belongs the present age. But that person belongs to the future age as well. With the *Holy Spirit’s help, he can understand how to make decisions about right and wrong actions. He can understand what is wicked. But a person who thinks only about his present life cannot understand anything holy. For example, a greedy person cannot understand how to be generous. The person without the *Holy Spirit cannot judge the person who has the *Holy Spirit. He will not understand the way that a *spiritual person thinks.
Verse 16 Paul says that ‘we’ have the mind of Christ. So he includes himself with the Christians at Corinth. So they understand Christ’s thoughts. But Paul would talk next about the quarrels of the Christians at Corinth. And he would talk about the fact that they were so satisfied with themselves. These things showed that they had not completely understood ‘the mind of Christ’. Christ had made himself humble in order to do what God wanted. He was the servant who obeyed God (Philippians 2:1-5).
Verses 1-2 The Christians at Corinth were not behaving as if the *Holy Spirit was guiding them. They were acting in the same ways as people who thought only about their *physical nature. Paul could not give them the kind of teaching that was like solid food. They were still behaving like babies.
Verses 3-4 The Christians at Corinth were acting as if they were no different from non-Christians (people who were not Christians). Some were jealous. Perhaps they were jealous of the wealth or social position of other people. They quarrelled about which leader they belonged to.
Verses 5-9 Paul spoke about himself and Apollos as servants. There was no quarrel between him and Apollos. Each man did his job as together they brought people to believe the Christian *faith. They were like farmers. Paul planted the ‘seed’ of the *gospel when he *preached. Apollos helped. He was like someone who waters seed. But only God could make it grow. God is the only one who is important. Neither Paul nor Apollos was important. Each man had his work to do, and God would reward him. God uses people to work together with him. Paul and Apollos were servants who were working for the same master. The Christians at Corinth were like a field in which God was working. They were also like a building.
Verse 10 Paul worked for 18 months in Corinth (Acts 18:11). He spent three years in Ephesus (Acts 20:31). Usually he stayed in a city for a much shorter time. But wherever he went, he laid the same *foundation. He told the facts about Jesus Christ. He let other people continue God’s work and help the church to grow.
Verses 11-12 Jesus Christ alone is the *foundation of a Christian church. Those who help it to grow must make sure that their work will last. Then it will be as valuable as precious metals or stones. Wood, hay and straw are Paul’s picture language for weak efforts that do not last.
Verses 13-15 Fire can test how pure a metal is. Fire can also destroy. God’s judgement is like fire. On the day when Christ returns, God will judge the value of each person’s work. He will reward those whose work was valuable. God will destroy what has no value. The bad builder will only escape God’s judgement like someone who just escapes from a fire. The bad builder will not lose his *salvation. But he will not receive much reward in heaven.
Verses 16-17 Paul uses the words ‘You should know’ ten times in this letter, and only once in other letters (Romans 6:16). The Christians at Corinth were very proud about their ‘knowledge’. But they had not really understood the nature of the Christian church.
There were many *temples in Corinth. They all had *idols but none of them contained a real god. The Christians in Corinth had God among them by means of his *Holy Spirit. Therefore they were like a *temple. Because there is only one God, there was only one true *temple in Corinth. The *spiritual *temple of Christians existed to show that the only real God is holy. But the bad behaviour of the Christians at Corinth was stopping the work of the *Holy Spirit. Their jealous quarrels were destroying God’s work. The Christian church was becoming like a weak building. God would punish those who were destroying his church. Paul does not say how God would punish them. But he is probably thinking about the day of judgement.
Verses 18-20 Some people thought that they were wise. Paul repeats what he had already said about those people. In 1:18-25, he said that people thought that God’s wise actions were foolish. Some people were proud about their wisdom. But God thinks that those people are foolish. If they want to be really wise, the Christians at Corinth must become ‘fools’. That is, they must become humble. Paul uses two verses from the *Old Testament to show that his words are true. In Job 5:13, there is the picture of someone whom God has caught in a trap. The Christians at Corinth think that they are like a clever person. But God has shown that they are foolish. They are as foolish as an animal that someone has caught in a trap. They do not realise that they will destroy themselves. (Esther 5:12-14; 7:9-10 shows us a good example of this.) Psalm 94:11 emphasises that human ways to think are of no use.
Verses 21-23 Therefore they must not be confident about their own ways to think. They must trust Christ rather than trust people. They had said, ‘I belong to Paul’ or ‘I belong to Apollos’. ‘I belong to’ was the kind of language that described the relationship of slaves to their master. The Christians at Corinth were making themselves the slaves of people. They do not belong to Paul, Apollos or Peter. Instead, Paul, Apollos and Peter belong to the Christians at Corinth. Those *apostles were servants to the Christians.
The whole world belongs to God. So the world belongs to the Christians as well. Christians believe in Jesus’ death and *resurrection. Therefore, Christians have the real life from God that never ends. They can have *eternal life now in the present time. They may suffer *physical death, but they can never lose this real life from God.
Paul ends with words of praise. Christians possess ‘all things’ because they belong to Christ. And Christ belongs to God. God has a plan. ‘He will bring everything together, things from earth, and things from heaven. Christ will be the head of them all.’ (See Ephesians 1:10.) Paul wants the Christians at Corinth to understand that only one person is finally in charge. This person is Jesus.
Verse 1 Paul uses two words to describe how the Christians at Corinth ought to think about him and his friends. The words are ‘servants’ and ‘*stewards’.
1. The word in this verse for ‘servants’ meant slaves who had to work very hard in a *Roman ship. Paul was like a slave. He wanted to work hard to please his owner.
2. A *steward was responsible to the owner of a big house. He was responsible for his affairs. He ordered supplies. And he told the slaves what to do. But he himself was responsible to the owner of the house. So whatever position of authority a Christian may have in the church, he is still Christ’s *steward.
Verses 2-4 The master must be able to depend on his *steward. Paul speaks about three judgements:
1. Other people may judge whether someone has worked well. Some of the Christians at Corinth did not like what Paul said. Some people had refused to believe that he was an *apostle (2 Corinthians 10:7-10). But Paul says that he does not worry about their opinion about him.
2. A person may judge himself. However, he may feel satisfied with his own behaviour even when he has made a mistake.
3. God is the only true judge. God knows what circumstances have affected someone’s actions. God also knows the intentions that caused a person to act. Someone may do a good action but have a selfish desire. They may want someone to praise them. Or they may want some other benefit.
Verse 5 So people should not judge other people before the time when Jesus returns. Then God will show whether someone has done his duties in a loyal way. God alone is the perfect judge. He will reward the people who have been loyal *stewards in his ‘house’, the church.
Verse 6 Paul and Apollos were humble. They knew that they were God’s servants. God would judge them. In the same way, the Christians at Corinth must be humble. God’s word makes it clear that false pride is wrong. They should not go beyond God’s word. They should not *boast about who was their leader.
Verse 7 It was God’s love that had *saved the Christians at Corinth. They had forgotten that. Any gifts that they had came from God. They were no different from anyone else whom God had blessed. They were behaving as if they earned their own *salvation or their *spiritual gifts. They were not grateful to God.
Verses 8-9 Paul makes fun of the opinion that the Christians at Corinth have about themselves. They think that they have no need to learn any more *spiritual truths. He says ‘You have all that you want.’ He means that they are like people who have eaten more than enough food. They think that they have all the *spiritual gifts that they need. They think that they have already begun to rule in God’s *kingdom. Paul knew that the *kingdom is in the future as well as in the present.
Paul used the picture of a procession. The *Romans had a procession after they had defeated an enemy. The prisoners were at the end of the procession. The *Romans used them for public entertainment before they died. The prisoners would have to fight wild animals. Crowds of people would come to watch them. Paul and the other *apostles were like those prisoners. They were ready to die for Christ. The people in the world and the *angels were like the crowd who watched.
Verses 10-13 Paul contrasts the life of the *apostles with the life of the Christians at Corinth. The Christians at Corinth thought that they were wise. Paul was ‘foolish’ because he believed the simple truth of the *gospel. The Christians at Corinth believed that they were powerful. They did not like the way that Paul *preached. He did not use clever words. So they decided that Paul was ‘weak’. They were very proud about themselves. They imagined that people respected them. The Christians at Corinth did not give honour to Christ. So they did not give honour to the *apostles.
Paul describes the difficulties that real *apostles had to suffer. He had often been hungry and wanted a drink. His clothes were poor. He had often had nowhere to sleep at night as he travelled from one place to another place. He had worked hard with his own hands. He had earned money so that he could live. We know that he was a skilled worker with leather. He made tents and other goods (Acts 18:3; 20:33-34). Paul shows in 1 Corinthians 9:14-18 that the Christians at Corinth did not agree with his decision to do this. So he says, ‘We work hard with our own hands’, in this list of difficulties. He therefore emphasises that he was a *disciple of Christ. Christ had also suffered so that he could serve other people.
The Greek word for ‘hit’ describes the way that a master might hit his slave. Paul took the position of a slave to please Christ his master.
Paul then replies to those who had behaved badly towards him. Paul knew what Jesus taught. And he knew what Jesus did (Luke 6:28; 23:34). So, when people insulted him, he prayed that they would be happy. He forgave them. Paul was like Jesus. During his *trial and *crucifixion, Jesus had accepted patiently the cruel attacks. People told lies about Paul. But he made a humble appeal to them. He asked them to stop and to be like Christ.
Finally, Paul says that the *apostles are like the dust. People swept up dust from the floor. Or they are like the dirt that someone washes from the body. This picture language is similar to Lamentations 3:45. It described anything that people thought had no value at all. Isaiah said that people would think that God’s servant had no value (Isaiah 53:2-3). Paul and the other *apostles were like this. People thought that they had no value.
Verses 14-16 Paul was writing like a father. A father wants his son to do what is right. Paul described other Christians who taught them. They were like the slave who looked after a child. He took the child to school. He taught him how to behave. A child might have more than one of these slaves to look after him. But he could have only one father. Paul was like a father who loved his child. He had become the *spiritual father of the Christians in Corinth. He had helped them to trust in Jesus Christ. He told them the good news about *salvation. So, he wanted them to behave in the same way as their ‘father’ behaved.
Verse 17 Because he loves them, Paul is sending Timothy to visit them. Timothy is Paul’s *spiritual son whom he loves. He knows that Timothy is a loyal servant of Christ. Paul practised what he taught. Wherever he went, he behaved in the same way. This was how he lived while he was at Corinth. Timothy will remind them about that.
Verses 18-21 Some proud Christians in Corinth did not believe that Paul would visit them himself. But Paul intended to visit Corinth as soon as possible. He would go if Christ wanted him to go. Then Paul would discover whether the Christians had the power to live in the right way. They had plenty to say. But they must show by their actions that they belonged to God’s *kingdom. Jesus had said, ‘You will know them by their fruit’ (Matthew 7:16). A person might say that he belongs to Christ. But his actions will prove whether his words are true. Paul asked whether he should come to punish them. He could be like a father whose child had not obeyed him. Or they could change their behaviour because of Paul’s letter and Timothy’s visit. Then Paul could come gently to share his love with them.
Verse 1 The law does not allow sex between two people who are very close relatives of each other. In the church at Corinth, a man was having sex with his father’s second wife. It was against *Jewish law (Leviticus 18:8). Even *pagans thought that it was a terrible *sin. It was against *Roman law as well.
Verse 2 Paul felt disgusted that the members of the church allowed the situation. They even seemed to have been slightly proud of the man’s action. They may have said that Christians had freedom from the law. They thought that this action did not matter for a really *spiritual person. Instead, they should have felt as sad as someone whose close relative had died.
Verses 3-4 Paul was not there. But he was thinking about them as if he really were present. He had already decided that the man was *sinning. When they met as a group of Christians, Paul felt as if he was *spiritually with them. They also had the *Holy Spirit with them. The *Holy Spirit would give them the power to act in the right way.
Verse 5 The Christians must punish the man. They must tell him that he must leave the church. He would then be in the world, where *Satan rules people’s lives. There the man would learn the difference between the company of Christians and the ways of the world. Paul intended that this punishment would make the man realise his *sin. Then he would ask for God’s forgiveness. Then on the day of judgement, when Jesus returns, God would not shut him out of heaven. The Christians had to punish him in this way. This would be better for him in *eternity. And it would show that they loved him.
Verse 6 Paul uses a picture from *Jewish practice. It shows why the man should not stay in the church. *Yeast is a tiny substance. People put it in *dough to make bread grow bigger. It affects the whole lump of *dough. The *Jews thought that *yeast was a picture of an evil *influence. *Yeast spreads through *dough. In a similar way, the man’s *sin would affect the whole church.
It is possible that Paul was writing his letter near *Passover time. The *Jews used to remove every tiny bit of *yeast from their homes before *Passover began.
Verse 7 The Christians must remove the guilty man. But the ‘old *yeast’ can also mean that they must clean out every bit of *sin in their own lives. That is, they must be like a new lump of *dough with no *yeast in it. They had to be a group of Christians with no *sin among them. They had received God’s forgiveness for their past *sins. God forgave them by means of Jesus’ *sacrifice as the *Passover *lamb. Now they are free to live in a new way. So they must behave like the new people that God has made them.
Verse 8 The *Passover *feast lasted for a week. During those seven days, the *Jews did not eat anything with *yeast in it. Christians must also be happy that God has forgiven them. Because of this, they must live in a holy way. ‘Hate and wicked behaviour’ means that they were to remove any kind of *sin in thought and action. They must not hide their real attitudes. Their actions must be the result of honest and pure thoughts.
Verses 9-10 The Christians in Corinth had misunderstood Paul’s advice. Perhaps they wanted to say that Paul’s advice was stupid. It is impossible to stay away from everyone who *sins. This was especially true in a city like Corinth. It was well-known for *sexual *sins.
Verses 11-12 Paul explains that he was talking about people who called themselves Christians. He meant Christians who continued to *sin. He spoke about:
1. *sexual *sins. These were *sins against a person’s real nature. They made people behave like animals. It was selfish and wrong for someone to use another person to satisfy his *physical needs.
2. those who were greedy. They had forgotten that other people were like brothers and sisters. They must not steal from them. Instead, they must love and serve them. The Christian *faith should make it a joy to give rather than to get.
3. the *worship of false gods. This is a *sin against the only real God. If a person does not *worship God, he will *worship something or someone else. He might trust in things that he thinks will bring him luck. He might make another person, like a singer or a man who is good at sport into an *idol. A person who does all this is not a real Christian. The other Christians should not even share a meal with him. To share a meal would make it seem as if they agreed with his bad behaviour.
Verses 12-13 Only God can judge those who do not belong to the church. God alone knows their hearts. But the members of the church must judge someone in the church who does wrong things. The people outside the church must see that the Christian *faith is a different way to live. If Christians refused to punish such a serious *sin, they were a poor witness to their new *faith. Paul gave a definite command, ‘Throw the man out’. He used words from Deuteronomy 17:7; 24:7. The Christian church in Corinth must put out evil people.
Verse 1 The Greeks very much liked to go to the law courts. It was like entertainment for them. Some of the Greeks had brought this habit into the Christian church. Paul heard that a Christian in Corinth was taking another Christian to a *pagan law court. Paul was disgusted. The *Jews usually settled things in front of the important men in their village. Or they took the problem to the important men in a *synagogue. They thought that it was wrong to go to a *pagan law court. As a *Jew, and even more as a Christian, Paul believed that this legal action was wrong.
Verses 2-3 Paul said that one day Christians would judge both other people and *angels. So it was not sensible to use human law courts to deal with small quarrels.
Verse 4 Christians should appoint other members of the church to decide what was right. They should choose Christians who were not important. Paul’s words seem like a command. So he is probably reminding them that they should be humble. They are wrong to think that one Christian is more important than another Christian. But other people have translated the sentence like this: ‘I do not know how you can let people outside the church judge. Their opinions are not very important for Christians.’
Verse 5 Paul makes fun of the Christians at Corinth who are so proud of their wisdom. He wonders if they can find even one wise man to make a decision about the quarrel.
Verse 6 *Pagans will see that Christians are going to court. Then, the *pagans will think that Christian behaviour is no different from their own.
Verses 7-8 Whatever the result of the matter, the legal action means that people will have a bad opinion about the church. Jesus had said that Christians must defeat evil things with good deeds (Matthew 5:44). So, the person who has gone to court is failing as a Christian. To go to law courts at all was to forget that they were *brothers and *sisters in the Christian family. Paul uses the word ‘cheat’. So the quarrel may have been about a business matter. But any quarrel should give the opportunity to show the power of Christian love.
There are other lists of wrong acts in other letters. They all show the kind of society in which Paul lived. They show what some people are like. People are like this when they do not accept God and his laws.
Verse 9 Paul warns the Christians in Corinth about their behaviour. If they continue to *sin, they are in danger of judgement. God will judge them in the same way as he will judge non-Christians. God will refuse to keep them in his *kingdom.
In Corinth, people *worshipped Aphrodite, the female god of love. Their worship included much wrong *sexual behaviour. Also, many people did not remain a loyal husband or a loyal wife.
‘Male *prostitutes’ translates a Greek word that means ‘soft’. Probably it describes boys and young men who acted like women. They allowed older men to use them for their *sexual pleasure. ‘*Homosexuals’ describes people of the same sex who have sex with each other. In the *Roman world, both these forms of behaviour were common. Even the *Roman rulers did these things.
Verse 10 Greedy people can become thieves or those who cheat other people. There were many people like this in Corinth.
In those days, the water was not good. So the Greeks mixed wine with their water. In Corinth, there were people who drank too much alcohol. They thought only about their own pleasure.
To tell lies and to speak evil words about other people are serious *sins. They make it difficult for people to trust each other and to be part of society.
Verse 11 Some Christians had been like all these wicked people. But they had become better. The water used to *baptise them had shown that they wanted to change. God had made them his own people. The *Lord Jesus Christ, by his death on the *cross, had brought them into right relations with God. God’s Spirit had caused them to become new people. So, Paul uses these words to encourage them to live properly as Christians. That would show that their *faith was sincere.
Verses 12-13 The Greeks taught that the *spirit alone mattered. The body was not important. So they could act in any way at all and it would not hurt their *spirit. It was natural to eat. And it was natural to satisfy their *sexual desires. Paul had also taught that Christians are free from the law’s demands. So some Christians were continuing to visit *prostitutes after *baptism. Corinth was a city so well-known for *sexual *sin that a ‘girl from Corinth’ meant a *prostitute. So it was very easy for Christians to *sin in this way. And it was very easy to find excuses for this behaviour.
Christian freedom does not mean that Christians are free to *sin. Paul reminded them about that. What they chose to do must be helpful to them. It must also be helpful to other people. It was wrong to be like a slave to their former way to live.
Verse 14 The body belongs to God. By his power, God raised Jesus from death. By the same power, he will raise both *spirit and body to be alive. God intends the whole person for *eternal life in the future.
Verses 15-17 *Scripture says in Genesis 2:24 that a *sexual act between two people makes them into one united body. Christians are part of Christ’s body, the church. So for a Christian to give his body to a *prostitute was a terrible *sin. He must unite himself with Christ in a permanent unity of *spirit.
Verse 18 The Christians at Corinth may have said that *sin was in the mind rather than in the body. Paul said that *sexual *sin was against the person’s own body. It is true that to drink too much alcohol or to take drugs are *sins against the body. But God wants to *save Christians’ bodies and *souls. So Paul explained that other *sins do not affect a person’s body in the same way as *sexual *sins do.
Verse 19-20 The body is the *temple of the *Holy Spirit whom God has given us. Therefore, the body is holy, set apart for God. Christ died to *save a person’s whole nature, both body and *soul. So, a person is not free to do as he likes with his body. It belongs to Christ. Therefore, he must use his body in the way that God wants. He must give honour to God.
The second part of Paul’s letter, chapters 7-15, deals with problems that the Christians in Corinth had asked Paul about.
Chapter 7 deals with various questions about marriage and *sexual relations.
Verse 1 Some Christians believed that their body was *sinful. So they thought that their natural desires were wrong. They believed that they should not marry at all.
Verse 2 Paul was honest and practical. He knew that there was much *temptation in Corinth. It would be better for a man to marry than to give in to his natural desires in wrong ways.
Verses 3-4 Some Christians in Corinth thought that it was more ‘*spiritual to live as married people without sex. Paul said that sex was a duty of both man and wife to each other. In a Christian marriage, the husband and wife belong to each other. The *sexual act is a special part of their life together.
Verses 5-6 Both husband and wife may agree to stop their *sexual relations. But this must be for a short time only so that they can spend more time in prayer. Then they should come together again. Then *Satan cannot *tempt either husband or wife to look for *sexual satisfaction outside marriage. Paul was not giving an order from God; he was offering his advice.
Verse 7 Paul wished that Christians would remain single, like him. But he recognised that people are different from each other. God gave some the gift to remain single. He gave other people the gift to be married.
Verses 8-9 Paul thought that there was only a short time left before Jesus returned. So, it would be sensible to remain single. But Paul warns them not to stay in a situation where they would find it easy to *sin. It all depended on the character of the person. If they had very strong desires, they should marry.
Verses 10-11 Paul said that it was wrong to divorce. This was not his opinion. It was the *Lord’s command. Jesus said, ‘A man must not separate what God has joined together.’ (See Mark 10:9.) If a wife did leave her husband, she must not marry again. Or she must be willing to go back to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.
Verses 12-14 Some people believed that a Christian should not continue to live with a *pagan husband or wife. Paul had to give his judgement about mixed marriages. There was no direct command from Jesus to which he could refer. Mixed marriages could cause problems. (They still do cause problems.) Christians like to go to church meetings. They like to serve other people. But this would mean that a husband and wife would spend less time together. The kiss of peace with which Christians greeted each other (1 Corinthians 16:20) could easily have caused a quarrel. The *pagan husband or wife might feel jealous and worried. They might not be sure whether they could trust their partner.
Paul’s advice was practical. When the non-Christian partner wanted to stay in the marriage, there should be no divorce. Because the Christian was ‘holy’, the partner and the children would be ‘holy’. The blessings that come from God do not only affect Christians. A Christian’s belief would also benefit the partner who is not a Christian. And it would also benefit their children.
Verse 15 The *pagan might be so much against the Christian *faith that there would be quarrels all the time. If he or she wanted to leave, the Christian should allow the *pagan to go. Paul thought that it was reasonable for a marriage like this to end. God wanted peace in a family, not constant war.
Verse 16 The non-Christian might stay. Then there was the opportunity to persuade him or her to become a Christian. Peter also believed that this was possible. ‘Wives, obey your husbands. There may be some husbands who do not believe God’s message. But if their wives obey them, those husbands may believe. They may decide to believe God, even if their wives have said nothing to them about God’s message’ (1 Peter 3:1).
Verse 17 Paul believed that a Christian should practise his *faith wherever he was. He did not need to change his place in society. God had called him, whoever he was.
Verses 18-20 Paul chose as his first example *Jews and *Gentiles. Some men were *Jews when they became Christians. Some were *Gentiles. A *Jew should not try to change his *circumcision. A *Gentile need not think that *circumcision was important for him. It did not matter whether a man had the mark of *circumcision or not. What was important was to obey God’s commands.
Verses 21-23 Some people thought that slaves were ‘things’ rather than people. But when God called a slave, he became the *Lord’s free man. Instead, he had become the slave of Christ, but with the freedom to serve him. A slave could save enough money to buy his own freedom. Christ had bought human freedom by his death on the *cross. Paul encouraged slaves to gain their freedom from their masters on earth. But some people thought that slaves had no value. Slaves should take no notice of those people. Whether someone is a slave or free person, they are ‘all one family in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:28).
Verse 24 It is God’s opinion about a person that matters. So there was no need to change a person’s situation after he became a Christian. The important thing is to obey God.
Verse 25 Paul was probably writing about young women who were engaged. Some Christians at Corinth were trying to persuade engaged people to remain unmarried. They believed that sex was wrong. Paul says that the Christians can trust his opinion on the matter. He does not say ‘because I am an *apostle with Christ’s authority’. They can trust him because the *Lord has shown *mercy to him. Paul is thinking about what is good for them.
Verse 26 The Christians were already having difficulties because people were opposing them. Paul believed that Jesus would return soon. Before that happened, there would be a time of even greater danger and trouble. So, it was not the time to make important changes in their lives.
Verses 27-28 Married people should not divorce. Single people should not want to get married. But it is not a *sin to marry. It is not wrong for a young engaged woman to marry. But marriage would bring extra problems. Paul did not say what these ‘troubles’ were. But it is not always easy for even a loving husband and wife to share each other’s needs and emotions. Children take up a lot of time and they are not easy to train.
Verses 29-31 Paul believed that Jesus would return soon. There was not much time left to do God’s work. Paul wanted them to stop and think. So he wrote in such a powerful way because he wanted them to be serious about God’s work. He did not expect them to understand his examples in their exact meaning. But he expected husbands to continue to love their wives. People would continue to be sad or happy. Trade would go on. But these things should not control their lives. Because of their *faith they already belonged to the world of *eternity. So, their relationship to the present world was not the most important one. The present world is in the process of passing away. God has already decided the course of future events. Therefore, their hope for the future should free them from too many worries about the affairs of this life.
Verses 32-35 Paul wanted married men and women to think about the demands of the *Lord’s work. This could be difficult when they also had their wife’s or husband’s needs to think about. Those who were single were free to concentrate on the *Lord’s work. For the woman to ‘serve the *Lord with body and *spirit’ means ‘to serve him in every way’. Body and *spirit are not separate. Together they mean the whole person. Paul used similar language to describe the whole person in 1 Thessalonians 5:23.
Paul pointed out this problem because he did not want anyone to be anxious in their Christian lives. He thought that to remain single would avoid the difficulty of divided responsibility. But he did not want his words to be like a thick piece of string round people’s necks to control them. They had the freedom to choose marriage. He wanted them to do whatever would help them to serve the *Lord best.
Paul began to talk about engaged people in 7:25-28. Here he continues his thoughts about the subject.
Verse 36 Some Christians in Corinth were making this man anxious. He had promised to marry a girl. But they said that he should not marry her. She had passed the age when she could easily find a husband. So, he would be failing in his promise, if he did not marry her. The man should follow his own desires and marry her. He would not be *sinning.
Verse 37 But a man with a strong control of his *sexual desires need not marry. The man and woman can live their Christian lives as single people.
Verse 38 The man who marries is doing the right thing. The one who decides not to marry will do better. That is not because marriage is wrong. Paul’s opinion is in verse 26. It is better because of the difficulties that he has spoken about.
Verse 39 The strict *Jews called the Essenes allowed only one marriage. They thought that the unity of husband and wife continued after death. Paul believed what Jesus taught. He taught that marriage was for life. But a widow could marry again after her husband died. Women usually lived longer than men, so Paul speaks about widows. But this same advice would be true for men whose wives had died. In some ways, a second marriage is a way to praise the first one. The first one had been so happy that one is not afraid to begin a second one. The only limit to the choice to marry again was that the new partner should be a Christian. This is a wise command. A marriage between a non-Christian and a Christian could create great difficulties.
Verse 40 Paul reminds the Christians at Corinth that he has the *Holy Spirit. He has the *Holy Spirit as well as they do. The *Holy Spirit helped him when he gave his opinion about the widow. The widow would be happier if she remained single. That is Paul’s opinion.
Chapters 8-10 deal with the problem of meat that someone had offered to a *pagan god.
Verse 1 The Christians at Corinth had asked Paul about this problem. Meat was expensive. But it became available when *Jews or *pagans offered *sacrifices. The priests burnt a small part of the meat on the *altar. Then the priests kept some. They gave the rest back to the person who offered it. He would often make a *feast for his friends. This would be a pleasant social occasion. Sometimes it was a public *sacrifice by the state. Then they sold the rest of the meat cheaply in the market. So it was difficult to get meat that did not involve *worship. There was no problem in Jerusalem because the meat was a *sacrifice to God. But in other cities, the meat had been offered to a *pagan god. Christians were not sure if it was right to eat that meat. Some people in Corinth worried about it. Other people were proud of their superior knowledge. They thought that there was no problem. They thought that they could eat such meat. Paul’s answer was especially for those people.
The Christians at Corinth said that they had ‘knowledge’. Paul told them that ‘knowledge’ can make people proud about themselves. Real knowledge comes from love. Love thinks about the needs of other people and it makes their *faith stronger. Paul prayed for the Christians at Philippi: ‘I pray that you will continue to love each other more and more. I pray that you will continue to know God more and more. Then you will understand things more completely. You will understand why things are right or wrong.’ (See Philippians 1:9.)
Verses 2-3 The Christians at Corinth thought that they had real knowledge about the way to behave. But they did not possess real knowledge. The one who really ‘knows’ is the one who loves.
Verse 4-6 Paul uses words from their letter. They know that there is only one God. And they know that *idols are not alive. *Pagans believed that there were many ‘gods and *lords’. ‘*Lords’ was the word that *pagans used to describe some of the special gods in their religion. But Christians believe in one God and one *Lord. God is the Father. We can be his children. He created all things. He created us to carry out his plans. Jesus is the one *Lord. ‘*Lord’ was the name for God in the *Old Testament. God created everything. It was by Jesus that God rescued people from their *sin. These words about God and Jesus are like the beginning of a statement about Christian belief.
Verse 7 Some Christians at Corinth did believe that *idols are not alive. But they could not completely forget their belief that the *pagan gods had power over their lives. They had believed in them for a long time. So it worried them to eat this meat. It worried them because someone had offered it to an *idol. So, they thought that it would be better not to eat it. Some new Christians find it hard to stop *worshipping their *ancestors.
Verse 8 These may be the words of the Christians at Corinth, with which Paul would agree. To eat or not to eat food makes no difference to God. They are like Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7:19 that *circumcision or lack of *circumcision was not important.
Verses 9-10 To eat food that *pagans had offered to *idols might, however, cause a problem for someone with a troubled conscience. The ‘weak’ Christian may copy the ‘strong’ Christian if he sees him eat in a *pagan *temple.
Verse 11 Now the weak Christian has eaten food that someone has offered to an *idol. So now the weak Christian may lose his *faith completely. He is a *brother for whom Christ died.
Verse 12 The ‘strong’ Christians had forgotten that they were part of a Christian family. Anything that made a Christian ‘*brother’ *sin was a *sin against Christ himself.
Verse 13 Paul was willing to limit his own freedom. He would never make it difficult for another Christian. His action might be good in itself. But it would be wrong if it caused another believer to *sin.
Verse 1 Paul continued to speak about his own freedom. Some Christians at Corinth denied that he was a real *apostle. This was because he did not expect to receive pay for his work. So Paul mentioned two facts. They showed that he was an *apostle.
1. He had seen Jesus. Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus was an appearance of Jesus after his *resurrection. ‘Last of all, he appeared to me also’ (1 Corinthians 15:8).
2. The Christians at Corinth themselves showed that Paul was an *apostle. Paul calls them his ‘*seal’. A *seal was an official stamp on a legal record. It showed that it was genuine. The church at Corinth was the ‘*seal’ that Paul was a genuine *apostle. Paul’s successful work in Corinth was a proof that God’s power was working by him.
Verse 5 Paul does not say who he means by the ‘other *apostles’. The ‘*Lord’s brothers’ were James, Joseph (also called Joses), Judas (or Jude) and Simon (Mark 6:3). They were sons of Joseph and Mary after Jesus was born. (However, some people think that they were Jesus’ cousins, or sons from a previous marriage of Joseph.)
James and the other brothers did not believe in Jesus until after his *resurrection. Jesus made a special appearance to James (1 Corinthians 15:7). Later, James became a leader in the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:13-21; 21:18).
Cephas is the Aramaic word for Peter. Aramaic is the language that Jesus spoke. Jesus also made a special appearance to Peter (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5). We know that Peter had a wife, because Jesus healed his wife’s mother (Luke 4:38-39). Paul may have met her when he first visited Jerusalem (Galatians 1:18).
Verse 6 Barnabas had introduced Paul to the Christians in Jerusalem. They sent Barnabas to help the church in Antioch. He brought Paul from Tarsus to work with him there. He and Paul worked together in Asia Minor (Acts chapters 13-14). But they could not agree that they should take Mark, a relative of Barnabas, on a second journey. So Paul and Barnabas separated. Barnabas went to *preach in Cyprus, the country where he was born. And Paul went to Syria and Cilicia (Acts 15:36-39).
Verses 7-8 The example in verses 1-6 could mean that his right to receive help was because of his position in the church. Paul mentions important *apostles. He makes it clear that their right to receive help was because they spread the *gospel. So he had the same right. A person deserves a reward for his work. He used the examples of a soldier, a farmer and a person who looks after sheep. They all expected a reward for their work. Paul was Christ’s soldier in the war against *Satan. He was like a farmer because he was spreading the *gospel like seed. He was like a person who looked after sheep because he was looking after God’s people. The Bible often compares God’s people with sheep (Acts 20:28).
Verses 8-9 Someone in Corinth might say that these examples were nothing to do with God’s work. So Paul also used words from the Law. In Deuteronomy 25:4, there is a law about animals that were working on a farm. A male cow is called an ox. It would drag a wooden board with nails in it over grain. The nails would separate the grain from the straw. The ox must not have anything over its mouth to stop it from eating some of the grain. If God cares about animals, he must care about people as well.
Verses 10-11 The farmer who ploughs expects to receive a reward for his work. So does the person who prepares the grain. Paul had acted like a farmer because he spread the *gospel like seed in Corinth. They had received a *spiritual harvest by becoming Christians. So it was normal for Paul and other people to expect to receive things that they needed for *physical life.
Verse 12a Other *apostles had the right to receive help. Paul may mean Apollos and Peter. Paul had spread the *gospel in Corinth. Therefore, he had an even greater right to receive help from them.
Verse 12b Paul begins to say that he did not use the right that he had spoken about in verses 1-12a. Then he thinks of two more reasons why he has the right to receive financial help.
Verse 13 1. Priests in the *Jewish *temple and in *pagan *temples get part of what people offer on the *altar.
Verse 14 2. Paul uses Jesus’ words when he sent out the 70 *disciples. Jesus told them not to take money with them. They should let people invite them into their homes. That is because ‘the worker deserves his wages’ (Luke 10:7). This was not a command. It was probably a well-known sentence.
Verse 15 Paul had worked for himself when he went to Corinth. He had used his skill to make tents and other leather goods (Acts 18:3). When he was in Thessalonica, he had worked. He worked so that he would not make things hard for the people there (1 Thessalonians 2:9). He had also provided for himself so that lazy Christians could see the right way to live (2 Thessalonians 3:8).
In Corinth, he did not want people to think that he was teaching in order to become rich. Also, there were people who might have helped him for the wrong reason. It would be a way to gain honour for themselves. While Paul was in Thessalonica, he had received gifts from the Christians in Philippi. It seems from 2 Corinthians 11:7-9 that the Christians at Corinth discovered this. And they were not pleased when they discovered it.
Verse 16 Paul was like Jeremiah. Jeremiah said that God’s message was like a fire inside him (Jeremiah 20:9). Even if he wanted to, Paul could not stop *preaching. To stop would have made him miserable.
Verse 17 Paul might have expected a reward if he had chosen to *preach. But he had no choice, because God had trusted him with this work. So he was only carrying out his responsibility.
Verse 18 His reward was to receive no reward! People do not have to pay for their *salvation. *Eternal life is God’s gift. So, when he refused to accept pay, Paul was acting the message of the *gospel. He was showing that he was free to choose not to make them pay.
Verse 19 Paul had shown that he had a right to receive help. But he was free not to accept it. He is free to do what he feels to be right in other situations too. He shows that now. This freedom is always so that he can help the *gospel to spread.
Paul was free to act as he decided. But he thought about himself as everyone’s slave. His purpose was to win people to be followers of Christ. He described four different groups of people:
1. *Jews (verse 20). Paul did not believe that *circumcision was essential. He refused to let anyone *circumcise Titus (Galatians 2:3). But in a different situation, Paul *circumcised Timothy. (Timothy had a *Jewish mother and a Greek father.) Timothy was going to work with Paul and Silas. So it was necessary for him to be allowed into *Jewish *synagogues. This was where they usually began to *preach the *gospel (Acts 16:3).
Later, Paul returned to Jerusalem. Then James asked him to take part in a *religious promise that four men were making. This was to show that Paul did not expect *Jews to give up all their *religious practices (Acts 21:23-26). So Paul agreed with some *Jewish customs. But he taught that these customs were not necessary for *salvation.
2. Those with the law. These words usually meant ‘*Jews’. But Paul was not speaking about a person’s nationality. He was speaking about the person’s attitude to the law. Paul may mean *Gentiles who were interested in the *Jewish religion. Or he may mean *Gentiles who had believed the *Jewish *faith.
3. Those who do not have the law (verse 21). Paul here refers to *pagans. The Christians at Corinth might misunderstand what Paul said. They might think that he was saying, ‘I am free to behave in a wicked way.’ So, he explained that he was not free from God’s commands. Christ’s law was the law of love towards other people (John 13:34-35). Paul’s speeches at Lystra (Acts 14:14-17) and Athens (Acts 17:22-31) show how Paul tried to explain the *gospel. He chose to talk in a way that those without the law would understand.
4. The weak (verse 22). Paul meant all those who had no power in society. Some people were anxious about meat that someone had offered to an *idol. He included those people. He would give up his own freedom to eat it if this might cause them to *sin.
Verses 22-23 Paul tried to understand all kinds of people. When he acted differently with some people, it was to help them to become Christians. He was not hiding his true character. His great desire was to use every opportunity to spread the *gospel. Paul hoped to share in the *blessings of the *gospel. He wanted everyone else to share in its *blessings too.
Verses 24-25 Paul knew about the games at Isthmia near Corinth. They happened every two years. Paul was in Corinth on one of these occasions. The games happened every two years in a *pagan *temple. There were great numbers of visitors and they had to live in tents. So, Paul was able to use his trade. And he knew what happened. Those who took part in the games had to train hard for about ten months before the event. Christians must be as serious as someone who is training himself. They must control their desires to live an easy life. The reward for a winner in the games was a crown that people made from a wild plant’s leaves. However, these leaves soon died. They must learn to control their desires to live an easy life. But Christians look forward to an *eternal reward. It will not be a reward that lasts only for a very short time.
Verses 26-27 A runner has to keep his attention on the line at the end. A man who boxes must not waste his efforts. He must aim at the one that he is fighting. Christians must remember that they are aiming for heaven. Nothing should take their attention away from their *eternal home.
Paul spoke about the way that he trained. ‘Beat’ is a word from boxing which means ‘give a black eye to’. Paul meant that he controlled his own body. He made a great effort. He was the master of his body. Paul practised what he *preached. His fear was not that he might lose his *salvation. But he might fail to satisfy his *Lord and then he would lose his ‘crown’. By this, he probably meant his reward in heaven.
Verses 1-2 The book of Exodus (chapters 13-17) and Psalm 105:39-41 record the escape of the *Israelites from Egypt. They had been slaves. But Moses led them out and through the desert. The ‘cloud’ was a sign that God was with them to guide and to protect them (Exodus 13:21-22; 14:19-20). They were able to go through the Red Sea on dry land. God sent a strong east wind to push back the water. So they could cross safely (Exodus 14:21-22).
Perhaps the ‘cloud’ was a picture of the *Holy Spirit as he guides the Church. Some writers think that it was. Christian *baptism is like the *Israelites as they went through the sea. This is what Paul is saying. God used Moses to rescue the *Israelites from being slaves in Egypt. In the same way, God used Christ to rescue us from being slaves to *sin. ‘*Baptism into Moses’ is a phrase similar to that in Romans 6:3. Believers receive ‘*baptism into Christ’. ‘*Baptism’ meant that the *Israelites accepted Moses as their leader. ‘*Baptism into Christ’ means that we must be loyal to Christ. He is our leader.
Verses 3-4 The *spiritual food was manna. It was a special kind of bread that God gave the *Israelites during their time in the desert (Exodus 16:11-15). When they were without water, Moses struck a rock. Water came out (Exodus 17:1-7; Numbers 20:1-11). Moses got water from a rock at the beginning and end of their time in the desert. There was a popular *Jewish belief that the rock followed the *Israelites. It always gave them water to drink.
Christ is like the rock in the desert. He gives Christians a continuous supply of *spiritual water to keep them *spiritually alive. To call Christ the rock is a way to show that Christ is God. It is a name for God in the *Old Testament, for example in Psalm 18:2, 31.
Verse 5 Although God had done so much for them, the *Israelites did not obey him. So they died in the desert. Only Joshua and Caleb and the very young people entered the promised land. Paul was warning all Christians. They may have received *baptism. They may take the bread and wine during the *Lord’s Supper. But they must trust and obey God. Otherwise, there is a danger that they will lose their *spiritual life.
Paul described four different occasions when the *Israelites *sinned. They are a warning to all Christians. God will punish those who do not obey him.
1. The *worship of *idols, verse 7
While Moses was up the mountain, Aaron made a gold *idol in the shape of a young cow (Exodus 32:1-6). Many of the people *worshipped it. As a punishment, the *Levites killed three thousand people. Other people died from a disease (Exodus 32:28, 35).
2. *Sexual *sins, verse 8
‘They got up to dance’ was a way to describe wild behaviour that included *sexual *sins. Paul must have thought also about the time when the *Israelites had sex with women from Moab (Numbers 25:1). This led them to *worship the gods of the people from Moab. Because of a disease that followed, 24 000 *Israelites died (Numbers 25:9). Paul said ‘23 000’. Perhaps the other 1000 did not die on the same day. Or perhaps the number was between 23 000 and 24 000 and is given approximately in each place.
3. Testing the *Lord’s patience, verse 9
The *Israelites began to complain about the *manna that God had given to them and the lack of water. They said that Moses had brought them out of Egypt to die in the desert. Poisonous snakes then bit the people and many people died (Numbers 21:5-6).
4. Complaining, verse 10
The *Israelites complained against Moses as their leader (Numbers 4:1-38). They complained because Moses had spoken about God’s punishment of Korah and those who followed him (Numbers 16:41). This time, many people died from a disease. Then God said that only Joshua, Caleb and the very young people would enter the promised land (Numbers 14:20-31). All the rest would die in the desert. Paul used words from Exodus 12:23 when he spoke about the ‘*angel of death’.
The Christians in Corinth had complained about Paul. When they did this, they were complaining about God. Paul was warning them by these examples. They must be careful. If not, they would fail to receive what God has promised to Christians.
Verses 11-12 Paul believed that God told Moses to write these *scriptures. Then, in the future, people could avoid the *sins of the *Israelites. The Christians at Corinth lived after the death and *resurrection of Jesus. They were in the new age that leads to the final time of God’s plan for the world.
Verse 12 Although God had done so much for them, the *Israelites failed. It can be easy for someone who is too confident to *sin. Peter said that he would be loyal to Jesus, whatever happened. Instead, he said three times that he did not even know Jesus.
Verse 13 After the warning, Paul encourages the Christians in Corinth:
1. They are not the only people who suffer *temptations. Other people also suffer *temptations. And they defeat them with God’s help.
2. God does not allow anyone to suffer a test that is beyond his *spiritual strength.
3. There is always an end to a *temptation. Christians can defeat it with God’s help. They are like an army in a narrow mountain route who find a way to escape from their enemy.
Verses 14-15 In 1 Corinthians 10:1-13, Paul had warned the Christians at Corinth by reminding them about events in Israel’s history. Now he gives them a strong order. They must keep far away from the worship of *idols. They are sensible people. So, they should be able to understand that his words are true.
Verses 16-17 They share the *Lord’s Supper. The *Lord’s Supper has a special meaning. They eat the bread and they drink the wine together to remember Christ. This shows them that there is a unity between them and Christ. There is also unity of Christians with each other. This is because they share the cup of wine and eat the bread together. They become like one body because they share one loaf.
Verse 18 When the *Israelites shared a meal after a *sacrifice, they became united in their *worship of God.
Verses 19-21 When *pagans offer a *sacrifice, they are not offering it to a real god. The Christians at Corinth had agreed that *idols do not really exist (8:4). But they were wrong to think that they could therefore share a meal in a *pagan *temple. It was not just a social occasion. Paul gave two reasons why they were wrong:
1. To share a meal in a *pagan *temple united them with *pagan guests. Therefore Christians would appear to believe that the god of the *pagans was real.
2. People were really *worshipping non-human evil *beings (usually called ‘*demons’) when they *worshipped *idols. So because they were sharing a *pagan meal, Christians were becoming partners with *demons. These Christians had shown by their actions that they were carrying out the purpose of *demons. They were doing the *demons’ work because they were destroying the *faith of other Christians (8:11). They were preventing *pagan guests from knowing the proper *faith. It is not possible to *worship Christ and also to *worship *demons.
Verse 22 Paul includes himself in his statement because he says ‘we’. He warns them about the danger of making God ‘jealous’. The second *commandment forbade the worship of *idols because God is a ‘jealous’ God (Exodus 20:4). God is holy and powerful. He will not allow anything to take his place. In the song of Moses, God blamed the *Israelites for their *worship of *idols (Deuteronomy 32:2). By their actions, the Christians in Corinth showed that they doubted God’s right to punish them. They were quarrelling with God as if pieces of a broken pot could question the maker of the pot (Isaiah 45:9-10). They would fail to please God.
Verses 23-24 The Christians at Corinth are emphasising their freedom to act as they choose. But not everything that they are free to do will be good for their *faith. It will not help their Christian *faith to become strong. And Christians should think about what is best for other people rather than for themselves.
Verses 25-26 They can eat any meat that they buy in the market. They need not ask where it came from. Paul uses the words from Psalm 24:1 to remind them that all food comes from God. So, they can be free to enjoy his gifts.
Verses 27-28 Then Paul gives his opinion about meals in private houses. It is possible to accept an invitation from someone who is not a Christian. Then the Christian should accept whatever his host provides. He should ask no questions about it. But he may hear that the meat has been part of a *pagan *sacrifice. If so, he should not eat it. It should not matter to him. But the person who told him might have been trying to show respect for the Christian’s belief. Then the Christian should not eat the meat. He should not offend someone who was trying to be helpful. It might also offend another Christian who was there. The other Christian might have found it difficult to understand that an *idol was not real. So, for this reason as well, the Christian should not eat the meat. He should not worry another Christian whose *faith was weak.
Verses 29-30 Paul is emphasising his own freedom. He should be free to eat food for which he has thanked God. But, in verses 31-32, he shows why he limits his own freedom. And he shows why they should limit theirs.
1. Everything that they do should be for the *glory of God.
2. They should think about other people. They must do nothing to cause other people to *sin. It does not matter whether the other people are *Jews, *Gentiles or other Christians. Paul himself behaved in a way that would attract people to the good news about Jesus Christ. He would not take advantage of his freedom. He wanted other people to become Christians, and to be strong in their *faith.
Chapter 11 verse 1 Paul invited people to see how Christ made a difference to him. Christ affected the way that he acted. So, he urged them to imitate his behaviour. He himself imitated Christ, who always put the needs of other people first. Paul was not being proud. But he was eager that the Christians at Corinth should correctly understand Christian freedom.
There were problems when the Christians at Corinth met for *worship. Paul probably learned that from Chloe’s servants. First of all, they did not agree on the way that men and women showed their respect to God.
Verse 2 Paul praised the Christians at Corinth because they were keeping the basic facts of the Christian *faith. He had taught them and they remembered him. Then he went on to deal with the first problem.
Verse 3 ‘Head’ means a part of the body. But here it has two possible meanings:
1. authority or superior, for example, the head man in a village has authority over the people.
2. source, for example, the head of the river is where the river begins.
So, writers explain Paul’s words in one of these two ways:
1. Christ has authority over every person. The man has authority over the woman. God as Father has authority over Christ the Son.
2. Christ is the source of new life for the believer. Man was the source of woman (Genesis 2:22-23). God was the source of Christ’s body when he came to earth.
Verse 4 In Paul’s time, people thought that a man with long hair was trying to look more like a woman. This is because he wanted to behave like a woman. He wanted to have sex with other men. So to pray or *preach with his head ‘covered’ would be shameful.
Verses 5-6 It is not certain what ‘cover’ means. It could be a piece of clothing. Many bibles use the word ‘veil’. It could have been the usual way for a woman to arrange her hair. This was to make a kind of ‘hair cap’ on the top of her head. People would not understand if a woman removed her veil. They would have the wrong idea if she let her hair down in public. They would think that she was imitating women who *worshipped *pagan gods. Or they would think that she was a woman with bad moral behaviour.
Paul said that if she removed her ‘cover’, she might as well cut off her hair. And she might as well shave her head. She would then become more like women who had wrong *sexual relations with other women. So, a woman should avoid public shame; she should keep her head covered.
Verse 7 God created man in his own image (Genesis 1:26-28). Man exists to give praise and honour to God (Revelation 4:11). Woman is the *glory of man, because God created her as the one suitable companion for man (Genesis 2:18-23).
Verses 8-9 Paul refers to the way that God created people. Man did not come from woman, because God created him first. Woman came from man, as part of him (Genesis 2:21-22).
Verse 10 Because God created her from man, the woman should keep her head covered to show man’s authority over her.
‘because of the *angels’. Writers have suggested several different reasons for these words:
1. Some people think that the story in Genesis 6:1-2 is about *angels who *sinned with human women. In Paul’s days, there was a *tradition that the beauty of women’s long hair attracted these *angels. Paul might have been thinking about this story.
2. Paul believed that his Christian life was on display in front of *angels (1 Corinthians 4:9). So he thought about *angels as present at public *worship. Women should not offend them. They would offend them if they had no cover on their head.
3. Paul said that Christians would judge *angels (1 Corinthians 6:3). So Christians ought to be able to decide the right way to show respect when they *worshipped.
Verse 11-12 The *Jews believed that men are superior to women. God created man first and woman second. But every man is born from a woman. So, the argument about who is more important has no meaning. God created everything. So, it was a part of his plan for people that men and women should be equal.
‘For those who belong to the *Lord’ suggests a contrast between believers and other people. In the world, people may have thought that women should take second place to men. But in the Christian church, women have equal value.
Verses 14-15 Paul appeals to the way that they felt about things in their society. Paintings and *statues from Paul’s time show that it was normal for men to have short hair. People thought that it was shameful for men to have long hair. It was not natural. For a woman, it was the opposite. Long hair was not shameful. It was a cover that God had given to her. And it gave her honour. Paul was comparing the natural appearance of a woman with that of a man. He was not thinking here about the way that women should appear in public.
Verse 16 For anyone who wanted to argue about the matter, Paul did not give a command. He just told them that, where he was (at Ephesus), women did not pray without a cover on the head. This was true in other churches as well.
The problem that Paul talked about was important for the church in Corinth in his time. But it is still true that for both men and women there are ways to show respect in public *worship. These ways will vary with local customs in different countries.
Verses 17-18 Chloe’s servants had given Paul news that disgusted him. He could hardly believe the news about the behaviour of some people at their meetings. In those days, Christians shared a meal before they carried out the *Lord’s Supper. They brought food and wine to share with each other. Christ removed social differences between rich and poor people. But some Christians were selfish. They did not care about the poorer people. So, the meeting was not a sign of Christian love and unity. Instead, it had no value.
Verse 19 The differences among them showed that some were living as God wanted. But other people were not.
Verses 20-21 The Christians who arrived first had the most comfortable seats. They did not wait for the Christian slaves who came later, after their work. Instead, they started their own meal. They ate and drank more than their fair share. So there was little or nothing left when the poor Christians arrived later.
Verse 22 Their attitude showed that they did not care about the unity of God’s church. So, they might as well stay at home for their meals. Paul’s severe words show what he thought about their greedy and selfish behaviour. He had to go on to remind them about the meaning of the *Lord’s supper.
Verse 23 Paul’s account of the Last Supper is the earliest record of this event. He wrote it before the *gospel records. ‘Received’ and ‘passed on’ were special words for *Jews, which meant to give instructions in *religious matters. ‘Received from the *Lord’ means that Jesus himself had told this to Paul. The night was the night of the *Passover Meal. Jesus had warned his *disciples that one of them would hand him over to his enemies. Later, in the garden of Gethsemane, Judas showed the soldiers which person was Jesus.
Verses 23-24 Jesus said that the bread that he had broken was a sign for his body. He would die for their *salvation. Then, whenever they ate the bread in a meeting for *worship, they would remember him. They would remember that he died for their *salvation.
Verse 25 The *Israelites promised that they would obey God’s Law. Moses signed the *covenant by putting the blood of an animal on the *altar and on the people (Exodus 24:8). Jeremiah spoke about a new *covenant that was necessary. The people had not obeyed the one that they made in the time of Moses. This new *covenant would mean that God would forgive their *sins. They would want to obey God because he loved them (Jeremiah 31:31). The blood of Jesus would be the *sacrifice that made the new *covenant final.
‘Whenever you drink it’ shows that Jesus intended believers to have a regular time to remember his *sacrifice. The *Passover took place once a year. But Christians need more than an annual event to remind them about Jesus’ death. ‘Whenever’ could refer to a daily meal. Every supper that Christians share can be called ‘the *Lord’s supper’. Jesus was the *Lord’s servant who ‘took the *sin of many’ (Isaiah 53:12).
Verse 26 The meal would be a sign of the *Lord’s death. A person should accept what Jesus has done for him. His death brings *salvation to any person who accepts that. Jesus’ death also brings a new unity of people. There is now nothing between *Jew and Greek, men and women, free people and slaves. But the Christians at Corinth were not showing this unity. At every meal, Christians should remember Christ’s death until he comes again. That meal could be in a special *religious service or it could be an ordinary meal.
Verse 27 We should remember what the *Lord’s Supper means. It is wrong to eat it if we do not remember that. The bread and wine are signs of the death of Christ. To eat and drink carelessly is to be guilty of Christ’s death. A careless person is as much to blame as those who *crucified Jesus.
Verses 28-29 A Christian eats the bread and drinks the wine. He must prepare himself before he does that. He must not forget that he is part of the body of Christ. The body of Christ is the church. Christ’s death was an act of love. Therefore, the members of his body, the church, must show love to each other. If they do not, God will judge them.
Verse 30 Paul understood the illnesses and even deaths at Corinth as God’s judgement on the whole church.
Verses 31-32 They should decide whether they have right relations with other Christians. Paul had already told them that they were ‘one body’ (10:17). God will judge them if they have the wrong attitude to each other. God is like a father who corrects his children. God judges in order to correct his Christian children. Then they will not have to face the final judgement like non-Christians.
Verses 33-34 They must wait for each other and welcome each other. Those who cannot wait to eat should do so at home.
Paul does not say what instructions he will give them. He may mean more teaching about the *Lord’s supper. He may mean other matters that affect their progress in the Christian life.
Verse 1 The Christians at Corinth had asked Paul about *spiritual gifts. They may also have asked how to recognise the difference between evil *spirits and the *Holy Spirit.
Verse 2 Before they became Christians, they *worshipped *idols. *Idols are not real. But people were really *worshipping *demons when they *worshipped *idols. That is what Paul said. The *demons had led them to believe that wild cries were messages from the gods.
Verse 3 There was a way to decide whether a *spirit was good or bad. Those who spoke a *curse on Jesus could not have spoken by God’s Spirit. *Jews would use a *curse like this because Jesus died on a *cross. This was because of the Law in Deuteronomy 21:23. It said that God would *curse anyone who hung on a tree. Paul had tried to make Christians *curse when he was opposing them (Acts 26:11). This was before he became a Christian. Later on, *Roman rulers attacked Christians. Then Christians had to *curse Jesus or die.
‘Jesus is *Lord’ was probably the earliest statement of Christian belief. It meant that a person obeyed Christ as his master. The *Holy Spirit would help him to love other people. The selfish Christians divided the church. They were as bad as those who *cursed Jesus.
Verses 4-7 Paul wants to emphasise the unity of the church. He also wants to show that in the church there are different gifts. But these gifts are for the benefit of the whole church. They are not just for the benefit of the person who received the gift. Paul speaks about God (verse 6), the *Lord (verse 5) and the *Holy Spirit (verse 7) as the source of *spiritual gifts. He did not mean that each gift had a different origin. The same God gives every gift.
Verses 8-10 Paul gives a list of the *Holy Spirit’s gifts. He did not intend to write a complete list. There are other gifts in similar lists (1 Corinthians 12:28-30; Romans 12:6-8). Paul was just giving examples of the *Holy Spirit’s gifts to Christians.
There are nine examples. Writers try to put them into different groups:
1. wisdom and knowledge, verse 8.
Paul probably began with these because the people in Corinth emphasised them. ‘Wisdom’ comes from God. In 1 Corinthians 2:10-13 Paul speaks about God’s plan to give us *salvation by Christ. By ‘wisdom’, Paul means that we understand this with the help of the Holy Spirit. And we speak it. The *Holy Spirit speaks to us. And he shows us what God is like. Then we can share *spiritual truth with other people. ‘Knowledge’ is to understand God’s message for a particular situation.
2. *faith, power to heal and *miracles, verses 9-10.
‘*Faith’ means great *faith that the *Holy Spirit gives. Someone with this *faith believes that God will show his power or *mercy in a special situation. Elijah on Mount Carmel had this *faith (1 Kings chapter 18). A hundred years ago in England, a man had a home for hundreds of children without parents. He had the *faith to believe that God would supply their needs. God did supply their needs, sometimes in very wonderful ways.
‘Power to heal’ The book of Acts shows that the early *apostles healed the sick in the name and power of Jesus (Acts 3:6). Today God continues to heal the sick. He does so through prayer and the *faith of particular Christians. He also works through doctors and medical discoveries.
‘*Miracles’ These would include power to heal and other works of power. The *exorcism of evil *spirits would be one example.
3. ‘*prophecy’, verse 10.
By *prophecy, Paul means a message that the *Holy Spirit gives. It is to call people to live in God’s way. Like the *Old Testament *prophets, a Christian could warn those who were not obeying God. He would urge them to change their ways. He would show them the behaviour that God expected.
4. ‘the power to see the difference between *spirits’, verse 10.
God’s Spirit would tell members of the church who was speaking the truth. Other *spirits came from the *devil.
5. The gift of tongues and the power to explain their meaning, verse 10.
‘Tongues’ are sounds usually in no known human language. Other members of the church could not understand what the speaker was saying to praise God. It needed someone with a special gift to explain the meaning. It seems that the Christians at Corinth emphasised this gift very much. In parts of the Christian church today, to speak in tongues is important to the members. Paul shows his own attitude in chapter 13. In chapter 14, he also gives advice about what should happen in church meetings.
Verse 11 All the gifts that Paul has mentioned are the work of God’s *Spirit. The *Holy Spirit decides what gift or gifts each Christian should have. He gives them to help all the Christians to work together. Then they can spread God’s *kingdom.
Verses 12-13 Paul has already said, ‘We, who are many, are one body’ (10:17). The *Holy Spirit had *baptised them all into one body. There was no difference between those from different nations, or in different places in society. Christians are like Christ’s body on earth. They should speak and work for him.
Verses 14-21 Some Christians in Corinth thought that they were superior to other people. Their gifts were easier to see and other people noticed them. Other people thought that they had no gifts. Or they thought that their gifts were less important. So there was false pride in the church. And some people became jealous. A human body is only healthy if all the parts work together. Every part is essential. Each limb is important. It would be stupid for the foot to be jealous of the hand. The word for ‘foot’ in Greek is very similar to the word for ‘ear’. So, Paul chose the ear as his second example. Both the ears and the eyes are important parts of the body. One without the other would stop the body from being whole. Paul shows that there would be no sense if a body had only one part. God has created a body with many different parts. But it is still one body.
Verses 22-24 The ‘weaker’ parts are the internal parts like the heart. Although they are not in view, no one can live without them. The ‘private parts’ means the parts of the body that are for *sexual functions. People make sure to be modest because they cover them with special care. There is no need to give special honour to the parts of the body that we can see.
Verses 25-26 God has arranged the parts of the body so that they all work together. One part that suffers makes the rest of the body suffer. An ache in a tooth affects the whole body. A pleasant meal satisfies the stomach. And it makes the whole person feel good. When believers are really like the body of Christ, they respect each other. They sympathise with each other. They are sad when something or someone hurts another Christian in any way. They are glad when something makes another Christian happy.
Verses 27-28 Paul describes the functions of different parts of the body of Christ. He seems to give them in order of their importance because he says ‘first’, ‘second’ and ‘third’. But Paul has been writing about the importance of all parts of the body. So, he is probably thinking about the way that people become Christians. Then he thought about the way that people make progress in their *faith. ‘*Apostles’ gave the message about Jesus Christ. ‘*Prophets’ continued the work because they made them *spiritually stronger. ‘Teachers’ gave them more information and helped them to understand their *faith better.
Paul has already mentioned *miracles and power to heal (12:9-10). He adds the power to help other people. Christians can help in all kinds of practical ways. A person who organises things is like a person who guides a ship into harbour. It is the same word as the modern Greek word for a pilot who makes his aircraft land safely. A person with this gift gives wise advice to the whole church.
Paul mentions ‘tongues’ last of all because it was a problem in the church at Corinth. He wanted to show that it was only one of many different gifts. Therefore, he spoke about other gifts first.
Verse 31 This command seems to oppose what Paul says in verses 29-30. There he emphasises the variety of gifts. And, in verses 21-26, he shows how each person’s gifts are necessary for the rest of the Christian ‘body’. He is not saying that some people are more important than other people. But he will explain in 14:1-25, which are the greater gifts. They are those that benefit the church. But he first shows that no *spiritual gift has any value without love.
Verse 1 The languages (tongues) of people would be foreign languages. But the language of *angels can only mean speech that people cannot understand. The Christians at Corinth were not using this gift in the right way. Without love, their speech would be only a noise. Their speech would also be like a musical instrument that produces a loud crash, but no harmony. *Pagans would use such instruments in their excited *worship. A gong is a metal plate. It makes a loud noise when someone hits it with a stick.
Verse 2 The Christians at Corinth also emphasised ‘knowledge’. But the person with the deepest knowledge and the greatest *faith is worth nothing without love. ‘To move mountains’ was a way to say ‘to overcome a very difficult problem’.
Verse 3 The most generous act to help poor people would be of no use without love. When he spoke about allowing people to burn his body, Paul may have thought about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Daniel 3). He was probably using picture language for *sacrifice that was the result of pride. This would be of no advantage.
The special *New Testament word for ‘love’ is ‘agape’. It is not the natural love for a friend or a relative. It is the kind of love that God shows to people. We do not deserve it and we can never earn it. So, when we know God’s love, we should show that same love to other people.
Verse 4a What love is like:
Patience and kindness show God’s attitude to us (Romans 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). Jesus showed great patience with his *disciples. They were slow to understand what he taught. The ‘fruit of the Spirit’ includes patience and kindness (Galatians 5:22).
Verses 4b-7 What people with love do not do:
The first five examples refer to the way that some Christians at Corinth were behaving.
1. They do not feel jealous. In Corinth, people were jealous of each other’s *spiritual gifts. There were also groups who were competing with each other. They said that their leader was superior to the leader of other people. Paul had to show that leaders were all God’s servants. They were working together to make his *kingdom grow (1 Corinthians chapter 3).
2. They do not *boast. There was a *Pharisee in the story in Luke 18:9-12. He told God what a good person he (the *Pharisee) was. Some of the Christians at Corinth were *boasting that they had wisdom and knowledge. It is not possible to *boast and to love at the same time. To *boast is to make people notice you. To love is to think about other people. And it is to work for the whole church.
3. They are not proud. A proud person thinks too much about his own importance. A Christian who shows love is humble. William Carey was a shoe-maker who went to India about 200 years ago. He translated parts of the Bible into many different languages. But he did not think about himself as more than someone who mended shoes.
4. They do not behave badly. To behave well means more than to be polite. Some Christians at Corinth were not respecting other people. Some people were greedy and they were not thinking about other people at the *Lord’s Supper. They were without shame. To love means to think about other people’s feelings.
5. They do not look out for their own interests. Paul has already said that Christians should not use their freedom to act only for their own benefit (10:24). He repeated this advice to the Christians in Philippi (Philippians 2:4).
6. They do not easily become angry. Paul began his description of love with the word ‘patient’. One kind of patience is to be able to keep calm when other people are angry. It does not answer insults with anger.
7. They do not keep a record of how people have hurt them. God in Christ does not keep a record of our *sins (2 Corinthians 5:19). So, the person who loves does not keep remembering an action or insult against him. Some people say, ‘I will forgive but I will not forget.’ This statement means that the person has not really forgiven his enemy.
8. They take no pleasure in evil things. They are happy with the truth. It is a sad fact that people like to hear about the failures of other people. Newspapers, television and radio often encourage an interest in other people’s *sins. A loving Christian does not try to find fault in other people. ‘Love covers over a great number of *sins’ (1 Peter 4:8). Gossip can ruin a person’s life. But a loving person is happy when anyone succeeds.
9. Verse 7 Paul ends his list by emphasising that love never changes. People with love do not talk about other people’s faults. They do not give in to insults and difficulties. Christians can trust God’s promise to give them ‘hope and a future’ (Jeremiah 29:11). Christians can live with courage in every circumstance. This is because of their trust in God’s love for themselves and for other people.
Verse 8 In verses 1-2, Paul spoke about three gifts. They were *prophecy, tongues and knowledge. He said that without love they had no value. Here he contrasts love with these gifts. Love is permanent. These gifts will all become unnecessary.
Verses 9-10 In this life, our knowledge of God can never be complete. One day, we will no longer need anything that is not complete. That will happen in *eternity when Christ comes again.
Verses 11-12 Paul uses two examples to show what he means:
1. An adult does not speak or think like a child. And he does not reason like a child. The behaviour of a child is only suitable while he remains a child. *Spiritual gifts are necessary for the growth of the church. But they will no longer be necessary in *eternity.
2. Corinth was famous for good mirrors. They did not have clear glass then, so they made them out of metal. But highly polished metal is not as good as a modern glass mirror. It would reflect the image of a person, but not a perfect image. John said, ‘We know that when Jesus appears, we shall be like him. Because we shall see him as he is’ (1 John 3:2). God already knows us completely. In the next age, we shall understand God’s ways. We cannot understand them completely in this life.
Verse 13 *Faith, hope and love seem to have been a well-known group of qualities. Paul speaks about them in other letters. For example, 1 Thessalonians 1:3; Colossians 1:4-5. These three words explain the whole of the Christian life in this world. Christians have ‘*faith’ that God will forgive them because of Christ’s *sacrifice. They have ‘hope’ for the future, because of Christ’s *resurrection. They live a life of *faith and hope among Christian *brothers and *sisters whom they ‘love’. Of these three, only love will remain into *eternity. *Faith will no longer be necessary. Hope will become knowledge. Love is the greatest, because God himself is love (1 John 4:8). A friendship with him will never end, but it will continue into *eternity.
Verses 1-5 The Christians in Corinth were emphasising the gift of ‘tongues’. Paul possessed the gift himself (verse 18). But he was thinking about how all the members of the church could grow in their *faith.
Verses 1-2 He urges the Christians at Corinth to desire *spiritual gifts. But especially they should want the gift of *prophecy. A Christian who praised God in a tongue was helping himself. He was using sounds in no known human language when he could not find words to use. But other people could not understand him.
Verse 3 To give a message from God benefited the church. People could understand, so their *faith would grow. *Prophecy encouraged and comforted members of the church.
Verse 4 Paul makes the contrast clear. To speak in a tongue will help one person. To give a message from God for a particular situation helps the whole church.
Verse 5 So Paul would prefer the Christians to *prophesy. It was more important for the church to understand what God wanted. Unless someone explained the tongues, the church would not become stronger.
‘Tongues’ are not helpful in church meetings, unless someone explains them. Paul uses four different ways to show this:
1. Verse 6 The church would not benefit if Paul spoke to the Christians at Corinth in tongues. He would help them only with messages that they could understand.
2. Verse 7 If musicians do not play distinct notes on their instruments, nobody will listen. Because they are not playing a proper tune (a pleasant series of notes), nobody will enjoy the music.
3. Verses 8-9 The army used a *trumpet to call people to battle. They must prepare for battle. But if the sound was not clear, no one would get ready. Christians are fighting a battle against *Satan. So, they must be able to make people understand the dangers in their *spiritual lives. They are wasting their breath if people cannot understand their words.
4. Verses 10-11 There are many different languages. Each has its own meaning. But two people cannot talk to each other if they do not understand each other’s language. The Greeks described foreign languages as ugly noises like ‘bar, bar, bar.’
Verse 12 Paul tells the Christians in Corinth that they too are preventing people from understanding them. They are like musical instruments that are not playing in harmony. They are like a *trumpet that does not warn about danger. It is as if they are speaking a foreign language. They must not be selfish. Instead, they should use the *spiritual gifts that make the whole church strong.
Verses 13-15 It is important to use the mind as well as the *spirit when a Christian prays or sings. The Christians in Corinth thought that only the *spirit is important.
Verses 16-17 Perhaps Christians were speaking in tongues as they were giving thanks to God. Then some people who were present would not understand. So, they could not add ‘*Amen’ to the *thanksgiving. ‘*Amen’ is a *Hebrew word. It means that the speaker agrees with the prayer.
Verses 18-19 Paul himself had the gift to speak in tongues. But in a church meeting, he would only use words that people could understand. He wanted to teach other people so that their *faith would grow strong.
Verses 20-21 Paul has already urged the Christians at Corinth to stop behaving like children (3:1-4). Now he wants them to think about the gift of tongues in a mature way. Children think that anything unusual is exciting. But they must not be like children. Paul uses words from Isaiah 28:11-12 to make his advice clear. The words ‘in the Law’ here mean ‘in the Old Testament (the first part of the Bible)’.
Verses 21-23 Priests and *prophets who had drunk too much wine made fun of Isaiah’s message. They spoke nonsense. (The *Hebrew words are ‘sav lasav, sav lasav, kav lakav, kav lakav’.) So Isaiah warned them. The soldiers from Assyria would come into their land and defeat them. Then the priests and *prophets would hear a language that sounded like nonsense to them. So the Christians’ use of tongues may sound like nonsense to someone else. Suppose that they use this gift at the wrong time. Visitors to the service will think that they are mad. ‘Mad’ does not mean the behaviour of someone with a mental illness. In *pagan religions with secret ceremonies, people sometimes behaved in mad, excited ways. They believed that a god had power over them. The visitors may have been interested in the Christian *faith. But they will decide that the Christian *faith is no different from these *pagan religions. So, they will go away and probably they will never return.
Verses 24-25 *Preaching helps those who are already in the church (verse 22). But it is also a powerful witness to visitors. A person’s conscience will tell him that he is *sinful. His *spiritual state will become clear. He will declare that God is really present in the church. Paul believed that this was coming true. At a future time, people from every nation would want to learn from the *Jews. Paul uses these words from Zechariah 8:23: ‘Let us go with you. We have heard that God is with you.’ When visitors would listen to Christian *preaching, they would want to know more about Jesus.
Verse 26 Paul believed that in a Christian meeting each person had a gift to share. These gifts would help the church to grow strong. But he had heard that the Christians’ *worship in Corinth was confused. Christians wanted to display their own gifts. They were competing for attention with each other. So there was noise, but no proper *worship of God. God loves control and peace (verse 33). The meetings also went on for far too long. So Paul gives advice to three different groups:
1. Those who speak in tongues, verses 27-28
There should be a limit to the number. They must speak one at a time. If there is no one to explain the message, the speaker must keep quiet. He can speak to God but not speak aloud.
2. Those who had a message of *prophecy, verses 29-32
The number of *prophets should be limited. They too must control what they have to say. A speaker must stop and allow another person with a message to take his place. If they speak in turn, everyone will benefit. But Christians must hear all the messages with careful thought. They must decide whether a message is true.
3. Women, verses 34-36
Paul had made it plain that women could pray and *prophesy (1 Corinthians 11:5). So it seems that he is saying the opposite. Here he is telling them to remain silent. Some writers are worried about this. So, they suggest that Paul did not write these verses (34-36). Perhaps someone else added them at a later date. But there may be several good reasons for the difference.
1. Some women were becoming too proud about their new freedom as Christians (Galatians 3:28). ‘In Christ there is neither male nor female’. Some of them would have had little freedom before they became Christians. So, they were speaking at the wrong time and they were interrupting the meeting.
2. At that time, some religions with wrong beliefs gave women a very important role. The woman called ‘Jezebel’ in Revelation 2:20 had caused Christians to have wrong *sexual behaviour. So, Paul may have been warning against women teachers with bad morals.
3. The women may not have understood what someone was saying. They might have had little teaching before they became Christians. So they interrupted. They asked the men what the speaker meant. But men and women sat apart in public meetings then. So the women had to shout or walk about. Paul said that they should ask their own husbands to explain at home.
4. They may just have been gossiping to each other. They were not trying to take part in the meeting. This is possible even in some church services today!
Verse 36 The Christians at Corinth allowed confusion in their meetings. But they were proud of themselves. So Paul made fun of them in an angry way. He said that the Christian message did not come only from them. They were not the only Christians in the world. They should pay attention to what happened in other churches (verse 33).
Verse 37 Paul emphasises his authority. It comes from the *Lord. So those with *spiritual gifts should recognise the authority of his advice to them.
Verse 38 Paul plays with the words ‘take notice’. He means this: ‘Nobody should follow the advice of any person who does not believe in Paul’s authority.’
Verse 39 Paul had no wish to prevent anyone from using his *spiritual gifts. He had spoken about the need to use ‘tongues’ with care. But he did not forbid their use.
Verse 40 Public *worship is important. So everything should happen in a way that gives honour to God. And it should happen in a way that benefits the church. Public *worship should bring peace because God is a God of peace (verse 33).
The reason that Paul was writing about the *resurrection is in verse 12. Some Christians were saying that there is no *resurrection from the dead. They may have denied this vital part of the *gospel for any of the following reasons:
1. Greeks believed that the *soul is in the body. It is as if it is in prison. This world is only like a shadow. Death sets the *soul free to live in the real world. So some Christians may have believed that a ‘*soul’ could live for ever without a body.
2. Some Christians believed that the *resurrection had already happened. At *baptism they had received every *blessing that they needed. So they did not look forward to a *resurrection of the body. In another letter, Paul mentions Hymenaeus and Philetus, who had this false idea (2 Timothy 2:17, 18).
3. Some *Jews may have tried to explain the empty grave. This may have tested a person’s belief in the *resurrection of Jesus.
Paul dealt with these beliefs. He wrote about the facts about the *resurrection (verses 1-11). Then he gave the serious results if people deny the *resurrection (verses 12-19). He then shows the results if people believe in the *resurrection of Jesus. He shows the results for the future and in the present (verses 20-34).
Verse 1-2 Paul said that they had received the good news. The *apostles passed on the facts about the *crucifixion and *resurrection. Paul himself received a *revelation from Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:11). He had also seen Peter and James in Jerusalem. He would have received further teaching from them (Galatians 1:18-19).
Verse 3 Christ died ‘for our *sins’. Isaiah 53:5-12 speaks about a servant of God who died on behalf of other people. He ‘carried the *sin of many’.
Verse 4 Jesus had really died. This fact is clear, because his friends had buried him in a tomb (a grave that was like a cave). Some *Scriptures suggested that he would not stay in the grave. God would raise his servant from death. Psalm 16:9-10 was one of the *scriptures that Peter used in his speech on the day of *Pentecost (Acts 2:24-28).
Verse 5 Jesus appeared to Peter. Jesus really did appear. It was not something that Peter imagined. The *angel in the empty tomb had said, ‘Go, tell his *disciples, and Peter’ (Mark 16:17). The two who had returned from Emmaus found that the *apostles already knew about Jesus’ *resurrection. ‘He has appeared to Simon (Peter)’ (Luke 24:34).
‘the 12 men’ may refer to the 11 *apostles without Judas. It was a way to describe the special group whom Jesus first called. But they may not all have been present. John recorded an appearance of Jesus (John 20:19-20). Thomas was not present (John 20:24-28).
Verse 6 The appearance to five hundred people is important. Five hundred people were not likely to make a mistake. As some of them were still alive, it would be possible to question them about their experience.
Verse 7 James was one of the four brothers of Jesus (Mark 6:3). He had not believed in Jesus during his life. He thought that Jesus was mad (Mark 3:21). He suggested that Jesus should go to Jerusalem (John 7:5). But after the *resurrection, James was among the *disciples (Acts 1:14). He became a leader of the church in Jerusalem, where he met Paul (Galatians 1:19). He believed that *Gentile believers need not accept *circumcision (Acts 15:13-19). Paul went to see him on his return from his third journey (Acts 21:18). There is no other record in the Bible of Jesus’ appearance to James. But it is clear that something important made him change. He had doubted about Jesus. Now he had accepted him as *Saviour.
‘All the *apostles’ means that not one of them was missing. It may refer to the appearance of Jesus recorded in John 20:26-29. Perhaps it is his appearance at the time of the Ascension (Acts 1:4). (The Ascension was the time when Jesus returned to heaven.)
Verse 8 The last appearance of Jesus was to Paul himself. It was on the road to Damascus (Act 9:1-5). Paul’s *spiritual birth took place after the Ascension. The other *apostles lived with Jesus for a long time. They slowly realised that he was God’s Son, the *Messiah. The way that Paul became an *apostle was quite different. It was sudden. He only saw Jesus long after the other *apostles did. So, it was as if he was born at the wrong time and not in the normal way. People sometimes used the Greek word for this kind of birth as an insult. A baby that is born early can be very small. And it may sometimes look ugly. Paul was not handsome. He may have been quite small. Some Christians insulted him (2 Corinthians 10:10). People may have used the word as an insult because he emphasised God’s *grace. Some Christians said that he was not born again. He was like a baby that leaves its mother’s body too soon to remain alive.
Verses 9-11 Paul emphasises that he has become a Christian through God’s *grace. He did not deserve to have the name ‘*apostle’, because he had attacked God’s church. God’s *grace gave him the desire and the strength to work harder than all the other *apostles. But whoever *preached the *gospel gave the same facts about the *resurrection as Paul gave. These were the facts that the Christians in Corinth had believed.
Paul gives seven results if people deny the *resurrection:
1. Verses 13 and 16 God has not raised Christ. Death and hate will have defeated life and love.
2. Verse 14 Those who *preach the *resurrection are wasting their time.
3. Verse 14 Those who have trusted in Christ will be disappointed. He said that he was the truth. What he said would all have been a lie.
4. Verse 15 Some people have *preached that God raised Jesus. Those people are giving false ideas about God. They are breaking the law about false witnesses.
5. Verse 17 God will punish Christians for their *sins. God has not forgiven them.
6. Verse 18 Those who have died as believers in Christ have no future.
7. Verse 19 If Jesus has not risen from death, his promises about the future *eternal life make no sense. We have no hope for the future. Other people should pity Christians. Because Christians believe someone who could not keep his promises.
Verses 20-28 Future results of the *resurrection
Verse 20 ‘First’: Paul used a word that described the first grain of the harvest. *Jews had to offer this first to the *priest in the *temple before the grain went into the shops. It was a sign of the future harvest. So the *resurrection of Jesus was the sign of the future *resurrection of all believers.
‘those who have fallen asleep’ means ‘those who have died’. Jesus himself used the word ‘sleep’ to mean death. He said that he would wake Lazarus from ‘sleep’ (John 11:11-13). ‘Sleep’ describes a state that will not last for ever.
Verses 21-22 Adam’s failure to obey God brought *sin into the world (Genesis 3:17-19). *Sin was responsible for death. As people, we all have the same tendency to *sin. Everyone has *sinned. Therefore all will die. We cannot avoid death.
But Christ is the new Adam. He came into the world as a real person. He came into the world to rescue us from *sin and its results. Christ gives life. We can choose to share in his life. If we belong to him, we are part of his completely new human family. We have God’s gift of *eternal life. This life begins on earth. It continues beyond *physical death. Our spirit will live with God.
Verses 23-24 Events will take place in the right order. Christ is the first to rise from the dead. Christ will come again. Then, God will raise all those who belong to Christ. Then the end of human history will come. Christ will destroy the power of everyone and everything that opposes him. ‘Rule, power and authority’ can refer to both human and *spiritual *beings that are against God. Christ will give to the Father those who belong to his *kingdom.
Verses 25-28 Paul uses two Psalms to explain that Christ will defeat his enemies. Psalm 8:6 describes the authority that God gave to man. God gave this authority to men when he created them. God has ‘put everything under his feet.’ Christ was the perfect man. So these words perfectly refer to him. In Psalm 110:1, God gives honour to Christ. Christ will rule until he has defeated all his enemies. God raised Christ from death. And he will raise those who belong to Christ. So death, which is our final enemy, will suffer complete defeat.
Christ finished the work that God gave him to do. So, God will be ‘all in all’. These words of Paul mean that nothing in heaven or on earth will be able to act against God’s power. Then nothing will want to act against his love.
Results of the *resurrection for the present, verses 29-34
1. Some members of the church at Corinth were having *baptism on behalf of friends or family. They had died before they became Christians. Or as Christians they had died before *baptism. If there is no *resurrection, there was no sense in ‘*baptism for the dead’. They would be wasting their time.
The later Christian church has never used this practice.
2. Verses 30-32 Paul then spoke about himself. He suffered and put himself in danger every day to *preach the *gospel with its good news about *resurrection. At Ephesus, he had been in great danger. ‘To fight with animals’ was a way to describe the very dangerous situation there. The angry crowd were like animals and could easily have killed Paul (Acts 19:23-31). There was no reason for him to go through such hard times if there is no *resurrection. He might just as well follow *pagan advice: ‘Let us eat and drink, because tomorrow we die’ (Isaiah 22:13). Instead of the daily struggle, he could enjoy *physical pleasures. And he could live without care.
3. Verses 33-34 Some people think that there is no future life. So, they live as if this world is everything. They easily behave badly. The rich man in Jesus’ story forgot about *eternity. So he planned to live selfishly (Luke 16:19). A Greek poet had written, ‘Bad company ruins good characters.’ This was a well-known thing that people said. Paul says that those who deny the *resurrection are the bad company. They behave badly and they will cause other people to behave badly too. So, Paul tells the Christians at Corinth to come back to their senses. The words that Paul used mean that they are like confused people. They are like people who have drunk too much alcohol. The Christians at Corinth must make sure that they can think clearly. They must stop *sinning. To deny the *resurrection is not a sign of their superior ‘knowledge’. It is a sign that they are like *pagans. They do not know God. And their lack of love for other people is also a sign. They do not know what God wants. Paul wanted to make the Christians at Corinth ashamed about their wrong behaviour. Their behaviour was the result of their proud, false ideas. Paul hoped to make them change their behaviour.
Verse 35-41 The Christians at Corinth then asked a question about the kind of *resurrection body that anyone would have. The question was a foolish one. The word ‘body’ describes many different kinds of bodies. The human body is suitable to live on earth. A fish has a body that is suitable to live in water. The bird’s body is right to live in the air. The sun, moon and stars are all different in the splendid light that they give out. So, God will give each Christian a risen body that is suitable to live in heaven.
Verses 42-44 Seeds have to ‘die’ in the ground before they grow into plants. A seed that we bury in the earth produces something much more beautiful. A tiny brown seed dies and a splendid flower with bright colours grows from the seed. In the same way, when the human body dies, the risen body will be much more wonderful. It has a relationship with the human body, but it is different. When Jesus rose again, his friends could recognise him. But his appearances were sudden. He could enter a room, although the *disciples had locked the doors. As soon as the two people who had walked to Emmaus recognised him, he disappeared (Luke 24:31).
The risen body will not die or have any *physical weaknesses. The human body has lost some of its honour because of *sin. ‘All people fall short of the *glory of God’ (Romans 3:16). But the risen body will be *glorious. ‘The *Lord Jesus - - - will change our weak human bodies. He will make them like his *glorious body’ (Philippians 3:20-21). In the *Lord’s prayer, we say that ‘the power and the *glory’ belong to God. Our risen bodies will have both power and *glory. They will be more like God. And so they will be suitable bodies for us to live in heaven.
Verses 45-50 The first man, Adam, was a ‘man of dust’ (Genesis 2:7). All of us are like Adam. God raised Jesus, the ‘last Adam’, from the dead. The *resurrection of Jesus showed that he was the man from heaven. All those who belong to Jesus will receive his life. Jesus is a *spirit who gives life. These human bodies cannot enter heaven after death, because there is no death in heaven.
Verse 51 Christians who have died will receive a *resurrection body. Paul has explained that. Now he speaks about other Christians. Those Christians will still be alive when Jesus comes again. The *Holy Spirit has shown Paul what nobody knew before. Those still alive will need a different body. It must be suitable for heaven.
Verses 52-54 ‘In a flash’ translates the word ‘atom’, which is something very tiny. So it will be in the very shortest time. The change from a human body to a *spiritual body will happen very quickly. A *trumpet gave a signal that the enemy had lost the battle. In the *Old Testament it is often one of the signs of the ‘Day of the *Lord’ (for example Joel 2:1). The sound of the last *trumpet will tell everyone that Jesus has defeated death. It is the time of Jesus’ return. Then God will change our human bodies into *spiritual bodies. It will be like when a person changes his clothes. Paul used the words from Isaiah 25:8 to show that God’s *victory over death was complete.
Verses 55-56 The *prophet Hosea spoke about death as if it were a person. He asked where its *victory came from (Hosea 13:14). Paul used these words to show that there is no longer a need to fear death. A ‘sting’ is the painful and poisonous attack from an insect or a snake. The law showed what *sin is like. And it made us all guilty in front of God. *Sin is like the poison that leads to death. It makes us afraid to meet God.
Verse 57 Christ’s last words on the *cross were ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30). He had destroyed the power of death. God raised Christ from the dead. So he will also raise those who belong to Christ. So Paul ends his teaching about the *resurrection with words of praise.
Verse 58 Paul ends by encouraging his Christian *brothers and *sisters. They have the promise of the *resurrection. So they should not let anything disturb their *faith. They should not let anything destroy their *faith. They should do all that they can to work for Christ. Anything that they do for the *Lord will certainly be worthwhile.
1. Paul had promised the leaders of the church in Jerusalem that he would remember the poor people in Jerusalem (Galatians 2:9-10). There had been a great lack of food (Acts 11:27-30). There were many Christian widows (Acts 6:1-6). There was probably a lack of paid work.
2. Paul wanted Christians to realise that *faith must cause us to act practically. They could show their love for each other if they helped poor people by gifts of money. Paul used the word ‘charis’ to show that their money was a gift (1 Corinthians 16:3). He also talked about this gift in 2 Corinthians 8:4. There he used the Greek word ‘koinonia’ to emphasise that they were sharing with each other. It was an honour to give this help (2 Corinthians 9:12).
3. Paul was eager to unite *Jewish and *Gentile Christians. They were part of one church, with responsibility for each other.
Verse 1 ‘Now I will write about’ shows that Paul was replying to questions from Corinth. They may have asked him
1. how to organise the collection of money;
2. what the arrangements were to send the money to Jerusalem.
Verses 2-3 ‘The first day of the week’ was the day of the *resurrection of Jesus. So it was a day on which Christians met for *worship (Acts 20:7). So to set aside money on that day was part of their *worship. It was a way to thank God. A single collection would produce some money. But regular collections over a period of time would produce more money. If one Christian was not as rich as another Christian, he would give less. The rich Christians should give more. But they all had the opportunity to share.
A number of people together would make travel safer. They would be carrying a large sum of money. They should be men that the local churches approved of. That would remove any idea that Christians were not honest. Acts 20:4 gives the names of some of these men.
The Christians in Corinth took more than a year to make their collection. We know that from 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9. So Paul had to urge them to complete it. But the collection did reach Jerusalem. Later, Paul told Felix that he had come to Jerusalem to bring gifts to his nation (Acts 24:17).
Verses 5-6 Some Christians in Corinth had doubted whether Paul would visit them (4:19). Paul’s plans were not certain. But he hoped to visit Corinth after he had gone through Macedonia. He intended just to make a quick tour of the churches in Philippi and Thessalonica, but not to stay long. Perhaps he was worried about whether they were believing the right things. Some *Jewish Christians were trying to say that *Gentile Christians should keep *Jewish laws, including the law about *circumcision. Maybe that is why Paul needed to visit them.
But Paul hoped to spend some time at Corinth. He might even spend the winter there. People did not usually travel during the winter.
Verses 8-9 Paul thought that there was a great opportunity to *preach the *gospel at Ephesus. So he would stay there until *Pentecost. Other churches in Asia were the result of Paul’s stay in Ephesus for two years. People who had become Christians visited other places. They started churches there. For example, Epaphras had probably started the church at Colossae (Colossians 1:7). These churches were probably the ones that John named as the ‘seven churches in Asia’ (Revelation 1:11).
Paul was the *Lord’s servant. So his plans always changed if the *Lord guided him. Paul had many enemies in Ephesus. Acts chapter 19 tells us how *Jews spoke out against him. And so did Demetrius and other workers, who made money from the *worship of Diana. Because they were losing trade, they began a public protest against Paul. He could easily have died. Acts 20:1-3 shows that Paul carried out his plan to go through Macedonia to Corinth. He stayed in Corinth for three months.
Verses 10-11 Paul had said that he would send Timothy to visit them (1 Corinthians 4:17). From Acts 19:22, we learn that he sent Timothy with Erastus before him into Macedonia. Timothy was young (1 Timothy 4:12). Paul thought that some of the Christians in Corinth might not behave in a loving way towards a young man. So, he reminded them that Timothy was doing the same work as himself. They should help Timothy as they would have helped Paul. It is not clear whether Paul and some Christians with him were expecting Timothy. It could be that Timothy and Erastus would be returning from their journey with some other ‘*brothers’ to meet Paul.
Verse 12 ‘Now I want to speak about’ suggests that the Christians in Corinth had asked about Apollos. There were Christians there who admired the way that Apollos *preached (1:2). Paul showed that he and Apollos were friends. He had tried to persuade him to go back to Corinth. For some reason, Apollos did not want to go at that time. He may have been too busy with the work in Ephesus. If he went back to Corinth, perhaps the Christians there would divide again (1:10-12). Perhaps he was worried about that. But Apollos would go at a suitable time.
Verse 13 Paul means that they must watch out for the enemy of Christ. The *devil is like a lion that is looking for someone to destroy (1 Peter 5:8). They must not allow people with wrong ideas to make their *faith weak (Acts 20:30-31). They must be ready at all times for Christ’s return (Mark 13:38). They must have courage and act like responsible adults. They will need strength to keep their *faith pure from wrong ideas and wrong behaviour.
Verse 14 This final command is about the relationships of Christians to each other, and to those outside the church. Paul had shown them what love was like in chapter 13. ‘Everything’ was a necessary word because of all their quarrels and selfish behaviour. Paul had heard about the way that they went to the courts with each other (6:1-11). He had blamed them for the way that they behaved at the *Lord’s Supper (11:17-22). They did not think about the gifts of other people when they met for *worship (chapter 14). So they must act with love in all that they do. In that way, they would show their *spiritual strength.
Verse 15 Paul had *baptised Stephanas and his family (1:16). They were the first people to become Christians in the region called Achaia. Stephanas and his family had taken the responsibility to serve other Christians.
Verse 16 Paul says that those who serve can lead other people. He urged the Christians at Corinth to obey people like Stephanas. They should obey anyone else who worked in this way. He used the word ‘task’. It meant that such work was not easy. It required great effort.
Verse 17 Fortunatus and Achaicus may have been slaves who belonged to the home of Stephanas. They had arrived from Corinth with news about what was happening there. Paul had felt sad without his friends in Corinth. These three made him feel that he was not completely separate from all of his friends in Corinth.
Verse 18 It had been a great pleasure for Paul to receive them. It was good for the Christians at Corinth to send their messages to Paul. The three men may have taken Paul’s letter back to Corinth.
Verse 19 The churches in the region called Asia were those that Christians had established during Paul’s stay in Ephesus. He stayed there for two years. Revelation chapters 2 and 3 tell us the places where those churches were.
Aquila and his wife Priscilla were good friends of Paul. They had lived in Rome. But the *Roman ruler Claudius had ordered the *Jews to leave Rome. This was perhaps because of trouble in a *synagogue. This trouble may have been because *Jews opposed Christian *preaching (Acts 18:2). When Paul arrived in Corinth, Aquila and Priscilla gave him a home. He worked with them in their business to make tents (Acts 18:1-3). They travelled with Paul to Ephesus. They remained there when he returned to Antioch. While he was away, they taught Apollos more about *Christianity (Acts 18:24-26). Then they returned to Rome, perhaps to prepare for Paul’s intended visit. A group of Christians met in their house. Paul says that they risked their lives for him. We do not know when this was. Paul says that he and the members of all the *Gentile churches are grateful to them (Romans 16:3-5).
Verse 20 Paul does not name the ‘*brothers’. But he means all the Christians who were working with him in Ephesus.
Paul encourages them to greet each other with ‘a holy kiss’. A kiss was a normal greeting in Paul’s time. Paul refers to this in three other letters. (See 1 Thessalonians 5:26; 2 Corinthians 13:12; Romans 16:16.) Peter refers to a ‘kiss of love’ (1 Peter 5:14). It was a ‘holy’ kiss because it showed the special relationship of God’s ‘holy’ people with each other. It became part of the service of the *Lord’s Supper. But Judas used a kiss that was a false greeting (Luke 22:48).
Verse 21 Paul’s personal greeting is in his own handwriting. He usually dictated his letters to someone who wrote them down. We know that Tertius wrote down the letter to the Christians in Rome (Romans 16:22). Paul’s signature would show that the letter was genuine. He wrote in Galatians 6:11 about his large handwriting. In 2 Thessalonians 3:17, he said that the greeting in his own handwriting was in all his letters.
Verse 22 All those who did not love Jesus ought to suffer God’s punishment.
‘Maranatha’ is an Aramaic word that means ‘Our *Lord, come’. (Aramaic was the language that Jesus spoke.) Even Christians who spoke Greek knew this word. So the early Christians must have used it. It may have been a secret sign of Christians to each other. But it certainly was a prayer that Jesus would return soon. It is like the prayer at the end of Revelation (Revelation 22:20): ‘Come, *Lord Jesus’.
Verse 23 Paul prays that the *grace of the *Lord Jesus will be with his friends. Paul always ended his letters like this.
Verse 24 Paul ends this letter by sending his love to them all. In parts of his letter, he had blamed them for their actions. Many people had opposed Paul in Corinth. But he sent his love to ‘all’ of them. They were all united because of their *faith in Christ Jesus. So the *apostle of Christ Jesus (1:1) showed the same love as his *Lord.
altar ~ a table on which people placed *sacrifices.
Amen ~ we agree; it is true; that is right; let it be so.
ancestor ~ a member of one’s family in the past from whom one’s parents came.
angel ~ God’s special servant, who brings his messages.
apostle ~ a person that God or Jesus sent out to teach about Jesus.
baptise, baptism ~ to put a person in water as a sign that he is clean from past *sins.
being ~ a person or animal that is alive.
blessings ~ causes of happiness.
boast ~ talk with too much pride.
brother ~ Paul calls the Christians his brothers and *sisters because they are all in God’s family.
Christianity ~ what people believe and teach about Jesus.
circumcise, circumcision ~ to remove loose skin from the end of the male sex part; a sign of God’s agreement with the *Jews.
commandments ~ rules that God gave; the ten important rules that God gave to Moses on the mountain of Sinai.
covenant ~ agreement.
cross ~ wooden structure on which the *Romans killed people; to move one thing over another thing.
crucify, crucifixion ~ kill on a *cross.
curse ~ wish evil upon someone.
demon, devil ~ a bad *spirit that acts against God. The devil is God’s chief enemy.
disciple ~ person who learns from his master.
dough ~ bread mixture before you bake it.
eternal ~ without beginning or end.
eternity ~ the future life in heaven; time with no end.
exorcism ~ when someone frees a person or place from an evil *spirit.
faith ~ trust in someone or something; what people believe about Jesus.
feast ~ special meal, *religious ceremony.
foundation ~ base on which a building or a belief rests.
Gentiles ~ people who are not *Jews.
glorious ~ very beautiful and splendid.
glory ~ great beauty and honour.
gospel ~ the ‘good news’ about Jesus.
grace ~ God’s love that no one deserves.
grape ~ a small, sweet fruit that people make wine (a drink with alcohol) from.
Hebrew ~ the language that the *Jews spoke.
Holy Spirit ~ the Spirit of God; the Spirit of Jesus.
homosexuals ~ people of the same sex who have sex with each other.
idol ~ false god.
influence ~ the power to persuade.
Israelite ~ a *Jewish person.
Jew, Jewish ~ a person whose *ancestor was Abraham.
kingdom ~ area that a king rules; people that God rules.
lamb ~ young sheep.
Levite ~ a person from the *tribe of Levi. God chose them to work for him in his *temple.
Lord ~ master, God, Jesus.
manna ~ food from God. It came down from the sky. It was like bread.
mercy ~ to be kind when you do not have to be kind.
Messiah ~ *Jewish word for the king who would come to rescue them.
miracle ~ a great thing that only God can do.
New Testament ~ the last part of the Bible, which the writers wrote after the life of Jesus.
offering ~ a gift to please God.
Old Testament ~ the first part of the Bible, which the writers wrote before the life of Jesus.
pagan ~ a person who *worships many gods or who has no *religious belief.
Passover ~ annual ceremony to remember God’s rescue of the *Jews from Egypt.
Pentecost ~ day when the *Jews thanked God for their food; day when God gave the *Holy Spirit to the church.
Pharisee ~ one of a group of *Jews who thought that they kept all God’s rules. They did not like the things that Jesus taught. They thought that they did not do any wrong things. So, they thought that they were very important and clever.
physical ~ about the body.
preach ~ tell people about Jesus and how to live for Jesus.
priest ~ a man who gave gifts and burned animals as a *sacrifice to God for the *Jews; a man whom God chose to do things for him.
prophecy ~ a message from God.
prophesy ~ to give a message from God.
prophet ~ a person who tells what God wants.
prostitute ~ a woman who has sex with men for money.
religious ~ something that people do as part of the *worship of God.
resurrection ~ to become alive after death.
revelation ~ something that God makes known to people.
Roman ~ Rome was the capital city of the rulers at that time. That which belonged to Rome was Roman.
sacrifice ~ a gift to God to ask him to forgive sins; or to thank him for something. A gift to God, often an animal or bird, by the *Jews to ask God to forgive their *sins. Jesus gave himself to die as a *sacrifice for our *sins.
salvation ~ rescue from evil things; God’s forgiveness that makes us well in body, mind and *spirit.
Satan ~ the chief evil *spirit.
save ~ rescue from *sin and its results.
Saviour ~ the one who rescues people from evil things.
Scripture(s) ~ book(s) of the Bible.
seal ~ a sign that something is genuine.
sexual ~ about sex.
sin ~ to break God’s laws; to fail to give God honour; what we do when we break God’s laws.
sinful ~ when people do things against God or other people; when we do not obey God’s rules; when we do not do what God wants us to do; the bad things that are in us which we have from birth.
sister ~ Paul calls the Christians his *brothers and sisters because they are all in God’s family.
soul ~ the part of a person that lives on after death.
spirit ~ the part of us that lives when our body dies; a *being that is always alive, even without a body; the part of a person that will always be alive, even after their body is dead. There are good spirits, like God’s Spirit and his *angels. And there are bad spirits, like *Satan and his *angels.
spiritual ~ about the *spirit.
statue ~ a person or animal that someone made out of metal or wood.
steward ~ a person who looks after another person’s house or land.
synagogue ~ a building where *Jews gather for prayer; a place for *Jews to meet.
temple ~ building in which to *worship a god; the building in Jerusalem where *Jews went to *worship God.
tempt, temptation ~ try to make someone do wrong.
thanksgiving ~ an expression of thanks to God.
thresh ~ to hit material like wheat so that the grains fall out; to separate grain from straw.
tradition ~ belief that passes from person to person.
trial ~ a legal examination by which a judge decides if a person has done a crime; the examination of a person in a court of law to discover whether he is guilty of a crime.
tribe ~ the whole family of one of Jacob’s 12 sons. A family from the same father.
trumpet ~ loud musical instrument; to play it, you blow into the tube.
tune ~ a pleasant series of notes.
uncircumcised ~ people that had not got *circumcision.
victory ~ success against an enemy.
vineyard ~ place where *grapes grow.
virgin ~ woman who has never had sex with a man.
warning ~ when we warn someone. We say that we are giving them a warning.
worship ~ show honour to God.
yeast ~ yeast is put into flour and water to make bread. The yeast grows in the bread and makes the bread grow bigger.
William Barclay ~ The Letters to the Corinthians ~ St Andrews Press, 1975
Donald Coggan ~ Meet Paul ~ SPCK, 1998
Gordon D. Fee ~ The First Epistle to the Corinthians ~ New International Commentary ~ Eerdmans, 1987
Hans Fror ~ You wretched Corinthians (translated by John Bowden) ~ SCM, 1995
Michael Green ~ To Corinth with love ~ Hodder & Stoughton, 1982
Leon Morris ~ 1 Corinthians ~ Tyndale NT Commentaries ~ IVP, 1985
Jerome Murphy-O’Connor ~ 1 Corinthians ~ People’s Bible Commentary~ BRF, 1999
David Prior ~ The message of 1 Corinthians ~ The Bible speaks today ~ IVP, 1993
Concise Oxford Dictionary
Chambers 21st Century Dictionary
Thesaurus ~ Geddes and Grosset
NIV Reader’s version
J B Phillips
© 1997-2004, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).
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