Study of I Corinthians



The Background of I Corinthians

I Corinthians was written by the Apostle Paul and is usually dated in A.D. 55 during Paul's ministry at Ephesus (I Corinthians 16:7-9). Some Corinthians from the house of Chloe (I Corinthians 1:11) visited Paul and related that there were divisions among the Corinthian believers. It was also revealed to Paul, possibly by those of the house of Chloe or possibly by Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, that there was a man who was living in an incestuous relationship with his step-mother, that believers from the church at Corinth were suing one another before unsaved judges, and that there was a problem with moral laxity in the church. In addition, a letter from the church at Corinth had been delivered to Paul relating questions to which the church people desired answers. It is possible that this letter was delivered by those of the house of Chloe, but it is more likely that it was delivered by Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus.

In the first 6 chapters of I Corinthians, Paul deals with problems in the church at Corinth as related to him; and in chapters 7-16, Paul answers the questions that the Corinthians had asked him. I Corinthians deals with practical Christian living and seeks to apply salvation to everyday situations.

Corinth was located on a five-to-six mile strip of land connecting the main landmass of Greece and the Peloponnese, its large ragged southern landmass. To sail around the Peloponnese was a dangerous two hundred mile trip; so they made a dragway for ships across the five-to-six mile isthmus of land where Corinth was located. Thus, Corinth became a link for East-West trade. Corinth was also the only land link between northern and southern Greece.

Corinth became the richest city and one of the most populous cities of the Greek world. It was the political capital of Achaia. All kinds of people were found in Corinth. The town was especially noted for its sexual immorality and for the Temple of Aphrodite, the fertility goddess. In connection with the worship of Aphrodite were 1,000 sacred prostitutes. Corinth was a wicked, pagan, morally degenerate, and idolatrous town. Paul, accompanied by Silas and Timothy, spent eighteen months there on his second missionary journey. His experience in Corinth is found in Acts 18:1-18,

(1) After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth;

(2) And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them.

(3) And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers.

(4) And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.

(5) And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ.

(6) And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.

(7) And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man's house, named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue.

(8) And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.

(9) Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace:

(10) For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city.

(11) And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

(12) And when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment seat,

(13) Saying, This fellow persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law.

(14) And when Paul was now about to open his mouth, Gallio said unto the Jews, If it were a matter of wrong or wicked lewdness,

O ye Jews, reason would that I should bear with you:

(15) But if it be a question of words and names, and of your law, look ye to it; for I will be no judge of such matters.

(16) And he drave them from the judgment seat.

(17) Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. And Gallio cared for none of those things.

(18) And Paul after this tarried there yet a good while, and then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila; having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow.

An Outline of I Corinthians


A. Salutation - 1:1-3

B. Thanksgiving - 1:4-9


A. The divisions in the church - 1:10 - 4:21

1. The fact of the divisions - 1:10-17

2. The causes of the divisions - 1:18 - 4:5

a. A misconception of the message - 1:18 - 3:4

(1) The message of the cross is not characterized by human wisdom - 1:18-25

(2) The salvation of the Corinthian believers demonstrates the fallacy of human wisdom - 1:26-31

(3) Paul's message - 2:1-2

(4) Paul's method of delivery - 2:3-4

(5) Paul's motive - 2:5

(6) The true wisdom of God - 2:6-16

(7) The divisions in the church demonstrate the Corinthian believers' carnality - 3:1-4

b. A proper understanding of the ministry is needed - 3:5 - 4:5

c. Properly evaluating God's servants - 4:6-21

B. The absence of discipline - 5:1-13

1. Known sin is tolerated in the church - 5:1-2

2. Paul's advice on dealing with this sin - 5:3-8

3. Offenses requiring expulsion - 5:9-11

4. The church must judge the accused member by removing him - 5:12-13

C. The lawsuits before the heathen - 6:1-11

1. The saints will judge the world - 6:1-2

2. The saints will judge angels - 6:3

3. There is a better alternative than suing each other before unsaved judges - 6:4-8

4. Believers are no longer like unbelievers - 6:9-11

D. The moral laxity in the church - 6:12-20

1. Sexual license brings slavery - 6:12

2. Satisfying one's sexual appetite cannot be compared to satisfying his appetite for food - 6:13

3. Sexual misconduct will join a member of Christ with a harlot - 6:14-17

4. Sexual misconduct must be avoided - 6:18

5. The believer's body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and is not to be used for immorality - 6:19-20


A. Paul's counsel concerning marriage - 7:1 - 40

1. The general principle - 7:1-7

2. The unmarried and the widow - 7:8-9

3. The married - 7:10-11

4. The Christian married to an unbeliever who is willing to live with the believer - 7:12-14

5. The Christian married to an unbeliever who is not willing to live with the believer - 7:15-16

6. Lead the life God assigns to you - 7:17-24

7. Virgins - 7:25-38

8. Widows - 7:39-40

B. Paul's counsel concerning things sacrificed to idols - 8:1 - 11:1

1. We all have some knowledge - 8:1-6

2. We do not all have the same knowledge - 8:7-12

3. Believers should not do anything which might cause another believer to sin - 8:13

4. Paul waived his right to be supported by the believers in Corinth - 9:1-18

5. Paul limited his rights by adapting himself to the customs of the people to whom he ministered - 9:19-27

6. Israel had many advantages - 10:1-4

7. Israel did not take advantage of its advantages - 10:5

8. Believers should learn from the examples of the Israelites - 10:6-12

9. Believers should take advantage of the way to escape - 10:13

10. Believers must always flee from idolatry - 10:14-22

11. Believers must always seek the spiritual welfare of others - 10:23-30

12. Believers must always act so that God will receive glory - 10:31-33

13. Believers must practice what Paul practiced - 11:1

C. Paul's counsel concerning the appearance of women in public worship - 11:2-16

1. Believers live in an ordered universe where subordination is normal - 11:2-3

2. Covering the head is the symbol of subordination - 11:4-6

3. Subordination of the woman was established by the creation - 11:7-9

4. The woman should wear the symbol of subordination because of the angels - 11:10

5. The subordination of the woman is consistent with the mutual dependence of both the man and the woman - 11:11-12

6. The subordination of women is natural - 11:13-16

D. Paul's counsel concerning the Lords Supper - 11:17-34

1. The Lord's Supper should show unity in the local church - 11:17-22

2. The Lord's Supper is a memorial of Christ's sacrifice - 11:23-25

3. The Lord's Supper continues to proclaim the Lord's death until He returns - 11:26

4. The Lord's Supper must be observed in a worthy manner - 11:27-34

E. Paul's counsel concerning spiritual gifts - 12:1 - 14:40

1. True believers operate in accordance with the Holy Spirit - 12:1-3

2. Spiritual gifts are intended to edify the local church - 12:4-7

3. The nine sign gifts - 12:8-10

4. Spiritual gifts are distributed according to the Holy Spirit's will - 12:11

5. Spiritual gifts and the body of Christ - 12:12-31

6. Love is better than the nine sign gifts - 13:1-3

7. Two reasons love is better than the nine sign gifts - 13:4-13

8. Prophecy is superior to speaking in tongues because it edifies the whole church - 14:1-20

9. Regulations for speaking in tongues in the local church - 14:21-40

F. Paul's counsel concerning the doctrine of the resurrection - 15:1-58

1. The Gospel of Paul - 15:1-11

2. The bodily resurrection of Christ doubted - 15:12

3. The alternative to the bodily resurrection of Christ - 15:13-19

4. Christ is risen from the dead - 15:20

5. The universality of resurrection - 15:21-22

6. The order of resurrection - 15:23-34

7. Questions regarding the resurrection - 15:35-57

8. The effect the resurrection should have on the way believers live - 15:58

G. Paul's counsel concerning the collection for the poor - 16:1-4

1. Giving is an order, not an option - 16:1

2. Giving is to be done on the Lord's day - 16:2

3. The money given should be handled very carefully - 16:3-4

CONCLUSION - 16:5-21

A. Paul's immediate plans - 16:5-9

B. Believers must not despise God's man - 16:10-12

C. Things believers must do - 16:13-16

D. Concluding remarks and greetings - 16:17-24