1 Corinthians 1:1-9 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. How does Paul describe the church in verse 2a (printed below?)

Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ … (2) to the church of God that is in Corinth—to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be saints (1 Corinthians 1:2a)

Paul begins by declaring that the Corinthian congregation belongs to God, it is “the church of God” that is located in the city of Corinth. He then describes Christians as people who have been “sanctified in Christ Jesus.” That is to say, by virtue of their relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ, Christians are set apart from the world to be God’s holy possession. Finally, the apostle declares that Christians are “called to be saints.” By reliance upon the Holy Spirit, the Christian’s attitude and conduct is to be increasingly brought into conformity with Christ’s own life and character.

2. What do the passages listed below tell us about the church at Corinth?

It is actually reported that there is fornication among you, and the kind of fornication that does not even exist among the Gentiles, namely, that someone has his father’s wife. (1 Corinthians 5:1)

But what I am saying is that the sacrifices of the Gentiles are being offered to demons, not to God; and I do not want you to have communion with demons. (21) You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and also the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord, and also of the table of demons. (22) Or are we trying to provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he? (1 Corinthians 10:20-22)

Now if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? (1 Corinthians 15:12)

Present within the Corinthian church was the sin of shocking immorality (1 Cor. 5). Furthermore, some of these Corinthian Christians were thoughtlessly engaging in pagan religious ceremonies and sacrifices (1 Cor. 10). Some of these Christians were even denying the future resurrection of the dead (1 Cor. 15). These were just a few of the sins that were still prevalent in the Corinthian church. Needless to say, many of these Corinthian Christians were not striving to live in conformity to our Christian calling to be saints.

3. Despite the numerous sins still prevalent in their lives, what does Paul tell these Corinthian Christians (see verse 4a printed below?)

I always thank my God for you (1 Corinthians 1:4a)

Many glaring and serious sins and shortcomings were present in the Corinthian church. The apostle Paul will address each one of them out of faithfulness to Christ and love for the church of Christ. But first he begins by expressing his thankfulness for these fellow Christians. Following the example of the apostle Paul, we, too, should be thankful for fellow believers, despite their present sins and shortcomings, remembering that we ourselves not yet attained to perfection in the Christian life.

4. What reason does the apostle Paul give for his thankfulness (see verse 4b printed below?)

…because of the grace of God that was given to you in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:4b)

In 1 Corinthians 1:4 the apostle Paul follows up the words, “I always thank my God for you,” by supplying the reason for his thanksgiving: “because of the grace of God that was given to you in Christ Jesus.” Though there was still much sin present in the lives of these Christians—sin that will not be tolerated nor excused, but addressed in strong and straightforward terms (note 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10 and also 2 Corinthians 13:2); nevertheless, the apostle Paul is thankful to God that these people have become fellow partakers of the saving grace of God in Christ Jesus. They heard the good news of salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and they put their trust in Him alone (note 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). They have been sanctified in Christ Jesus (that is to say, they have been set apart as God’s holy possession in Christ Jesus). It was God Himself who brought them to Christ and put them into Christ (note 1 Corinthians 1:30); and God in His faithfulness will bring to a completion and perfection the work of grace He has begun in these Christian people (note 1 Corinthians 1:4,8-9).

5. List the various phrases Paul uses to remind the Corinthian Christians that they are part of the universal church of Christ (see verse 2b printed below). Why do you think he does this?

Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ … (2) to the church of God that is in Corinth…called to be saints together with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, (he is both their Lord and ours.) (1 Corinthians 1:2b)

In verse 2 the apostle Paul informs the Corinthian Christians that they have been called to be saints “together with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He goes on to remind them that Christ is “both their Lord and ours.” Because of the abundance of spiritual gifts God had graciously bestowed upon this church (note verse 5), these Christians had become proud and viewed themselves as occupying a unique and superior position, distinct from the rest of the body of Christ. Note, for example, 1 Cor. 4:7, a passage in which the apostle sharply rebukes these Christians with the sarcastic question, “What makes you superior?”