A Review of the First Half of 1 Corinthians

Now halfway through 1 Corinthians, let’s get nostalgic and take a walk down memory lane.

(Quick editorial note: This is not exhaustive. But that’s why we read the Bible, not just summaries!)

Week 1 – 1 Corinthians 1:1-17

Memory Verse 1 Cor 1.1-3

Here we are introduced Paul, who writes with the authority of one who is sent by God, and to Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth and the saints every where who call upon Jesus Christ as Lord. It will be a letter tailored for Corinth, but in no way limited to this one group.

In this section we also find out one of the problems arising in this church, that is there is quarreling and divisions among the body as people are aligning themselves to certain teachers. Paul comes down clearly against this.

Week 2 – 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

Memory Verse 1 Cor 1.22-23

The response to the issues of Corinth is the cross of Jesus Christ. The cross is a message that is not always attractive, indeed it appears foolish to the world. But the “foolishness” of God is wiser than men. Therefore, we shouldn’t boast in any associations with a certain teacher, nor in ourselves. If we are to boast, we should only boast in the Lord.

Week 3 – 1 Corinthians 2:1-16

Memory Verse 1 Cor 2.12

The cross is the wisdom of God and in chapter two Paul writes how we receive this wisdom from God by his Holy Spirit. The natural person doesn’t understand the things of the Spirit, but we can have judgment and discernment because God has gifted it to us.

Week 4 – 1 Corinthians 3:1-23

Memory Verse 1 Cor 3.6

Having taught on the wisdom of God in the cross and from the Spirit, Paul returns to the issue of divisions in the church and seeks to correct Corinth’s view of Paul, and other teachers. Paul is just a worker, given a certain assignment, just like Apollos, but through it all it is God who truly is at work. They work together with a common goal, always building upon the one foundation of Jesus Christ.

Week 5 – 1 Corinthians 4:1-21

Memory Verse 1 Cor 4.7b

Paul continues on the topic of how the church should view its teachers, like Paul or Apollos. Their incorrect view has led to boasting and being puffed up. Instead Paul wants them to follow his example and make sure they do not go beyond what is written–which is an especially troublesome territory that lends to speculation and arrogance.

He doesn’t want them to think that they can continue in the way that they have gone without any oversight. Paul has some stern words about the manner in which he’d return with rebuke.

Week 6 – 1 Corinthians 5:1-13

Memory Verse 1 Cor 5.7

Corinth has had issues with divisions and quarreling and now Paul mentions the sexual immorality that has made its way into the church, like a leaven that is affecting the whole dough. To make matters worse, some think that their tolerance of sexual sin is to their credit and they boast (see a pattern?) in their behavior. Paul points them again to the cross, arguing that Christ sacrificed himself as our Passover lamb to remove the leaven–the sin–from our lives. He says the church shouldn’t embrace the sin, the very thing Christ died to remove. In fact, Paul says to cast the man who has committed the sin out of the church.

Week 7 – 1 Corinthians 6:1-20

Memory Verse 1 Cor 6.19-20

The wisdom the church ought to have received from the Spirit is not being manifested in the body as they are neglecting their call and responsibility and instead are taking their issues and submitting them to secular courts. This is a poor witness to the world about the call of God’s church to be judges of all things, and it is shameful that the world sees the sinful practices that should not be part of the kingdom of God.

Perhaps quoting the Corinthians’ argument, Paul confronts the notion that freedom in Christ makes all things permissible now. It is true that we have freedom in Christ, but we are freed from sin, not for sin. Some practices may be allowed, but that does not mean it is good for the person or for the body. After all, our body is not our own, rather we have been bought with a price. The believer is now, miraculously, a temple of the Holy Spirit, so we should glorify God with our bodies.

Week 8 – 1 Corinthians 7:1-40

Memory Verse 1 Cor 7.22

Having discussed sins, and specifically sexual sins, that are not in line with the kingdom of God, Paul turns toward some questions the Corinthians had and teaches about what sort of sexual relationships are appropriate. He relates these questions to the broader issue of our calling in Jesus Christ. Whether married or single, and Paul then goes on to include Jew or Greek and slave or free, we all have callings. Paul may encourage singleness, but to him it comes down to our ability to serve God wholeheartedly.

Week 9 – 1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Memory Verse 1 Cor 8.6

The topic of freedom in Christ comes up again and this time in relation to the eating of food offered to idols. Here Paul urges people to consider sacrificing their “right” to do what is greater: to love their brothers and sisters. If they use their knowledge to disregard the needs of others, they are puffed up and sinning not only against their fellow believer, but against Christ as well, since we are all members of his body.


So there you have it. Eight chapters down, eight more to go. If I missed something that stood out to you, don’t let me get away with it!

Paul now in chapter nine continues the discussion of our freedoms and rights, and how we at times ought to sacrifice our rights for a greater purpose.

Condition or Calling in 1 Corinthians 7?

There is a word that beyond 1 Corinthians 7 is used 11 times in the New Testament, and each of those times it is used to reference God’s calling of us in Jesus Christ. But in 1 Corinthians 7 it is translated as “condition.” For example, here is 1 Corinthians 7:20

Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called.

This can cause the reader of this chapter, and specifically the section from verses 17-24, to think that God’s calling in our life means that we remain where we are, or that we remain in some social status. But Paul is telling the church that they should remain in their calling to which they are called. Ken Bailey in Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes paraphrases the section, focusing on one of the examples of slavery:

If you are caught in slavery, try to get free. If you are free–do not become a slave. Yet, if you are caught in this (horrible) institution you can yet find and carry out an assignment. You can exercise your gifts and respond to your call. If you are a slave do not look wistfully at me with my freedom and the privileges of Roman citizenship and say, “Of course the Lord can use him. But I am a slave–I can do nothing!” Don’t forget your calling, and never imagine that there is no calling for you because you are a slave. (Bailey, 219)

To the slave, Paul doesn’t want them to think that their slavery is the condition to which they were called. Don’t equate status to calling. They have a calling to which they were called, and even in slavery it is a calling that can be expressed.

Was Paul married or single?

Many people have wondered what was Paul’s marital status. Given his role within the Jewish community it is likely he would’ve been married. But what we read in his letters indicates he was single. That’s just about as much as my previous studies have shown me. Then I read this in the commentary I’ve been studying during our 1 Corinthians reading plan:

Orr and Walther [two biblical scholars] make a strong case that Paul was a widower. They write, “Jewish leaders holding the position attributed to Paul in the New Testament ordinarily were married.” But Paul is clearly traveling without a wife (9:5). Apparently his wife had died. Greek has a word for “widowers” (kheros), but that word does not appear in the New Testament time period when Koine Greek was in use. Later in this passage when Paul discusses the “unmarried,” (7:25) he uses the traditional Greek word for “virgin” (parthenos). In the present text [1 Corinthians 7:6-9] he discusses “a-gamois and widows.” The natural way to read the text is to see these two words as a pair and understand that Paul is writing about “widowers and widows.” Orr and Walther translate a-gamois literally as “de-married” and explain that in this passage it means “widowers.” Paul uses this word three times in this chapter. All of them can best be understood as mean, “once married, now not married.”

Ken Bailey, Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes. 204.

I thought this was pretty convincing. What do you think?

Bible Study Tips for 1 Corinthians 7

While it’s always good advice to take notes and write down summaries of what you’ve read, this passage is especially suited for that method of Bible study.

First off, chapter seven is a long chapter. With anything that we read, our minds can easily wander even while our eyes continue moving from word to word. If we stop to make notes in the margins or in a journal, we are keeping ourselves accountable to reading in order to understand, not reading to get it done (and out of the way).

This chapter also covers lots of different topics and within those topics Paul will go back and forth between his views. Try to break it down in parts, step back and ask yourself what is he trying to say and how does this fit in the broader themes of 1 Corinthians? If nothing else, this practice will at least reveal the questions you may have and that is the first step to finding some answers.

Bible Memorization Helps Flavor Our Speech

Memory Verse 1 Cor 7:22

This last week I had multiple conversations about how the language we use tends to reflect the language and words we around–both the speech we hear and text we read. This is all the more reason to devote ourselves to God’s word. We should let it sink deep within us and allow it to then flavor our own speech.

Memorization is a wonderful means to accomplish this goal.

That being said here is this week’s memory verse for chapter seven.

Memory Verse 1 Cor 7:22 for iPhone