Introduction to 1 Corinthians

By James M. Rochford

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Authorship

Paul is the author of this letter. Even critical scholars do not generally dispute this claim. Several very early Christian leaders confirmed Paul’s authorship of this book: namely, Clement of Rome (To the Corinthians, 47:1), Polycarp, (To the Philippians, ch. 11), Irenaeus (Against Heresies, 4, 27), Clement of Alexandria (Paedag. 1, 6), and Tertullian (On the Prescription of Heretics, Ch. 33, 11:46).[1] Archibald Robertson and Alfred Plummer write, “Both the external and the internal evidence for the Pauline authorship are so strong that those who attempt to show that the Apostle was not the writer succeed chiefly in proving their own incompetence as critics.”[2] More recently, Carson and Moo write, “Paul is identified as the author in the opening verses of both epistles, and few have contested the claim.”[3] Even critical scholar Hans Conzelmann writes, “The authenticity of the epistle is universally recognized.”[4]

Date

Paul visited Corinth in roughly AD 50. We know this because he stood before the proconsul Gallio (Acts 18:2), whom we know from secular history. Archaeologists uncovered the famous “Gallio stone,” which dates the beginning of Gallio’s office to the early summer of AD 51.[5]

When Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthians, he was still in Ephesus (1 Cor. 16:8), after just planting the church there (Acts 18:18-21). Therefore, Paul probably wrote this letter in the two and a half year span, while he was at Ephesus from the autumn of 52 to the spring of 55 AD (Acts 19:10; 20:31).

For these reasons, most NT scholars date this letter sometime in the late winter or early spring of 55 AD.[6] Morris dates the book to the mid-fifties, and cites “wide agreement” on this amongst NT scholarship.[7]

Geography of Corinth

Corinth was located between two major sea ports. The ancient Greek poet Pindar referred to Corinth as “the bridge of the sea.”[8] Instead of sailing hundreds of miles out of their way, sailors simply dragged their boats across the narrow Isthmus of Corinth (which was about 3 or 4 miles wide). Craig Blomberg writes, “Tucked between the two port towns of Cenchrea and Lechaeum, [Corinth] formed a major center of trade. The narrow isthmus on which Corinth was located, contained a path, the diolkos, across which mariners would drag their unloaded boats, between the Adriatic and Aegean Sea, rather than sail over a hundred miles out of their way around the southern tip of Achaia.”[9]

Population of Corinth

Corinth was a large trade-city, so it attracted traders, sailors, and business people. Roughly 200,000 people populated this booming city at its peak with as many as “half a million slaves in its navy and in its many colonies.”[10] Scholars estimate the population anywhere from 100,000 to 700,000 people—most of whom were slaves.[11] There was some sort of Jewish population in Corinth—at least enough to have a synagogue (Acts 18:4). Philo confirms the fact that Jews lived in Corinth during the dispersion.[12]

History of Corinth

In 146 BC, the Romans destroyed Corinth.[13] But in 46 BC, Julius Caesar rebuilt the city and filled it with retired war veterans and freedmen.[14] The Romans rehabilitated the city after the pattern of a typical Roman city. Harold Mare writes, “In this period Corinth became the capital of the Roman province of Achaia (cf. Acts 18:1, 2), which included all the Peloponnesus and most of the rest of Greece and Macedonia.”[15]

Culture of Corinth

Sports. The Corinthians celebrated the Isthmian games at the Temple of Poseidon.[16] Blomberg writes, “Every other year Corinth hosted the Isthmian games, second only to the Olympics in prominence among athletic competition in Greece. The city housed an 18,000 seat theater, a 3,000 seat concert hall, and a large central market for famers.”[17]

Sex. Ancient people knew Corinth for its infamous temple to Aphrodite. This temple contained 1,000 temple prostitutes.[18] One ancient author referred to “Aphrodite of the Beautiful Buttocks.”[19] The second century Greek rhetorician Athenaeus recorded that shrines devoted to Aphrodite were erected “everywhere” in Corinth.[20] He also wrote, “Whenever the city prays to Aphrodite in matters of grave importance, [they] invite as many prostitutes as possible to join in their petitions.”[21] The first-century Greek historian and philosopher Dio Chrysostom wrote that large numbers of people gathered at Corinth for its harbor and its prostitutes.[22] The first century biographer Plutarch refers to a “great army of prostitutes” in Corinth.[23] NT scholar Craig Blomberg writes,

A huge stone mountain known as Acrocorinth, with its temple to Aphrodite perched atop it, towered over the city, and symbolized the dominance of Pagan cults. In pre-Christian times it was said to have employed as many as one thousand sacred priests or priestesses who doubled as prostitutes. Still more prostitutes plied their wares at ground level for the many visitors to the town, as well as the local populace.[24]

Corinth was so licentious that the Greek playwright Aristophanes used the term Korinthiazomai to refer to a sexually immoral person.[25] Carson and Moo write, “‘To Corinthianize’ could mean ‘to fornicate,’ and ‘Corinthian girl’ was a way of referring to a whore. Clay votives of human genitals have come down to us from the old city. They were offered to Asclepius, the god of healing, in the hope that that part of the body, suffering from venereal disease, would be healed.”[26] Strabo recorded the (in)famous proverb, “Not for every man is the voyage to Corinth.”[27]

Sophistry. Sophists were similar to modern day lawyers, who would speak or argue persuasively for money. Carson and Moo write, “[The sophists’] influence in the Mediterranean world was enormous, not least in Corinth. They thought themselves wise, purveyors of wisdom.”[28] The Corinthians revered gifted speakers like this, as though they were modern day movie stars or celebrities. Their audiences were similar to modern day “fans.” Carson and Moo write, “A longstanding emphasis on rhetoric in both the Greek and the Roman worlds insured that the lecture was not only a critical component of public and political communication but also an admirable art form. The best rhetoricians warn against corrupt motives: rhetoric that was merely audience-pleasing was debased.”[29]

Notice how Paul repeatedly asks the question, “Do you not know?” ten times throughout the letter. It is a rhetorical question that knows the poverty of the Corinthians’ knowledge of God’s wisdom.[30]

Success. Because of its unique location, Corinth became very wealthy. Pindar and Herodotus referred to the city as “prosperous.”[31] Thucydides called it “rich.”[32] And the first century Greek historian Strabo wrote that it was “always great and wealthy,”[33] as did Homer.[34] Strabo believed Corinth had become economically prosperous because of its location, its hosting of the Isthmian Games, and its legion of prostitutes. The Roman poet Ovid stated that Corinthian pottery and brass were known for their beauty across the world.[35] Alciphron—a second century AD sophist—wrote, “I did not enter Corinth after all; for I learned in a short time the sordidness of the rich there and the misery of the poor.”[36]

For these reasons, ancient Corinth has often been compared to a modern day New York City or Las Vegas.[37] This is probably why Paul writes two long letters to this church. They must have needed a lot of help from this experienced leader.

The Church Plant in Corinth

Luke records the Corinthian church plant in Acts 18.

(Acts 18:1-18 NLT) Then Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 There he became acquainted with a Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently arrived from Italy with his wife, Priscilla. They had left Italy when Claudius Caesar deported all Jews from Rome. 3 Paul lived and worked with them, for they were tentmakers just as he was. 4 Each Sabbath found Paul at the synagogue, trying to convince the Jews and Greeks alike. 5 And after Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul spent all his time preaching the word. He testified to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. 6 But when they opposed and insulted him, Paul shook the dust from his clothes and said, “Your blood is upon your own heads—I am innocent. From now on I will go preach to the Gentiles.” 7 Then he left and went to the home of Titius Justus, a Gentile who worshiped God and lived next door to the synagogue. 8 Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, and everyone in his household believed in the Lord. Many others in Corinth also heard Paul, became believers, and were baptized. 9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! 10 For I am with you, and no one will attack and harm you, for many people in this city belong to me.” 11 So Paul stayed there for the next year and a half, teaching the word of God. 12 But when Gallio became governor of Achaia, some Jews rose up together against Paul and brought him before the governor for judgment. 13 They accused Paul of “persuading people to worship God in ways that are contrary to our law.” 14 But just as Paul started to make his defense, Gallio turned to Paul’s accusers and said, “Listen, you Jews, if this were a case involving some wrongdoing or a serious crime, I would have a reason to accept your case. 15 But since it is merely a question of words and names and your Jewish law, take care of it yourselves. I refuse to judge such matters.” 16 And he threw them out of the courtroom. 17 The crowd then grabbed Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, and beat him right there in the courtroom. But Gallio paid no attention. 18 Paul stayed in Corinth for some time after that, then said good-bye to the brothers and sisters and went to nearby Cenchrea. There he shaved his head according to Jewish custom, marking the end of a vow. Then he set sail for Syria, taking Priscilla and Aquila with him.

Originally, Paul came to Corinth with “fear and trembling” (1 Cor. 2:3). It must have been intimidating for him to walk into this extremely wild and licentious city! This is probably why Jesus personally encouraged Paul in Corinth, telling him to “not be afraid” (Acts 18:9-11). He probably needed the encouragement! After Jesus spoke to him, Paul ended up settling in Corinth for a year and a half (Acts 18:11).

Paul had written a previous letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 5:9), which drove them to ask a lot of questions that Paul felt the need to respond to (1 Cor. 7:1 “Now concerning the things about which you wrote…” cf. 1 Cor. 7:25; 8:1; 12:1; 16:1, 12). Evidence within the letter implies that the Corinthians had misunderstood parts of Paul’s earlier letter (1 Cor. 5:9-12 “I did not at all mean…”). Paul had also heard a report from Chloe on how bad the church was (1 Cor. 1:11). Paul refers to Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus coming to meet him (1 Cor. 16:17). These were likely the men who brought this letter to the church in Corinth (1 Cor. 16:18). They may have brought a letter with a list of questions from the Corinthians.

Commentary on 1 Corinthians

Unless otherwise stated, all citations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

1 Corinthians 1:1-17 (Schisms over Sophists)

 

Introduction

(1:1) “Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother.” Paul was reminding the Corinthians of his unique position and authority as an apostle.

Sosthenes was “the leader of the synagogue” (Acts 18:17) in Corinth. He was either beaten by Gallio’s men or by the unruly mob, who were angry that they couldn’t kill Paul. While Sosthenes was a former enemy of Paul’s, it’s possible that Paul stuck around Corinth and led him to Christ. Specifically, Luke records that Paul “remained many days longer” (Acts 18:18). If this is describing the same person, then this would make sense of Paul mentioning Sosthenes in his introduction to the Corinthians.

If this is the Sosthenes of Acts 18, what a powerful example of Christian love on behalf of Paul. Even though this man tried to persecute him, Paul befriended him and led him to Christ.

(1:1) Who was Sosthenes?

(1:2) “To those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus…” Sanctified is likely a synonym for being regenerate (1 Cor. 1:30; 6:11).[38]

“…Saints by calling…” The Corinthians didn’t act like saints, but they were called to become saints. They were “called into fellowship with [Jesus]” (v.9).

“…With all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours…” There was a specific church in Corinth, but they were connected with “all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.” This shows the individual as well as the universal church.

(1:3) “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

(1:4) “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus.” The Corinthians were a crass and carnal group. Yet Paul was still able to open his letter with thanksgiving and gratitude. He wasn’t thankful for the people, but for God’s grace that was given to them (“for the grace of God which was given you”).

(1:5) “That in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge.” The Corinthians prided themselves on their sophistry, speech, and knowledge. Paul writes that they already have these things. When we are “in Him,” we do not lack any spiritual gift (v.7). Instead of trying to act like they were gifted and knowledgeable, they were to realize that God had already gifted them.

(1:6) “Even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you.” Even though they were carnal Christians, Paul was confident that the testimony of Christ was “confirmed” (bebaioō) in them (cf. v.8). This term means “to put something beyond doubt, confirm, establish” (BDAG). In Classical Greek, it referred to a legal “guarantee” or a “legally valid confirmation of a legal act.”[39] The NT authors “adopted the technical sense that the words had already acquired in the legal sphere.”[40]

(1:7) “So that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” They prided themselves on their spiritual gifts, but Paul says that they already are gifted in Christ.

The early Christians believed that Christ could return at any moment. Because they were legally confirmed by the blood of Christ (v.6, 8), they had good reason to “await eagerly the return of Christ. There is no mention of needing to be afraid of his return—only eager expectation.

(1:8) “Who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is a good verse for eternal security. In a church that was riddled with sexual immorality, division, and drunkenness, it’s surprising that Paul could write this. Yet God does the “confirming” (bebaiōsei)—not us. He will confirm us to be “blameless” (anegklētos), which is the same term for “above reproach” (1 Tim. 3:10).

(1:9) “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” The Corinthians were not a faithful group. They were wildly sinful and carnal. But Paul could write about their confident hope, because “God is faithful.”

Divisions

(1:10) “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.” While this church had many problems (e.g. sexual immorality, drunkenness, etc.), Paul starts with their division. Division is toxic to Christian community. The Greek word here is schismata, which is where we get our modern term “schism.” It can be used for “tearing” a garment (Mt. 9:16; Mk. 2:21). It means to be divided in our thinking (Jn. 9:16). Because we are one body, we shouldn’t have divisions (1 Cor. 1:13; 12:25). It would be like your liver revolting against your kidneys!

“Made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment…” The reason we should be of the same mind is because we have “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). By this, Paul is referring to unity—not uniformity. Later in chapter 12, Paul explains that believers have different gifts and ministries. But we should be united in our worldview and values.

(1:11) “For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you.” Paul is hearing second hand information from Chloe’s people (her homechurch?). Chloe wasn’t a “snitch” according to Paul. She told this information so that there could be healing and restoration in the church.

(1:12) “Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, ‘I am of Paul,’ and ‘I of Apollos,’ and ‘I of Cephas,’ and ‘I of Christ.’” The Corinthians generally identified themselves with their favorite sophists (see Introduction above). Were they bringing this ungodly view into the Christian community as well? Were they identifying themselves by their various leaders? It’s funny that they add “Christ” to the list. Jesus is not one of the teachers, but the King!

Paul, Apollos, Peter, and Christ (!) were certainly not encouraging these factions. Because Apollos was such a learned and well-spoken man (Acts 18:24), the Corinthians probably favored him over Paul. But this division surely didn’t come from Apollos himself. After all, Paul viewed Apollos as a good leader in Corinth (1 Cor. 16:12). Paul refers to Apollos as a fellow servant (1 Cor. 3:4-6). Instead, this divisive thinking came from the people themselves (“each one of you is saying…”).

(1:12) Is personal discipleship biblical?

(1:13) “Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” These leaders listed are just the messengers—not the message itself.

(1:14-15) “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one would say you were baptized in my name.” Paul must’ve personally baptized Crispus (Acts 18:8) and Gaius (Acts 19:29; 20:4; Rom. 16:23; 3 Jn. 1?). Paul was happy that he didn’t do a lot of baptizing; otherwise, the Corinthians would’ve taken personal pride in having the “great apostle Paul” baptize them.

(1:16) “Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.” Paul personally baptized Stephanas (1 Cor. 16:15, 17).

This shows the humanity found within the Scriptures. Even though the Bible is fully inspired, we can still read that God inspired Paul’s lack of memory.

(1:17) “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.” Water baptism is important, but not as important as the message of Christ. Clearly, salvation is separate from water baptism for Paul to say this. Paul couldn’t even remember how many people he baptized (v.16). Later, Paul writes that they were “all baptized into one body” (1 Cor. 12:13). In other words, we were all spiritually baptized into Christ. Therefore, focusing on who water baptized us is absurd.

Discussion Questions

Of all things, why does Paul start his letter by addressing division? Why not address the sexual immorality of chapter 5 or the drunkenness of chapter 11? Why is unity so important in the Christian community?

1 Corinthians 1:18-31 (Elevating the Messengers over the Message)

(1:18-31) Is Christianity foolish?

(1:18) “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Paul isn’t saying that the gospel is foolish or absurd or illogical. He is writing from the perspective of the person who rejects the gospel. From the perspective of someone who is rejecting it (“foolishness to those who are perishing…”), it seems foolish. Consider how absurd the message of the Cross would appear in this Greek culture: the answer to all of life’s problems are found in a crucifixion victim!

(1:19) “For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.’” Paul cites Isaiah 29:14. Fee writes, “In its original context this passage belongs to that grand series of texts that regularly warn Israel, or someone in Israel, not to try to match wits with God (cf. Isa. 40:12–14, 25; Job 38–42).”[41]

(1:20) “Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” Paul taunts the “wise” sophists in Corinth to stand up to God’s wisdom. Paul includes the “scribes” (grammateus) on this list, because he is also addressing the Jewish intellectuals as well (v.22).

 (1:21) “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God…” The sophists in Corinth were thought to be wise, but Paul is saying that God’s revelation trumps their speculation.

“God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe….” God constructed the message of the gospel, so that only the humble could accept it. It’s humbling to set aside your own wisdom in favor of God’s message.

(1:22) “For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom…”

“Jews ask for signs…” Paul cannot be saying that Christianity lacks evidence. After all, Jesus brought many signs! The issue at stake is humility—not intellect.

“Greeks search for wisdom…” Again, Paul cannot be saying that Christianity lacks logic or reason, because Christ is “the wisdom of God” (v.24, 30).

(1:23) “But we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness.” The Greek word for “stumbling block” is skandalon (“scandalous”) and the word for “foolishness” is morian (“moronic”).

(1:24) “But to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” The “called” are those “who are being saved” (v.18) and “those who believe” (v.21). It is inclusive for both Jews and Gentiles, but it is exclusive for only those who are willing to accept it.

(1:25) “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” This is counter-intuitive wisdom. It isn’t that God’s truth is foolishness. Rather, even God’s message (which seemed foolish, v.18) is far wiser and more powerful than the speculations of the sophists.

(1:26-28) “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are” In this culture, they prized status, wealth, and education as the supreme virtues. Not only is the message foolishness to the culture, but the people reached were considered foolish as well. God enjoyed reaching the marginalized, rather than the upper echelons of society. Of course, he says “not many wise… mighty… noble,” rather than “not any wise… mighty… noble” (v.26). The gospel is available to all, but some find it humiliating to accept.

(1:29) “So that no man may boast before God…” This fits with our thesis throughout this section: God constructed the message so that the proud would miss it, but the humble would accept it.

(1:30) “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus…” We can’t take credit for our salvation (v.29). Everyone can have access to God, as long as they bow low beneath the beams of the Cross. God designed his message so that no one in heaven will be able to say, “I deserve to be here!”

“Who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption…” Christ is the true wisdom. Finding him means that we find righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. Sophists want philosophical conjecture, but Christ solves the human condition of being alienated from God.

(1:31) “So that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.’”

(1:31) Why does Paul quote Jeremiah 9:23-24?

Discussion Questions

People in modern culture still reject the message of Christ: Why might the message of Christ be offensive to people today? Why might people have such hostility to it—like they did in the first century in Corinth, Greece?

1 Corinthians 2 (The mystery of God’s revelation)

Autonomous human reason cannot know all things, because we are hopelessly finite. We don’t need human speculation, but divine revelation. The Spirit knows all things, and he has revealed the truth to us. In this chapter, Paul makes his case for the fact that believers have true wisdom.

(2:1) “When I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech…” Paul already mentioned this in 1:17 (“not in cleverness of speech”). However, this doesn’t mean that Paul is against sophisticated Bible teaching. After all, he said that “in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge” (1 Cor. 1:5). This most like “refers to his manner of preaching,” that is, Paul didn’t speak with the “eloquence” or “rhetoric” of the sophists in Greece.[42] Paul didn’t use long-winded rhetoric to show off his intellect.[43]

“Or of wisdom…” Again, Paul isn’t against wisdom. Acts tells us that “he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks” (Acts 18:4). He is against the “wisdom of men” (v.5). He is directly addressing the sophistry in Corinth. Later, in context, he speaks in favor of the “God’s wisdom.” Christ is the “wisdom and power of God” (1:24).

“Proclaiming to you the testimony of God…” Paul didn’t focus on the glamor or pride of sophistry. He kept the focus on Christ, as verse 2 explains (“Christ and Him crucified”).

(2:2) “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified…” Fideists argue that this shows a change in Paul’s approach, after the supposed “failure” at Mars Hill after his debate with the philosophers (Acts 17:16ff). However, Paul led several people to Christ at this event according to Acts 17:34 (not bad for one debate!), and nothing in this text would note a change of plans.

(2:3) “I was with you in weakness…” Our interpretation consistently fits these passages: Paul’s focus is on the delivery of his message—not the message itself. Paul is showing that he didn’t come with the eloquence or rhetoric of the sophists. Instead, he was “weak,” and in fact, he was scared. Later in 2 Corinthians, Paul writes more about how his (physical?) “weakness” led to God’s power (2 Cor. 11:30; 12:5, 9-10; 13:9).

“In fear and in much trembling…” Morris argues that Paul wasn’t fearing men, but God in this passage (note the parallel in 2 Cor. 7:15; Phil. 2:12; Eph. 6:5).[44] Yet how does this fit with Jesus telling Paul to “not be afraid” in Corinth? (Acts 18:9-11) We agree with Fee that that Paul was literally afraid when he came to Corinth.[45] Mark Twain famously said, “There are two types of speakers: those that are nervous and those that are liars.” It must have been intimidating to share about the message of Christ in the wild atmosphere in Corinth! The sophists wouldn’t be this honest about their weakness and fear.

Paul wasn’t a good looking “rock star” like the Greek sophists. A later apocryphal work gives this description of Paul: “A man small in size, bald-headed, bandy-legged, well-built, with eyebrows meeting, rather long-nosed, full of grace. For sometimes he seemed like a man, and sometimes he had the countenance of an angel” (The Acts of Paul, 2.3). The Corinthians thought Paul’s “personal presence was unimpressive and his speech contemptible” (2 Cor. 10:10).

(2:4) “My message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom…” What does Paul mean by this statement? After all, Paul used reason and persuasion when he first spoke to them (Acts 18:4). Again, Paul is referring to “the kind of persuasion found among the sophists and rhetoricians, where the power lay in the person and his delivery.”[46]

“But in demonstration of the Spirit and of power…” All of the erudition and rhetoric in the world cannot convert a group of Pagans in Greece. But the message of Christ could. Paul’s weakness exemplifies how “the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25).

This is the first mention of the Holy Spirit in the letter. Paul’s message had power in that it could change lives (cf. 1 Thess. 1:5). Morris writes, “It was not human excellence that accomplished this, but the Spirit’s power.”[47]

(2:5) “So that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God…” Their faith didn’t rest in Paul’s gift of speech or his gift of knowledge. It rested in God’s raw power to work through Paul to reach them. Paul started this argument by writing, “The word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). The message itself (“the word of the cross”) is the power of God.

(2:6) “Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature…” Morris contends that Paul is not referring to two different types of Christians here: the infants and the mature. Instead, according to Morris, Paul is contrasting the believers from the unbelievers. He writes, “The New Testament writers do not envisage ‘grades’ of Christians.”[48] Morris acknowledges that Paul addresses spiritual “infants” in chapter 3, but understands this to refer to their love—not their knowledge. Likewise, Fee believes that all Christians are the “mature,” because the context refers to the blessings given to all believers (vv.10-15).[49] This makes a certain amount of sense, because all believers have access to God’s truth. However, in chapter 3, Paul is surely speaking of walking versus carnal Christians.

“A wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away…” In our estimation, the “rulers” refer to demonic rulers.

(2:6-8) Who are the “rulers of this age?”

(2:7) “We speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom…” The concept of a “mystery” doesn’t refer to something mysterious, but something that was formerly hidden. It refers to “something formerly hidden in God from all human eyes but now revealed in history through Christ.”[50]

“God predestined before the ages…” This mystery goes back before time began. Paul must be referring to the crucifixion of Christ (see “Why Did Satan Crucify Jesus?”).

God’s wisdom is what has been “predestined.”[51]

“To our glory…” While God deserves the glory, he chooses to give glory over to us (cf. Rom. 8:17-18; 1 Thess. 2:12; 2 Thess. 1:10).

(2:8) “The wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood…” The rulers of this age refer to demonic rulers, as is common in Paul’s writings (v.6).

“For if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory…” The rulers of this age followed natural wisdom, rather than God’s wisdom. They crucified God’s Messiah, rather than bowing their knee to him. Consequently, Paul is showing just how diametrically opposed God’s wisdom is from his creation.

This is the only use of the title “the Lord of glory” to refer to Jesus (cf. Jas. 2:1).[52] Morris writes, “More than one scholar has thought that this is the loftiest title Paul ever applied to Christ.”[53]

(2:9) “As it is written, ‘Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man…’” In context, Paul explained that human rulers missed the culmination of God’s wisdom through the Cross. The first portion of this citation from Isaiah (64:4? 65:17?) shows that God has kept certain things hidden from humans. The second half of the verse goes on to explain what they have not seen or heard.

“‘All that God has prepared for those who love Him…’” In context, Paul was writing about the crucifixion of Christ (v.8) and our glory (v.7). This is what the rulers of this age could not see.

(2:9) Why does Paul quote Isaiah 64:4 and 65:17?

(2:10) “For to us God revealed them through the Spirit…” God kept the Cross a mystery from the world until he was prepared to reveal it. We couldn’t have discovered the truths about the Cross through empirical study or autonomous human reason. We need revelation (v.10), not speculation (v.9). The “natural man” cannot understand true wisdom, because he rejects God’s revelation (v.14).

“For the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God…” Since the Spirit searches “all things,” this implies that the Spirit is omniscient. He knows the full depths of God’s thoughts. Morris writes, “This ascribes full deity to the Spirit.”[54]

(2:11) “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.” This is sort of a strange comparison. In God, there are three separate persons. In a human, there is only one. This is just an analogy, and it should not be pressed too far (e.g. tripartite nature of humans, the Trinity being analogous to body, soul, spirit, etc.).[55] Paul is simply stating that only an individual person knows his or her own thoughts. We cannot know these thoughts unless they speak to us. Similarly, we cannot know God’s thoughts unless he speaks them to us.

(2:12) “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God…” Here is where Paul is leading the comparison: We can know the mind of God, because we have the Spirit of God (see verse 16). God hasn’t revealed everything, but he has revealed his promises to us.

The “spirit of the world” could refer to Satan (cf. Jn. 12:31; Eph. 2:2).

Part of the Holy Spirit’s job is to reveal to believers all of the things God has given to us. He makes these truths real to us through Scripture, prayer, and perhaps others means like fellowship with other believers. The emphasis on “spiritual words” in verse 13 seems to make the focus on Scripture.

(2:13) “Things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.” Paul’s point is that we have wisdom by revelation—not speculation. God has spoken! And we speak God’s words to others. The words are taught to us by the Spirit of God.

This could also be rendered “interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual” (ESV; cf. NASB footnote).

(2:14) Are non-Christians unable to understand the Bible or be persuaded by evidence?

(2:15) “But he who is spiritual appraises all things…” The word “appraise” (anakrino) means “to engage in careful study of a question, question, examine” (BDAG). It is used for “examining the Scriptures” (Acts 17:11). Elsewhere Paul writes, “Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thess. 5:21-22). The believer in Christ can discern all things because he has accepted the Spirit’s view, and the Spirit can discern all things—even the depths of God (v.10).

“Yet he himself is appraised by no one…” Commenting on this passage, Fee writes, “The profane person cannot understand holiness; but the holy person can well understand the depths of evil.” Those whose lives are invaded by the Spirit of God can discern all things, including those without the Spirit; but the inverse is not possible. Here is another sentence that, taken out of its context, has suffered much in the church. There are always some who consider themselves full of the Spirit in such a way as to be beyond discipline or the counsel of others. Such a reading of the text is an unfortunate travesty, since these people are usually among those most needing such discipline.”[56]

(2:16) Why does Paul quote Isaiah 40:13?

Discussion Questions

Does it bother you that God would keep part of his will a secret from humanity? What would you say to someone who said, “Doesn’t this make God guilty of lying?”

1 Corinthians 3 (Reward)

(3:1) “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ…” It’s certainly possible to be a “carnal Christian,” contra Lordship theology. Paul calls these people “men of flesh” (sarkinos) or “carnal” (KJV). And yet, these people were “in Christ.” He calls them children of God—even if they are immature “infants.” Later, he says that they are still fleshly” (v.3). Fee writes, “The Corinthians are involved in a lot of unchristian behavior; in that sense they are ‘unspiritual,’ not because they lack the Spirit but because they are thinking and living just like those who do.”[57]

(3:2-3a) “I gave you milk to drink, not solid food…” Paul couldn’t move to deeper truths about Christ and the mystery that has now been revealed. Why? He continues…

“For you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly…” They are acting like the non-believers of 2:14 (“he cannot understand them”). These people were still spiritual infants: you don’t give steak to a newborn! When they were brand new believers, that’s fine. But the problem is that they are still acting like “infants” and are “still fleshly” (sarkinos). Morris writes, “Indeed (all’ oude) is a strong expression ‘used to introduce an additional point in an emphatic way.’”[58] The biggest problem with the Corinthians is that they thought that they were very spiritually mature.

(3:3b) “For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?” Jealousy and strife are a sign of their spiritual immaturity (cf. 1:11).

(3:4) “For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men?” The crux of the Corinthian in-fighting consisted of identifying with leadership factions (cf. 1:11-13). But Paul shows that Paul and Apollos are actually unified with each other—not jealous or striving against each other (v.3).

Paul’s argument against factions

No doubt, the Corinthians were viewing their leaders like their culture: Sophists who should be worshipped and venerated. Paul gives a contrasting view. Notice how he argues against factionalism.

(3:5) “What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed…” Leaders aren’t sophists to be venerated, but servants who brought the message. The leaders weren’t celebrities, they were “servants.” They are like ambassadors that explain the terms of peace, but they can’t take credit for the peace themselves. Christianity isn’t about the messengers, but about the message.

“Even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one…” They couldn’t have even brought the message without God opening doors for them.

(3:6) “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth…” Paul uses the illustration of a gardener. As every gardener knows, you can plant and water all you want, but then you need to sit back and wait. The leaders had a role to play, but God caused the growth—not the leaders.

(3:7) “So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth…” Jesus said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5). That is, we cannot bear any sort of fruit apart from the power of God. Paul repeats the point that “God causes the growth,” probably to drill this down into their minds. This is something modern servants of Christ need to be constantly reminded of as well.

(3:8) “Now he who plants and he who waters are one…” The Corinthians wanted to divide the different teachers and leaders against each other (“I am of Paul… I am of Apollos… I am of Cephas”). Paul states that they are “one,” members of the same team.

“But each will receive his own reward according to his own labor…” Yet each teacher will receive their own reward. While we are all members of the same Body of Christ, we will be rewarded as individuals. Morris writes, “Notice further that the criterion is not ‘his success’, nor ‘how he compares with others’, but his own labour.”[59] God will judge us based on our work and our faithfulness (1 Cor. 4:1).

(3:9) “For we are God’s fellow workers…” Paul repeatedly referred to “fellow workers” in the cause of Christ (1 Thess. 3:2; 2 Cor. 1:24; 8:23; Phil. 2:25; 4:3; Col. 4:11; Phlm. 1, 24). Some argue that this passage should be rendered in this way: “We [Apollos and I] are God’s—being fellow workers [with each other].”[60] After all, Paul’s argument is to get the believers to focus on God—not men. And the context refers to God’s ownership of the “field” and the “building.” Similarly, God owns these two fellow workers.

Another way of understanding this passage is to say that we are “fellow workers with God.” That is, we work together with God to bring about the growth in the church. After all, the context does imply that Paul and Apollos had an important role (“planting… watering…”). Even though the leaders aren’t really “anything” (v.8), because God is so gracious, he calls us his “fellow workers.” Paul viewed his service as God’s “grace” that was given to him (v.10). Morris writes, “It is a startling expression, which sets forth in striking fashion the dignity of Christian service.”[61] God rewards us for being faithful—even though he’s the one doing all of the essential growth in the entire process.

“You are God’s field, God’s building…” Why does Paul compare the church to a “field” and a “building”?

Notice that “God” is the subject of each expression. Paul is trying to rip their eyes off of the leaders and off of themselves, and place them back onto God, where they belong.

(3:10) “According to the grace of God which was given to me…” Even serving God is a gift. He picks up this theme in 2 Corinthians 4:1, where he calls his ministry for Christ a “mercy” of God.

“Like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it…” Architects spend considerable time drawing up plans and considering how to construct a building. Laboring over the “building” of God is no different (v.9). If we don’t set up the right foundation, our ministry will crumble. Sure, we might gain a following, but it won’t last, and we won’t be rewarded for it.

Note that Paul uses the word “wise” to describe his work. The Corinthians prided themselves on their wisdom (ch.2). Paul laid his foundation on Christ—not human wisdom.

“But each man must be careful how he builds on it.” Each individual Christian needs to carefully consider how they are going to serve Christ and build up on the church. Of course, the foundation needs to be Christ (v.11), but we also need to consider how to build on this foundation. This is why Paul gives various types of materials that can be built on the foundation of Christ (e.g. gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, etc.).

(3:11) “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ…” The foundation needs to be on Christ—not people.

(3:12-15) Paul compares our lives’ work to a house being tested by fire. The point here is not to see meaning in each of the materials (e.g. gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, etc.). Rather, Paul’s purpose is to show that some materials withstand fire, while others do not. If we don’t build on a proper foundation, it’ll be burned away in the judgment seat of Christ.

(3:12-15) Does the Bible teach purgatory?

(3:12-15) Does a “bema seat reward” contradict the concept of grace?

(3:16) “Do you not know…” Paul uses the question, “Do you not know…?” ten times in this letter. This is probably a rhetorical jibe at the Corinthians, who prided themselves on their knowledge and wisdom.[62] It’s as if Paul is saying, “Do you ‘knowledgeable’ and ‘wise’ Corinthians really not know this…?”

“You are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” The entire temple system was a dramatic display that people could not come into contact with God based on their own merits. Even the priests ran for cover when God’s Spirit entered the Temple (2 Chron. 7:1-3). Here, Paul tells us that this same Holy Spirit dwells inside the believer!

(3:17) “If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are…” The “you” here is plural. In context, Paul is referring to division. To “destroy the Temple,” refers to destroying the church through division.

(1 Cor. 3:17) Will God destroy someone for smoking?

(3:18) We need to surrender to God’s wisdom in order to gain wisdom. See comments on 1 Corinthians 1:18-31.

(3:19) Hillyer writes, “Though craftiness may deceive men, it cannot deceive God.”[63]

(3:19-20) Why does Paul quote Job 5:13 and Psalm 94:11?

(3:21) “So then let no one boast in men…” We don’t boast in men (v.21), but in God (1:31). Paul is concluding this portion of his argument that started in 1:10-12.

(3:21b) “For all things belong to you…” The Corinthians were striving for something that they already had.We all inherit God’s love—not the individual factions.

(3:22) “Whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas…” The Corinthians had boasted, “I am of Paul… I am of Apollos… I am of Cephas…” (1 Cor. 1:12). Here, Paul “turns their slogans completely on their head.”[64] He refers to them in the plural you (“you all”).

“Or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you…” Christ is sovereign over all of these things. The Corinthians were squabbling over the human leaders, but in reality, these leaders belonged to them in their service. Moreover, their view was “too narrow, too constricted.”[65]

(3:23) “You belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God…” They have all things, because they belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

Discussion Questions

Based on verses 6-9: Compare and contrast what it would look like if we took too high a view of human agency versus too low a view of human agency.

Based on verse 9: What distinction is Paul trying to make by comparing the Christian community to a building, rather than just a bunch of scattered stones.

1 Corinthians 4 (The messengers are just servants—not sophists)

(4:1) “Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God…” The Corinthians had a poor view of the leaders in the church—especially the apostles and apostolic teachers like Apollos. How then should they view them? Look at the terms Paul uses to identify himself:

“Servants” (hyperetas) was often used of the “physician’s assistant” or “helper” (BDAG). Regarding this word, Morris writes, “It meant originally an ‘underrower’, i.e. one who rowed in the lower part of a large ship. From this it came to signify service in general, though generally service of a lowly kind (‘subordinates’, NEB), and subject to direction.”[66]

“Stewards” (oikonomous) refers to a “property manager” or “city treasurer” (BDAG). Think of the Steward of Gondor: He didn’t own the kingdom—Aragorn, the King owned it. He was merely watching it, until the King returned. Peter uses this word for all Christians—not just apostles (1 Pet. 4:10).

In this setting, Paul doesn’t believe that he owns God’s truth or created it. Rather, he is just God’s steward and servant.

(4:2) “In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy…” The role of a steward is just to be “trustworthy” or “faithful” (pistos). They don’t need to compare results, only be found faithful with what they have.

(4:3) “But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself…” The people in Corinth were judging Paul’s motives (see verse 5). This makes sense of Paul’s comments here. He isn’t referring to overt and objective sin—only motives. Paul writes that he isn’t even qualified to judge his own motives. Because the heart is so deceitful and wicked (Jer. 17:9-10), we need to depend on God to judge our motives (Ps. 139:23-24). As verse 4 states, “The one who examines me is the Lord.” Morris writes, “The Christian is to be judged by his Master. Introspection is not the way forward. Often people think that they know exactly what their spiritual state is and just what their service for God has effected. The result may depress beyond reason or exalt beyond measure; neither is relevant. It is not the task of the servant to pass such judgments, but rather to get on with the job of serving the Lord.”[67]

(4:4) “For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord…” Paul does write that we can become “conscious” of impure motives. But unless God reveals this to us (Phil. 3:15), we shouldn’t fall into morbid introspection.

(4:5) “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time…” Paul is speaking of judging motives, as the next portion of the text makes clear.

“Wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts…” God will judge our motives at the bema seat of Christ, but this isn’t our role to do this with one another, or even ourselves, right now.

“Then each man’s praise will come to him from God…” The purpose of God’s examination will not be to shame or punish us, but to “praise” us for the good we did.

(4:5) Can we judge people or not?

(4:6) “Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written…” “These things” refers to Paul and Apollos as servants of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 3:5-8). We shouldn’t add or take away from God’s word regarding Christian servants (Deut. 4:2; 12:32; Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:18). He seems to be saying that we shouldn’t have too high a view of ministers, but also not too low a view. He’s correcting their man-worship and their critical spirit with the plumbline of Scripture.

“What is written…” surely refers to Scripture, but in what sense? It could refer to what Paul wrote in chapters 1-3, the OT passages he cited in chapters 1-3, or the OT itself—though commentators are not entirely certain exactly which Scripture he is referring to.[68]

“So that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other…” The Corinthians were exceeding what was written in their boasting and arrogance over wisdom, as well as their man-worship of leaders.

(4:7) “For who regards you as superior?” The Corinthians regarded themselves as superior. They prided their knowledge and wisdom over all else. Paul argues that whatever knowledge or wisdom that they have comes from God.

“What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” Whatever we’ve been able to accomplish, it was only possible because of the gifts God gave us in the first place (e.g. our personality, charisma, intellect, gifts, etc.).

(4:8) “You are already filled, you have already become rich, you have become kings without us; and indeed, I wish that you had become kings so that we also might reign with you.” Paul’s sarcasm is evident! They couldn’t see their hunger (Mt. 5:6). They couldn’t see their poverty (Rev. 3:17). They thought they were “kings,” instead of being content to be heirs of the King.

(4:9) “For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.” The Corinthians were identifying themselves with their leaders, but Paul turns the tables on them here: Their leaders were servants—not sophists or kings!

Like the book of Job, the suffering of the apostles had cosmic implications. Their suffering wasn’t just for the benefit of humans (though it certainly was meaningful for many coming to faith in Christ), but it also had an impact on angels viewing it.

Regarding the expression “condemned to death,” Morris writes, “Epithanatious… is a rare word, and apparently refers to condemned criminals who were often paraded before the public gaze as objects of derision.”[69]

Regarding the term “spectacle,” Mare writes, “By his use of theatron (“spectacle”) he seems to be alluding to the figure of condemned men tortured and exposed to the wild animals in the colosseum. They are also pictured as despised before the whole world (kosmos) and the angelic hosts.”[70]

(4:10) “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor.” If the message of Christ is “foolish” (1 Cor. 1:18-31), then those who follow it are also fools. Again, Paul’s sarcasm is evident! Paul boasted in the fact that he was a weak man (2 Cor. 12:9-10).

(4:11) “To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless…” To paraphrase, Paul wrote this letter with an empty belly, rags for clothes, no home, and under physical and/or verbal persecution (vv.12-13).

(4:12) “We toil, working with our own hands…” Paul would work in the secular world when the church couldn’t help him financially. Morris writes, “This is all the more significant in that the Greeks despised all manual labour, thinking of it as fit only for slaves.”[71]

 “When we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure…” The Corinthian elite wouldn’t suffer for their “knowledge” and “wisdom” like this. Paul’s knowledge had taken over his life, possessing him.

(4:13) “When we are slandered, we try to conciliate…” When we’re slandered, we usually react in a posture of fight or flight. Paul chooses a third option: He tries to boldly move toward the person and seek reconciliation. This kind response was thought of as weakness in Greek culture and a sign of “a lack of proper manliness.”[72]

“We have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now…” The apostles had become low class. The word “scum” (perikatharma) meant “that which is wiped off, refuse, scum.”[73] The term “dregs” (perithema) originally meant “the off-scouring of all things” (BDAG) in the context of cleansing. However, the later usage came to be known as a “ransom, scapegoat, or sacrifice” (BDAG). Paul is saying that the apostles were the living sacrifices (cf. Rom. 12:1-2).

(4:13) Did Paul swear?

(4:14) “I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you…” We might take Paul as being immature in his sarcasm, but this isn’t the case. He states that he’s using this rhetorical device—not to shame—but to admonish. It would be all too easy for Paul to want to shame these carnal Christians, but he doesn’t. He wants to write only that which would build them up and correct them.

“…my beloved children…” Believers are all children of God. Since Paul founded this church, he calls them “my beloved children,” as verse 15 makes clear. He appeals to them as their spiritual father—not a corporate executive or far-removed leader from a watchtower.

(4:15) “For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ…” Apollos, Cephas, etc.

“Yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel…” There is something special about leading a person to Christ. While the person will go on to be mentored and taught by other believers (“countless tutors”), they will still remember the person who led them to Christ.

(4:16) “Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me…” With all of Paul’s admonishment about the Corinthians obsessing over their leaders, we might think the solution is to get rid of leadership all together. But this would be to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Instead, Paul encourages them to imitate his example as a servant leader (cf. 1 Cor. 11:1; Gal. 4:12; Phil. 3:17; 1 Thess. 1:6; 2 Thess. 3:7, 9).

(4:17) “For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church…” Paul says that he’s sending Timothy as an example of a servant leader, who can instruct them in his methods and approach to leadership. Paul wasn’t expecting anything more with them than he did anywhere else (“just as I teach everywhere in every church”).

(4:18) “Now some have become arrogant, as though I were not coming to you…” Apparently, some were probably calling Paul a weakling, who is just writing from far away. Instead, Paul tells them that he is going to show up personally, and confront their ungodly attitudes.

(4:19) “But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills…” The arrogant, divisive leaders in Corinth probably thought that Paul sending Timothy only showed that Paul wasn’t courageous enough to come himself. But Paul says that he will come to them soon in person (cf. 1 Cor. 16:5-9).

“I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant but their power…” Paul isn’t against words. He’s against the words of the arrogant. Do these arrogant leaders have the power to match their powerful words and claims? Fee writes, “Paul is not challenging the arrogant, therefore, on their grounds, but on his own.”[74]

(4:20) “For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power…” The Corinthians were good talkers, but Paul was empowered by God.

(4:21) “What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness?” Paul gives this question to get them to think through how they want to move forward. He wants them to think through their repentance before he shows up. There is a principle of leadership here. Paul wants to give them time to think through repentance before arriving. The “rod” must refer to church discipline in context (ch.5).

(4:21) Was Paul really going to beat them with a rod?

Discussion Questions

Based on verse 2: This topic of producing results and being faithful is often debated and disagreed upon in Christian circles. What does it look like to be faithful—even if we’re not seeing visible results? Are these two concepts always mutually exclusive? How would we know if we were being faithful—even in the absence of results?

Based on verses 3-5: Paul speaks against judging people’s motives, and even our own. What might result in Christian community if we began to judge motives? What is at stake in this discussion?

Should we never explore our motives? What are proper and improper ways to explore motives?

Based on verses 15-16: Paul offers a middle ground between worshipping leaders and rejecting leadership altogether. What would we see if we went to either extreme?

1 Corinthians 5 (Church discipline)

It’s interesting that Paul doesn’t mention anything about the woman in this fornication. Morris believes that this could be because she wasn’t a believer (“for what have I to do with judging outsiders?” v.12).[75]

(5:1-13) Does this passage teach excommunication from the church?

(5:1) “It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles…” Roman law prohibited this type of relationship. Johnson writes, “Not that he suggests that the pagans have a superior moral standard, but Roman law (not Greek law) prohibited such a union even when the father was dead.”[76]

“that someone has his father’s wife.” This is an odd way of saying that this is the man’s biological mother. More likely, this is his stepmother.[77]

The term “has” is in the present active tense. That is, he is continuing to sleep with her, and this is “an enduring sexual relationship, not just a passing fancy or a ‘one-night stand.’”[78] This isn’t a fall

(5:2) “You have become arrogant…” The Corinthians were obsessed with knowledge, but they couldn’t handle such a black and white moral situation. Paul already called out these “arrogant” people, claiming that he would be coming to them soon (1 Cor. 4:18).

 “…and have not mourned instead…” Seeing your brother in flagrant sin hurts because you care. You care about the person, and you care about the church.

“…so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.” Paul is not only upset with the man sleeping with his stepmother; he’s upset with the entire Christian community. Why hadn’t anyone stepped forward in this situation already?

(5:3) “For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present.” Paul heard a clear report (presumably from Chloe’s people, 1 Cor. 1:11) about the state of this situation, and he claims that he was in a position to judge what happened. Paul was present in spirit with these believers (cf. Col. 2:5).

(5:4) “In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus.” This is an example of proper spiritual authority. Leaders do not have authority in areas that are secular (e.g. choosing a dating partner, what job to choose, what house to buy, etc.), but they do have authority when it comes to spiritual areas (e.g. church discipline, teaching, leading fellowship, etc.). Even though Paul is only there “in spirit” (v.3), he is commanding them to assemble to remove this brother. Paul casts his vote that the man should be removed from fellowship (“removed from your midst,” v.2; “deliver such a one to Satan,” v.5).

(5:5) Handed over to Satan? (cf. 1 Tim. 1:20)

(5:6) “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?” Paul’s central issue is with the attitude of the church—perhaps more than the sin itself. While “leaven” sometimes carries a positive meaning (Mt. 13:33), it usually refers to sin in Scripture. Jesus said, “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Mt. 16:6; cf. Gal. 5:9). In this context, Paul definitely has sin in mind. He calls it the “leaven of malice and sinfulness” (v.8). Swords writes, “In antiquity yeast was a common image for a small matter that had the potential to affect a much larger or more significant situation.”[79]

(5:7) “Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.” In our identity, we are unleavened (blameless and holy; Eph. 1:3ff). Here Paul calls the people to line up their position with their condition.

Jesus fulfilled the celebration of the Passover through his death on the Cross (see Exodus 12:1-22, “Does the Passover foreshadow the work of Christ?”).

(5:8) “Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” The term “celebrate” is present in the continuous tense in Greek (“keep on celebrating”).[80] The Passover was once a year for the Jewish people, but Paul says that the believer continues to celebrate this through the work of Jesus.

When this man was perpetually sleeping with his step-mother (“someone keeps on having his father’s wife…”), this leads to rank hypocrisy. Paul wants them to have a change of mind and focus on the “sincerity and truth” that comes with confronting hypocrisy like this. Since Christianity is a system of “truth,” believers have a basis for objective moral values and duties. These aren’t arbitrary, but rather, these are based on God’s unchanging moral nature.

(5:9) “I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people.” Paul must have written an earlier letter to the Corinthians.

(1 Cor. 5:9) Is this describing a lost letter? (see comments on Joshua 10:13)?

(5:10) “I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world.” Church discipline is not for non-Christians. It is only for Christians who claim to be believers. Believers shouldn’t try to leave the world (cf. Jn. 17:15).

(5:11) “But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.” Paul teaches church discipline for anyone naming to be a Christian (“so-called brother”). The Greek term is onomazomenos which means “to give a name to” (BDAG).

We should also note that Paul teaches that church discipline is not only for sins that are unacceptable for Gentiles (v.1). Here he gives a list of serious and damaging sins that would qualify for church discipline.

Paul later writes that it’s good to eat with non-Christians (1 Cor. 10:27). The point here is that we don’t want to associate with believers who are in a state of rank hypocrisy.

(5:12) “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church?” Ironically and sadly, Christians spend their time judging non-Christians, but rarely have the integrity to properly judge fellow Christians. We agree with Bruce Winter, who writes, “The ease with which the present day church often passes judgment on the ethical or structural misconduct of the outside community is at times matched only by its reluctance to take action to remedy the ethical conduct of its own members.”[81]

(5:13) “But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.” Paul concludes by citing Deuteronomy 17:7. In its original context, Deuteronomy 17 referred to capital punishment (Deut. 17:5) for the sin of idolatry (Deut. 17:3). Paul reinterprets this old covenant teaching in light of the new covenant: We don’t practice capital punishment for idolatry; instead, we practice church discipline.

God will bring judgment on non-Christians, but that is not our job. Our role is to avoid hypocrisy in the church. Ironically, and sadly, the Christian church has done just the opposite: they picket non-Christians for their sins, but overlook the hypocrisy among their own members!

Discussion Questions

How would you respond to the common claim, “Who are you to judge someone else?”

Commentator Leon Morris seems to wrestle with the application of this chapter. He writes, “The application of all this to the modern scene is not easy. Our different circumstances must be taken into account. But Paul’s main point… is clearly permanently relevant.”[82] Why is it that most churches in the Western world do not practice church discipline?

What is at stake if we don’t ever decide to practice church discipline?

Modern people might disagree with the biblical teaching on removing someone from fellowship, arguing that this is only pushing people further into their problems. How might you respond to this assertion?

1 Corinthians 6:1-8 (Peace-making versus peace-faking)

(6:1) “Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints?” The Corinthians were having personal legal disputes with one another. Rather than seeking mediation in the church, they were taking it to court. The cases here were not criminal cases. Paul states elsewhere that the government is “an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil” (Rom. 13:4). These must have been lawsuits over property issues. Mare writes, “In the expression pragma echōn (‘having a lawsuit or dispute’), Paul means to include different kinds of property cases (v. 7).”[83]

Paul uses the term “dare” (tolma) at the beginning of the sentence to show emphasis in the Greek. This term can be rendered “have the audacity.”[84]

(6:2) “Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” In what sense will believers judge the world? Jesus told his twelve disciples that they would judge the twelve tribes of Israel (Mt. 19:28). Later, Paul states this this judgment will include the angels.

“If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts?” The term “competent” (anaxios) means “unworthy” (BDAG). In other words, if believers are considered worthy enough to judge the world, are they not worthy enough to judge insignificant legal disputes among one another?

(6:3) “Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life?” To support the need for peacemakers and Christian arbitration, Paul points out that believers will judge the world (v.2) and angels (v.3). This verse always makes me laugh: No, Paul, I did NOT know that I will be judging the world!

(6:4) “So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church?” Just as Christians have no right in criminal or legal judging, Paul states that the government should have no right in personal conflicts like these. Instead, we should work through Christian mediation. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia once wrote, “I think this passage [1 Cor. 6:1-8] has something to say about the proper Christian attitude toward civil litigation. Paul is making two points: first, he says that the mediation of a mutual friend, such as the parish priest, should be sought before parties run off to the law courts. … I think we are too ready today to seek vindication or vengeance through adversary proceedings rather than peace through mediation…. Good Christians, just as they are slow to anger, should be slow to sue.”[85]

(6:5) “I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren.” This really shows the immaturity of the Corinthian church. They were priding themselves on their wisdom and maturity, but no one was mature or “wise” enough to do basic mediation like this. If the Corinthians were so wise (as they often claimed and prided themselves on), then why couldn’t they find one wise person to adjudicate this situation? Here, he calls down shame on them for this. Earlier, he writes, “I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children” (1 Cor. 4:14).

 (6:6) “But brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?” It’s an embarrassment to Christ when Christians can’t work through conflict in front of non-Christians. Of all people, Christian believers should be the ones who should be able to work through conflict.

(6:7) “Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?” Paul’s point is that it would simply be better to be wronged, rather than drag Christ’s reputation through the mud and divide the church (Mt. 5:39-40; 1 Pet. 2:23).

(6:8) “On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren.” Paul states that it would be better to be wronged, but here, he points out that they are the ones doing the wrong!

Discussion Questions

What steps might help to resolve a conflict with another person?

What are some ways we might prepare in advance to make reconciliation more likely?

1 Corinthians 6:9-20 (Sexual immorality)

Paul repeatedly asks, “Do you not know…?” four times in this chapter (ten times in this letter). He seems to think that changing behavior is based on changing false beliefs. As we argued earlier, Paul could be taking a rhetorical jab at all of the “knowledgeable” and “wise” Corinthians. It’s as if he is saying, “You’re so knowledgeable… But you don’t even know this basic truth?”

(6:9-10) Are sinners not getting into heaven?

(6:9) “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?” Paul contrasts the identity of the unrighteous with the righteous. Why would we continue to live in sin, if we know that this will result in forfeiting our stake in heaven? This is either a positional contrast (unrighteous versus righteous), or it is a contrast of reward (inheritors versus those who don’t inherit). Since reward is a theme in this epistle, this could be what he has on his mind here.

“Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals.” Let’s look at these terms closely:

Fornicators (pornoi) is “someone who practices sexual immorality” (BDAG).

Idolaters (eidōlolatrēs) is an “image-worshipper/idolater” (BDAG).

Adulterers (moichos) is “one who is unfaithful to a spouse, adulterer” (BDAG).

Effeminate (malakoi) is only found here in the NT. It pertains to “being yielding to touch, soft” or “being passive in a same-sex relationship, effeminate” (BDAG). These are referred to as catamites—boys who are used sexually by men.

Homosexuals (arsenokoitēs) is a compound word which literally means “male” (arsēn)[86] and “bed” (koitē)—or “to lie down” (keimai).[87] Paul uses this term here and in 1 Timothy 1:10. Since the Greek word arsenokoitēs does not appear in extrabiblical Greek before Paul’s time,[88] we need to consider where Paul is drawing this term. In 1 Timothy, in verse 8, Paul writes, “We know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully.” Clearly, Paul had the OT law on his mind. But from where (in the OT) was he drawing this concept?

The clearest source is the book of Leviticus. In Leviticus 18:22, we read: “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.” Leviticus 20:13 explains: “If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act.” In fact, the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the OT) renders both Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 very closely to Paul’s term arsenokoitēs:[89]

(Lev. 18:22) meta arsenos ou koimethese koiten gunaikos.

(Lev. 20:13) hos an koimethe meta arsenos koiten gunaikos.

After the time of Paul, the church fathers consistently used this term to refer to same-sex sexual acts.”[90] If Paul was merely attacking male prostitution (as some have claimed), he would have used the common word porneuon or porne, as seen in the context of 1 Corinthians 6:15 (“Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her?”).

(6:10) “Nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.” Let’s look at these terms closely:

Thieves (kleptēs) simply means a “thief.”

Covetous (pleonektēs) is “one who desires to have more than is due, a greedy person” (BDAG). In Greek, pleon means “more,” and the term echō means “to have.”

Drunkards (methusos) simply means “a drunkard.”

Revilers (loidoros) is an “abusive person.”

Swindlers (harpax) is a “robber” (BDAG).

(6:11) “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” Paul is stating that their identity has changed (“such were some of you”).

In our systematic theology, we usually associate sanctification with spiritual growth. Yet, in this context, Paul seems to be using the term “sanctified” as synonymous with “washed” and “justified.”

(6:12) “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” This is a play on words from Paul: “All things are in my power, but I shall not be overpowered by anything.”[91] Paul states that sexual sin is permissible to the Christian, but it doesn’t profit the Christian. You can do it, but should you do it? You’re free to do it, but you’re not free to stop doing it. Sin leads to debilitating slavery (Jn. 8:34).

Most commentators believe this expression (“All things are lawful for me…”) was a Corinthians catch phrase.[92] They believe this because the expression is used four times in this book: twice here and twice in 10:23. Moreover, after each instance, Paul clarifies the use of this aphorism.

Some commentators believe that Paul is negating the statement “all things are lawful.” For instance, Fee writes, “For him it is only as one is in Christ that “everything is permitted me,” and in any case that would have to do with adiaphora (the nonessentials: food, drink, days, circumcision, etc.), not with Christian ethics.”[93] But, in our estimation, this goes too far. Of all places to bring in a fear-threat, law-based motivation, this would be the place. Yet Paul doesn’t negate this view; instead, he merely qualifies.

(6:13) Will we not have stomachs or food in heaven?

(6:13) “Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them.” The Corinthians were arguing from our design: If the stomach was made for food, then other parts of the body (e.g. sexual organs) were made for their purpose too. Paul argues that God has created the body for another design. In other words, we can’t just look at our bodies; we need to talk with the Engineer to discover their design.

We see this argument today, don’t we? We often hear, “God created me with these sexual drives” or “It’s only natural to sleep around.”

“Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body.” The Corinthians were dividing the material body from the spiritual soul, which was common in neo-Platonic Greek thought.[94] This would explain why they were denying the resurrection of the dead (ch.15). This also fits with Paul’s mention of the resurrection in verse 14. Paul argues from another perspective: God cares about the body and what we do in it.

(6:14) “Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power.” God will raise our bodies, so their use must be very valuable to him. Again, Paul will return to the physical resurrection in chapter 15.

(6:15) “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” To support his design argument, Paul points out that the Designer of our bodies has united them with Christ. Paul could have made an argument from our individual identity with Christ, but instead, he makes his argument based on their collective identity with Christ (the “you” is plural).

“Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be!”

(6:16) “Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, ‘The two shall become one flesh.’” Paul grounds his ethic about sexuality in our design by God, quoting from Genesis 2:24. Since God designed us for a certain function, we will damage ourselves and others when we go outside of this. When we drive drunk and smash our car, we can’t blame General Motors or Honda! They designed the car properly, but we misused the car.

(6:17) “But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” Note the parallel between verses 16 and 17: In verse 16, the man “joins himself” and becomes “one body with her.” In verse 17, the man “joins himself” and becomes “one spirit with the Lord.” The body and the spirit are parallel ideas. When we fornicate, we are not just connecting our bodies, but our very own souls.

(6:18) “Flee immorality.” We stand up against Satan and spiritual warfare (Eph. 6), but we are told to flee sexual sin. Sexual sin is so tempting and pernicious that it can rip our lives apart. Think of how many pastors, politicians, and professionals have ruined their lives because they couldn’t control their sexuality.

“Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.” What does Paul mean that sexual sin actually sins against our own body? There are two ways of understanding this passage:

(1) Paul is again critiquing the Corinthian view. The first half of the verse is the Corinthian slogan (“…outside the body…”). Remember, the Corinthians had a high view of their souls, but not their bodies. Perhaps, they were arguing that sexual sin wasn’t an issue with their physical bodies? (similar to vv.12-13)

(2) Paul is stating that there is something unique about how sexual sin harms a person’s body.[95] When a person fornicates, he takes the “temple of the Lord” and uniquely joins it to another person. Fee writes, “Every other sin is apart from… the body in this singular sense.”[96] This view seems more likely, because Paul goes on to argue about our bodies being a temple of the Holy Spirit (v.19).

(6:19) “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” Earlier, Paul used the plural to describe that we are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16), but here, he says that even our individual bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, using the singular. The Corinthians led a licentious lifestyle based on the thought that their bodies were their own to use as they wish. Paul argues that you are not your own, but belong to Christ.

(6:20) “For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” The Corinthians were looking at sex as though it was amoral or morally neutral, but Christ paid a powerful price to forgive us. We shouldn’t throw our sexuality around in a cheap or frivolous way. We are far more valuable than we think.

Discussion Questions

For discussion, read this popular blog and critique it as a group. This is from a recent article titled:

“Dear Daughter: I Hope You Have Awesome Sex.” Ferrett Steinmetz writes:

Look, I love sex. It’s fun. And because I love my daughter, I want her to have all of the same delights in life that I do, and hopefully more. I don’t want to hear about the fine details because, heck, I don’t want those visuals any more than my daughter wants mine. But in the abstract, darling, go out and play. Because consensual sex isn’t something that men take from you; it’s something you give. It doesn’t lessen you to give someone else pleasure. It doesn’t degrade you to have some of your own. And anyone who implies otherwise is a man who probably thinks very poorly of women underneath the surface

  1. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with sex, according to the Bible. God created sex, and he loves it too.
  2. This assumes that sex is nothing more than just giving and gaining “pleasure” or “play” or “delight.” But is that what sex is? Or is there a moral component to sex?
  3. How would he feel about her having sex with a boy from school at age 11? What about if she fell in love with her 50 year old friend from the playground?
  4. Ad hominem. He’s saying, “If you disagree with me, then you’re just a woman-hating man!”

To see you in a glass cage, experiencing nothing but cold emptiness at your fingers, as Dear Old Dad ensured that you got to experience nothing until he decided what you should like.

Refraining from sex = being in a “glass cage” and “cold emptiness.”

Nor are you an extension of my will. And so you need to make your own damn mistakes, to learn how to pick yourself up when you fall, to learn where the bandages are and to bind up your own cuts. I’ll help. I’ll be your consigliere when I can, the advisor, the person you come to when all seems lost. But I think there’s value in getting lost. I think there’s a strength that only comes from fumbling your own way out of the darkness.

What if we applied this in other areas of life? What is she said that she didn’t want to go to high school? At what point is a parent obligated to intervene?

He must have a pretty low view of sex and the consequences!

You’re your own person, and some of the things you’re going to love will strike me as insane, ugly, or unenjoyable. …And I would be a sad, sad little man if I manipulated you into becoming a cookie-cutter clone of my desires. Love the music I hate, watch the movies I loathe, become a strong woman who knows where her bliss is and knows just what to do to get it.

So, it’s wrong to want our own kids to have our values. Who am I to influence them?

Sex = Movies and music.

I’m not the guard who locks you in the tower. Ideally, I am my daughter’s safe space, a garden to return to when the world has proved a little too cruel, a place where she can recuperate and reflect upon past mistakes and know that here, there is someone who loves her wholeheartedly and will hug her until the tears dry. That’s what I want for you, sweetie. A bold life filled with big mistakes and bigger triumphs.[97]

False dilemma. We EITHER love our kid emotionally and relationally and give them no restrictions on sex, OR we are cold and controlling to them and don’t have a good relationship.

Meghan Laslocky “Face it: Monogamy is unnatural.” CNN June 21, 2013

Meghan Laslocky—author of The Little Book of Heartbreak—writes, “Biologically, we humans are animals… The evidence shows that monogamy is a rarity among mammals. Only 3% to 5% of all the mammal species on Earth ‘practice any form of monogamy.’ In fact, no mammal species has been proven to be truly monogamous.

-That is the case for other mammals, but should it ought to be the case for us?

-Should we take our practices from animals? (just youtube monkey-frog-zoo)

Studies of prairie voles helped scientists understand that from a chemical and biological standpoint, sexual monogamy depends not just on particular hormones that are released in the brain, but on receptors for these hormones. Among humans, here’s the rub: we have the chemicals and the receptors, but it varies from person to person how much we have. Based on brain wiring alone, inclination toward fidelity can vary dramatically from one individual to another. In other words, “once a cheater, always a cheater,” might have as much to do with brain wiring as with a person’s moral compass, upbringing or culture. The bottom line is that flings are far from folly, at least in the animal kingdom.

-What if our brain wiring was set to make us murderous or a child molester? Would this justify such a lifestyle?

As recent as over 100 years ago, it was far more likely that an individual would lose his or her spouse at a young age. Remarriage by widows and widowers—also known as serial monogamy—was one way for humans to fulfill the need for sexual variety…

HUMOR: It was better a hundred years ago… because you might get lucky and have your spouse die on you!

This seems like a lot to expect of any human being—even the most honorable, ethical and moral. Those who are able to stay with one partner for a long haul are sometimes looked upon with awe. Certainly, a lasting and happy marriage tends to be far better for the children

-True, but why would we have “awe” for them? We would be in awe of their biological hardware—not them.

-Why do you think marriage is good for kids?

Human monogamy is influenced by many factors. Instead of pointing fingers or acting morally superior toward those who stray from marriages, we should recognize that strict sexual fidelity is a lofty but perhaps fundamentally doomed aspiration. No two individuals, and no two couples are alike, and we should respect that.”

DISCUSSION: How do you think college students in our culture are suffering, because they don’t know and/or trust God in the area of sexuality?

While 41% of marriages end in divorce, this statistic doubles for couples who cohabit (81%)!

David Popenoe (Rutgers University): “No positive contribution of cohabitation to marriage has been ever been found… Living together before marriage increases the risk of breaking up after marriage… Unmarried couples have lower levels of happiness and well-being than married couples… While marriages are held together largely by a strong ethic of commitment, cohabiting relationships by their very nature tend to undercut this ethic.”[98]

Robert Durant notes that “adolescents who were sexually active had significantly higher depression scores than nonsexually active subjects.” He adds that depression was “positively correlated with the number of partners in the previous 3 months.” He also points out that having a strong sense of “purpose in life” was “significantly negatively correlated with… the number of sexual partners in the previous 3 months.”[99]

1 Corinthians 7:1-17 (Marriage and Divorce)

(7:1) “Now concerning the things about which you wrote…” What did the Corinthians write to Paul? They must have had questions about marriage. In the previous chapter, some of them were moving to licentiousness regarding sex. Were some moving in the other direction—barring sex in marriage?

“…it is good for a man not to touch a woman.” Later church fathers like Origen took Paul to mean that sex was ungodly or unspiritual. However, when Paul writes that it is “good” for a man not to marry, Morris writes, “Good does not here mean ‘necessary’ or ‘morally better’… It is simply something to be commended, rather than blamed.”[100]

(7:2) “But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband.” Being single is good. But Paul is a realist: if celibacy causes immorality, then it’s bad. In verses 32-35, Paul makes clear that he isn’t teaching absolute morality here. Instead, he is teaching principlized ethics. He wants these believers to be free from the concerns of a family, but if they choose to marry, that’s morally fine.

(7:3) “The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband.” A spouse’s “duty” refers to sexual relations.[101] Notice the complementarity: it isn’t that the woman has to only please the man, but both spouses are to seek to please each other.

This passage is written to the individual spouse, and therefore, it shouldn’t be used as a means of pressuring one spouse into having sex with the other. Instead, the spouse should consider this command for themselves before God. Fee writes, “The way to correct an abuse of mutual relations is not to make demands on the offending party only, but to emphasize the mutual responsibility of each… Paul’s emphasis, it must be noted, is not on ‘You owe me,’ but on ‘I owe you.’”[102]

(7:4) “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” The ancient world would be familiar with wives needing to sexually perform for their husbands, but Paul’s message is radical because he writes that serving in marriage is mutual. Sex is there to give, not to take.

“Authority” (exousiazo) is a term Paul uses frequently in this letter. He isn’t arguing for bossing your spouse around in bed. Instead, his focus is that Christian couples should seek to give up their rights to one another. Even in sex, the Christian ethic is governed by sacrificial love.

(7:5) Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. The term “depriving” (apostereite) literally means “defrauding.” Paul used the term in chapter six to describe how the Christians were stealing from each other in court (1 Cor. 6:8). The reason why Christian married couples should pursue a healthy sex life is because of the temptation of living separate, parallel lives.

Apparently, Satan can capitalize on our sexual urges for his purposes. Satan hates marriage, and he will do whatever he can to separate what God has unified. When we see Christian marriages fall apart, we discover how stunning Satan’s strategy really is.

(7:6) “But this I say by way of concession, not of command.” Paul isn’t commanding abstinence in marriage. It’s merely permissible for the purpose of prayer.

(7:7) “Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.” This is where we get the notion that celibacy is a spiritual “gift.”

Paul may have been married at one point. For one, Paul writes like a man who had been married, understanding the realistic aspects of marriage. Moreover, Jewish culture encouraged marriage: Rabbi Eleazar said, ‘Any man who has no wife is no proper man’ (Talmud, Yeb. 63a), and Rabbi Ishmael taught, ‘As soon as one attains twenty and has not married, He exclaims, “Blasted be his bones!” ’ (Talmud, Kidd. 29b).[103] If Paul was a member of the Sanhedrin (Acts 26:10), then it is without a doubt that he had been married. Paul could’ve been a widower or maybe his wife had left him (perhaps when he became a Christian?). This is all speculative.

(7:8) “But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I.” Paul teaches that being single is preferable, because of the historical circumstances of persecution or suffering. Later, he writes, “I think then that this is good in view of the present distress, that it is good for a man to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you” (vv.26-28). It’s one thing to be thrown to the lions as a single man, but quite another when your wife and children are in the coliseum with you! J.B. Lightfoot writes, “A man who is a hero in himself becomes a coward when he thinks of his widowed wife and his orphaned children.”[104]

(7:8) Is Paul against marriage?

(7:9) “But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” Although the prepositional phrase “with passion” does not appear in the Greek, the NASB correctly handles this metaphor. 2 Corinthians 11:29 uses a similar metaphor to refer to inward emotions—not outward burning (cf. 1 Cor. 3:10-15).

(7:9) Did Paul have a low view of marriage?

(7:10) “But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband.” Paul must have a copy of one of the gospels (1 Cor. 11:23-25). He’s quoting “the Lord” Jesus here. Jesus was against divorce (Mt. 19).

(7:10, 12, 25) Are these portions of Scripture not inspired?

(7:11) “(But if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.” This is what we would call a separation, rather than a divorce. During a time of separation, a spouse can choose to move out temporarily. This is to prevent divorce. The goal is reconciliation.

(7:12) “But to the rest I say, not the Lord…” Again, Paul is likely reading from one of the gospels. He is differentiating his own teaching, from “the Lord” Jesus’ teaching.

“…that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her.” Jesus never addressed marriage with non-Christians. If you are married to a non-Christian, you shouldn’t divorce them, but rather lead them to Christ. Later, Paul writes, “God has called us to peace” (v.15). The principle is to win marriages for Christ—not lose them.

(7:13) “And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away.” The same principle is in play for women.

(7:14) “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.” Once someone comes to Christ in an unbelieving family, God will work through that believer in a special way to reach the entire family.

(7:14) What does sanctified mean here?

(7:15) “Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave…” Divorce is permissible in the case of abandonment. If our spouse leaves us, we aren’t commanded to hunt them down and try to stay married. Morris writes, “If the unbeliever takes the initiative, then the believer is not bound. This appears to mean that the deserted partner is free to remarry.”[105] Fee writes, “If the pagan spouse seeks the dissolution of the marriage, then allow the divorce. Except for some differences regarding the nuance of the verb, all are agreed on that much.”[106]

“…the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases…” The term “bondage” (douloō) is different from the word “bound” (deo) used elsewhere for marriage by Paul (1 Cor. 7:39; Rom. 7:2).

“…but God has called us to peace.” This clause seems to fit more naturally with verse 16. Paul is saying that the believer should live in peace with their spouse (rather than divorce), because they might lead their spouse to Christ. This would fit with the theme of the chapter: stay in the condition in which you were “called.”

(7:16) “For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?” Paul holds out hope that a believing spouse will be able to lead their spouse to Christ.

Discussion Questions

What false beliefs about marriage do people hold that prevent them from enjoying a successful marriage?

What might happen if two immature Christians jumped into marriage without growing in their ability to love others first? What obstacles might they face in marriage?

If a younger Christian was thinking about getting married, what would you tell them to get prepared beforehand?

Why would God call on people to stay married even if they weren’t happy in the marriage? Why isn’t he more willing to allow divorce? Put another way, how have you seen divorce affect people in a negative way?

1 Corinthians 7:18-40 (Stay in the condition in which you were called)

(7:17) “Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk. And so I direct in all the churches.” It would be easy for an unequally yoked person to believe that they never should’ve married their unbelieving spouse in the first place. But Paul contradicts this view. We shouldn’t consider our calling as a cosmic accident. God called us to Christ in specific circumstances, and Paul urges us to live these out.

Circumcision

(7:18) “Was any man called when he was already circumcised? He is not to become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? He is not to be circumcised.” It seems kind of obvious that someone cannot be “uncircumcised.” However, during the Maccabean Revolt, some Jews tried to mangle their circumcised parts in order to fit in with the Gentiles (1 Macc. 1:15; Josephus, Antiquities, 12.241). Paul is saying that we shouldn’t leave our condition. Instead we should serve God wherever he has found us.

(7:19) “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing…” Judaism in Paul’s day didn’t just think that circumcision mattered; they believed it was all that mattered. Paul makes a controversial point that these ritual laws were subservient to following God’s will.

“…what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God.” First-century adherents of Judaism would’ve held that circumcision was keeping the commandments of God! Paul is arguing that God’s commands supersede circumcision. God’s commands can be summarized as the command to love others (Jn. 13:34-35; Rom. 13:8-9; Gal. 5:14).

(7:20) “Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called.” Again, this is the main point of this section: God has placed you in a very specific role and place, and we should stay there if God has placed us there. Of course, God could call us to another place. These are principalized ethics—not universal moral laws (as the context makes clear, v.21). Fee writes, “Paul’s point, then, is not that one must stay where one was when called. Rather, it is precisely as the imperative in this verse implies: Whatever your situation was at the time of your call, don’t let that become a concern to you. One’s calling in Christ raises one above that urgency.”[107]

Slavery

(7:21) “Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it…” Slavery was a horrible social institution in the first-century Greco-Roman world. But our identity and calling eclipse even this situation to the point where Paul can write, “Don’t worry about it.”

“…but if you are able also to become free, rather do that.” Paul wasn’t pro-slavery. He wanted slaves to get their freedom. The problem was that many simply couldn’t.

(7:22) “For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave.” This shows God’s “backwards wisdom.” That is, in God’s view, slaves are actually free, and free people are actually slaves. Paul wants them to get their view onto God, rather than their social circumstances.

(7:23) “You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.” Our identity in Christ (“You were bought with a price…”) was the basis for fleeing sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6:20). Similarly, this same identity is the basis for not becoming slaves of men.

(7:24) “Brethren, each one is to remain with God in that condition in which he was called.” Paul affirms that we should seek freedom and not give ourselves over to slavery. But if we are stuck in our situation, we should be content to serve Christ there.

Marriage

(7:25) “Now concerning virgins I have no command of the Lord, but I give an opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy.” Again, Jesus didn’t speak to whether or not people should become married. The closest he came was in speaking about “eunuchs for the kingdom” (Mt. 19:11-12). Since Paul doesn’t have an explicit word from Jesus, he gives his view under the “trustworthy” inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

(7:26) “I think then that this is good in view of the present distress, that it is good for a man to remain as he is.” We argued earlier (v.8) that there was some specific persecution afflicting the Corinthians. Again, as we said before, it would be better to be single when going through persecution.

(7:27) “Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife.” Again, this is principalized ethics—not universal moral mandates. If you are married, that’s fine. If you’re single, that’s also fine. Stay in the condition in which you were called.

(7:28) “But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you.” Marriage is a gift of God. But during times of persecution, marriage will lead to more suffering and “trouble,” as Paul puts it (see comments on verse 8 and 26).

(7:29) “But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened…” We have limited time to serve Christ. What should we do as a consequence?

“…so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none.” Since time is short, we need to make as much of an impact for the cause of Christ as is possible.

(7:30) “And those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess.” All of our weeping, rejoicing, and materialistic conquest will be going away soon (v.29).

(7:31) “And those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away.” Our materialistic resources are going to be “passing away” rather soon (cf. 1 Jn. 2:15-17).

(7:32) “But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord.” The reason Paul was giving moral principles about abstaining from marriage was because of the “present distress” (v.26) and the time is short (v.29). With such limited time, we should maximize our impact for Christ.

(7:33) “But one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife.” When we get married, we need to consider how to provide for a wife and children. This takes up a lot of time, energy, etc. Are we prepared for this when we enter into marriage?

(7:34) “And his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband.” Morris writes, “‘Holy’ here refers not to ethical achievement, but to consecration.”[108] When we get married, we take on an extra ministries: marriage and kids. Are we prepared to take this on? Especially in times of “distress” (v.26)?

(7:35) “This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.” Paul is writing these principles for their good—not to control them. These principles are there to promote serving better in the cause of Christ.

(7:36) “But if any man thinks that he is acting unbecomingly toward his virgin daughter, if she is past her youth, and if it must be so, let him do what he wishes, he does not sin; let her marry.” Morris writes, “To withhold marriage from a girl of marriageable age and anxious to marry would have been to court disaster in first-century Corinth and bring dishonour on both father and daughter.”[109]

“Past her youth” refers to getting older and missing her window for getting married. In the ancient world, this was very young—perhaps 20 years old or younger.[110]

(7:37) “But he who stands firm in his heart, being under no constraint, but has authority over his own will, and has decided this in his own heart, to keep his own virgin daughter, he will do well.” The father can choose to keep his daughter back from marriage if he meets all of these conditions. Paul seems to be appealing to the conscience of the father. It seems that they practiced arranged marriages in this culture—not the culture of dating that we see today. Again, these are principalized ethics—not universal moral mandates. The legalist drives himself crazy reading this chapter, because Paul avers back and forth between what is the “right” decision.

(7:38) “So then both he who gives his own virgin daughter in marriage does well, and he who does not give her in marriage will do better.” Which is the “right” judgment call? Either! It depends on the situation. Paul wants the Corinthians to use discernment, wisdom, and discretion in making their decision.

(7:39) “A wife is bound as long as her husband lives; but if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.” “Until death do we part” is a biblical concept.

(7:40) “But in my opinion she is happier if she remains as she is; and I think that I also have the Spirit of God.” Morris writes, “Right to the end Paul refrains from saying anything to indicate that there is something morally higher about celibacy.”[111]

Regarding Paul’s statement that he thinks that he has the Spirit of God, Morris writes, “He is conscious of the divine enablement; what he says is more than the opinion of a private individual.”[112]

1 Corinthians 8:1-13 (Knowledge of idolatry)

This chapter connects with the larger argument made throughout chapters 8-10, where Paul argues to lay down our rights for the good of others. The argument concludes at the beginning of chapter 11, where Paul writes, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).

Romans 14: A parallel passage?

Paul’s argument is similar to his discussion in Romans 14—though the careful interpreter should notice the dissimilarities as well.

 

Similarities between 1 Corinthians 8 and Romans 14

1 Corinthians 8

Subject

Romans 14

“If food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble” (1 Cor. 8:13)

Don’t stumble others “Determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way” (Rom. 14:13, 15, 20-21)
“Through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died” (1 Cor. 8:11) Don’t destroy one another

“If because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died” (Rom. 14:15).

“Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense” (Rom. 14:20)

“Their conscience being weak” (1 Cor. 8:7, 9-12; 9:22)

Mention of the weak “Accept the one who is weak in faith” (Rom. 14:1-2; 15:1)
“If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks?” (1 Cor. 10:30) Your good will be spoken of as evil

“Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil” (Rom. 14:16)

“Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor” (1 Cor. 10:24)

Others-focus “Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification” (Rom. 15:2)
“Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1) Imitate Christ

“Even Christ did not please Himself” (Rom. 15:3)

 

Differences between 1 Corinthians 8 and Romans 14

1 Corinthians 8

Romans 14

Gentile believers were being stumbled

Jewish believers were being stumbled
The “weak” were former idol-worshippers, who were “accustomed to [idolatry] until now” (1 Cor. 8:7)

The “weak” were Jewish believers in Jesus, who had always rejected idolatry

In danger of falling into idolatry

In danger of falling into legalism
“Faith” never appears

“Conscience” never appears

Doesn’t mention the “strong,” only the weak

Mentions the “weak” and the “strong” (Rom. 15:1)

 

Main point

In chapter 8, Paul addresses a question that is alien to our culture today: meat sacrificed to idols. This issue is so complicated that Paul spends a full three chapters answering it! While the issue is not common to most Western Christians, this passage contains incredible relevance for us, because it touches on the nature of sacrificing our rights for the sake of others.

Historical background

Idolatry filled the city of Corinth. The culture made virtually no distinction between the religious life and the social life. That is, religious ceremonies blended together with social events.[113] Many ancient invitations to Greco-Roman social events have been uncovered which describe this cultural feature:

“Herais asks you to dine in the room of Serapheion (Asklepion) at a banquet of the Lord Seraphis tomorrow the 11th from the 9th hour” (New Documents Illustrating Christianity, volume 1, p.5).

“The god calls you to a banquet being held in the Thoereion tomorrow from the 9th hour” (New Documents Illustrating Christianity, volume 1, p.5).

[One invitation for a little girl’s first birthday reads:] “Chaeremon requests your company at the table of the lord Sarapis at the Sarapeum tomorrow, the 15th at 9 o’clock” (The Oxyrynchus Papyri, 1.110).[114]

The temples served multiple functions—both religious and social. For instance:

  • The leftover meat at the temples was given to an adjoining temple restaurant, where people could celebrate birthdays, marriages, or social events,[115] and virtually “every kind of occasion was celebrated in this fashion.”[116]
  • During dinners of this kind, a non-Christian host would likely perform a toast to the Greek gods.[117]
  • Even during the famous Isthmian games, sacrifices were made to the Greek gods.[118]

Of course, this cultural reality placed these new Christians into a theological and ethical confusion: What should a new believer do if they were invited to a “first birthday party” at an idol’s temple? What should they do if they were invited to a “restaurant” that also held sacrifices to idols? How should they respond when all of the guys wanted to go out to the big game after work? Was this “guilt by association” if believers participated? What if some believers felt no problem with feasting around idolatry, while others did?

If Christians removed themselves from the meat sacrificed to idols, they would be perceived as anti-social, subversive, simply “odd and repugnant”[119] to the culture. If they participated, then where should they draw the line from the social into the religious?

In these chapters, Paul addresses the principles surrounding all of the multi-faceted issues in the idolatrous temples (1 Cor. 8:7-13), the markets (1 Cor. 10:23-27), or the houses of non-Christians (1 Cor. 10:28-31).

(8:1) “Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.” Remember, the Corinthians had a correspondence going with Paul (“Now concerning the things about which you wrote,” 7:1). Here, Paul responds to their questions about meat sacrificed to idols (“Now concerning things sacrificed to idols”).

These believers in Corinth were flouting their “knowledge” again. Here, they were arguing that there is only one God (v.4), so eating meet sacrificed to idols is a non-moral and non-spiritual issue. While their theology was correct, their application was selfish. They thought their “knowledge” gave them “rights.” Paul is going to argue that they weren’t using this “knowledge” to build others up, but to tear them down (v.11).

(8:1) Is it “arrogant” to be knowledgeable?

(8:2) “If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know.” Paul uses a play on words here. He saying, “You think you know, but you don’t really know what you think you know.” True biblical knowledge results in love.

(8:3) “But if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.” The “know-it-alls” were prideful over their knowledge that there is only one God, and idols are non-existent. But, Paul turns this around on them: “The really important thing is not that we know God, but that he knows us.”[120]

(8:4) “Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one.” Paul returns to his initial point, repeating what he wrote in verse 1 (“concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols”). The Corinthians were using this knowledge of monotheism to justify eating food at the temples of idols. We can imagine them saying, “Meat sacrificed to idols is a non-moral issue. After all, idols aren’t even real!”

(8:5) “For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords.” Paul combines “gods” (theoi) and “lords” (kyrioi) to refer to false gods. In the next verse, Paul uses these same terms to refer to the Father (theos) and Jesus (kyrios). If the first two terms are synonymous (e.g. theoi and kyrioi), then so are the second (e.g. theos and kyrios).

(8:6) “Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.” Paul is a strict monotheist (vv.4-5), yet he sees no problem calling Jesus “Lord.” He even calls Jesus the Creator of “all things.” It’s funny that Paul doesn’t feel a need to justify this high Christology. He merely assumes that the Corinthians agreed with this. He’s starting with what they assumed, and he builds an ethical argument based off of this. This shows a proper balance of theology and practice: that is, Paul argues for monotheism and creation and works it into the practical aspects of love. Paul is modeling the very thing he is arguing for—namely, a balance of abstract knowledge and love.

(8:5-6) Is there one God or not?

(8:7) “However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.” These people must be believers: (1) They had been “accustomed to the idol until now.” This implies that they were former idol worshippers. (2) Why would they have a defiled conscience if they were non-Christians? That is, why would idol worship bother an idol worshipper? (3) Paul later calls this man a “brother for whose sake Christ died” (v.11).

“Not all men have this knowledge.” In verse 1, Paul says that we all have knowledge. Here, he says that some do not have “this knowledge.” Fee understands this to refer to knowledge at the “experiential, emotional level.”[121] They were “accustomed to the idol” in their former way of life. They eat it “as if it were sacrificed to an idol,” not that it actually is sacrificed to an idol.

Imagine if you participated in pagan worship your whole life. You offered food and wine to the pagan deities and worshipped them in this way. Then, one day, you come to Christ and realize the error of your former worldview… Now, just imagine going back to those same pagan ceremonies. It would probably agonize you to participate as you did before. While there is nothing wrong with eating the meat, you would still might feel spiritually slimed by the whole event. You might also wonder how far was too far, when participating in these events.

(8:8) “But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat.”

“Commend” (paristēmi) refers to “[being] present in any way” (BDAG, cf. Rom. 6:13).

“We are neither the worse if we do not eat.” This is a triple negative, so it’s confusing to read. We are not worse for not eating. That means, not eating won’t add anything to our spiritual lives.

“Nor the better if we do eat.” We won’t benefit if we do eat it.

In other words, neither eating nor abstaining is a benefit.

(8:9) “But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” Eating meat sacrificed to idols doesn’t benefit us (v.8). But it could harm others. Fee writes, “The Corinthians ‘knowledge’ (= insight) means ‘rights’ to act in ‘freedom.’ Thus for them freedom became the highest good, since it led to the exaltation of the individual. For Paul the opposite prevails: ‘Love’ means the ‘free giving up’ of one’s ‘rights’ for the sake of others (cf. 9:19–23), and ‘life together’ in community is the aim of salvation.”[122]

(8:10) “For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols?” Their “knowledge” (v.1, 4, 8) led them to exercise their “liberty” (v.9) by eating food in the temples of idols.

The problem is not that the believers with “knowledge” are encouraging the “weak” to eat the food.[123] There is no mention of them talking to the weak and telling them to eat. Instead, the “know-it-alls” are simply modeling their behavior without any explanation (“if someone sees you… will not his conscience… be strengthened?”). By witnessing the eating, the “weak” are being urged to eat the food.

This is a play on words. Paul uses the same word “strengthened” (oikodomeō) in verse 1 to refer to “building up” other believers. Here the “know-it-alls” are building up believers… to sin!

(8:11) “For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died.” We might imagine a sarcastic paraphrase of Paul’s statement: “Great job! Your ‘knowledge’ is ‘ruining’ the spiritual lives of other believers!”

(1 Cor. 8:11) Can believers be “ruined” or “destroyed” and go to hell for eating idol-meat?

(8:12) “And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.” Initially, it was only sinning against a “brother” (singular). Now it is sinning against the “brethren” (plural). To sin against a brother is to sin against the whole church. Here we see the mystical union of believers working its way out in community. When we sin against the Body of Christ, we sin against Jesus himself (cf. Acts 9:4).

(8:13) “Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.” We should sacrifice a little bit in order to follow the law of love. Paul’s expression (“I will never eat meat again”) is particularly emphatic in the Greek.[124] This could be taken as hyperbole, but maybe not. Paul was so focused on others that he didn’t want any self-seeking interest to stop others from being built up (cf. 1 Cor. 9:19-22).

Common misapplications of this passage

MISAPPLICATION #1: “Morality has no objective basis. Everything is relative to personal conscience.” This is lightyears away from Paul’s message! Remember, Paul makes many claims that contradict relativism:

  • “There is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one” (v.4).
  • “There are so-called gods” (v.5), strongly implying that these are fake.
  • “Sinning” or “sin” (v.12) is not a relativistic concept.

Instead of focusing on the morality of the actions, Paul makes his case on the basis of an objective moral principle: love. While actions can sometimes be moral or immoral based on their context (e.g. “to eat or not to eat?”), the objective moral principle of love never changes. The Corinthian “know-it-alls” were obsessed with the freedoms that they had in Christ. But rather than focusing on their freedoms, Paul urges them to focus on loving others.

Some activities can be simultaneously permissible for one person, but impermissible for another. This isn’t relativism, because these activities do not exceed the boundary of God’s moral will, but are restricted within his moral will. These areas are “activities that can lead to excess and sin but do not have to.”[125]

  • Watching a movie that contains sexual content. One person could be stumbled to lust, while another may not be at all.
  • Watching a movie that contains graphic violence. One person could be deeply disturbed, while another might say, “It’s just a movie… It’s not real. What’s the big deal?”
  • Listening to music that contains explicit language.
  • Using foul language. While the Bible directly speaks against foul language, it also contains many examples of foul language (see 1 Cor. 4:13). So, the use or abuse of foul language isn’t always morally clear.
  • Drinking alcohol. The Bible never prohibits drinking alcohol (see 1 Tim. 5:23). A social drinker can enjoy alcohol without getting intoxicated (Eph. 5:18), while a former addict may not be allowed to enjoy alcohol. To them, “a drop is too much, but an ocean is not enough.”
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco. We can make a very good case that addiction is sinful (1 Cor. 6:12), a waste of God’s money, and forfeiting the longevity of our God-given lives. But smoking a single cigarette would not break any of these clear moral boundaries.
  • One person could enjoy dancing with members of the opposite sex, while another may not be able to do this without being stumbled into lust.
  • Buying a lottery ticket.
  • Sometimes, believers will feel a personal conviction not to date for a while in order to draw closer to the Lord, while others do not have this conviction.
  • Premarital physical contact with your boyfriend or girlfriend. Kissing or cuddling with your significant other could lead to revving the engine of lust and even lead to fornication. But the act isn’t sinful in itself.

God could call on us to restrict ourselves in any of these examples above. Even though they are morally neutral for people in general, they could be immoral for us in particular.

MISAPPLICATION #2: “Because that is stumbling to me, we should make it a moral prohibition for everyone.” Paul explicitly tells the “weak” believer in Rome, “The one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him” (Rom. 14:3). Moreover, in 1 Corinthians 8, Paul doesn’t address this material to the “weak” or the “stumbled,” but to the “know-it-alls.” Therefore, it would be inappropriate to make the “weak” the intended audience. The “know-it-alls” in Corinth were being called on to think about how their Christian liberty could negatively affect others, rather than build them up.

While you can share how you are affected by someone else’s actions, you can’t control their behavior and certainly cannot blame them for your decision to sin. Each individual believer is responsible for his or her own actions. We can never say that someone forced us into sinning because of their example. We are all individually accountable to the Lord. Paul writes, “Each one of us will give an account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:12).

Furthermore, part of spiritual growth is being able to withstand temptation. Realistically, we cannot live free from temptation in an insulated bubble. Part of spiritual growth is learning how to withstand temptation (1 Cor. 10:13) or to make the decision to flee from it (1 Cor. 10:14). Either way, we cannot expect the world (or the Christian community) to protect us from this process.

MISAPPLICATION #3: “Because that could be stumbling to someone, we should make it a moral prohibition for everyone.” Believers should not create extra-biblical absolutes. A morally neutral activity for one person could be sinful for another, or vice versa. A believer can have a personal conviction of conscience not to participate, but they should not create that as an absolute for everyone. Paul told the Corinthians, “All things are lawful” (1 Cor. 10:23), and he wrote, “Learn not to exceed what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6).

MISAPPLICATION #4: “I am offended that you do that or permit that sort of behavior… It stumbles me!” Fundamentalist Christians often say that they are “stumbled” by morally neutral activities, when really they just mean that they are “offended” by them. According to 1 Corinthians 8, “stumbling” refers to being unintentionally led into sin. Many fundamentalist Christians ironically use this passage to make others conform to their conscience. There is deep irony here, because this is the very self-centered spirit Paul is writing against—namely, thinking of ourselves rather than others.

Craig Blomberg: “Nothing in the context justifies an association of ‘weaker brothers’ with those who are merely offended by a particular practice, notwithstanding the misleading translation of verse 13 in the KJV (‘if meat make my brother to offend’). Even less justified is the application of these principles to the ‘professional weaker brother’—the Christian legalist eager to forbid morally neutral activities even though he or she would never personally indulge in those activities. Rather, the weaker brother or sister is the Christian who is likely to imitate a stronger believer in some morally neutral practice but feel guilty about doing so or, worse still, be led into that which is inherently sinful or destructive.”[126]

Gordon Fee: “The issue is not that of ‘offending’ someone in the church. It has to do with conduct that another would ‘emulate.’ …What would seem to be an illegitimate use of the principle, even in the broader terms of v. 13, is for those who feel ‘offended’ to try to force all others to conform to their own idiosyncrasies of behavior. Paul makes it quite clear in Rom. 14 that on matters of indifference people within any given community should learn to live together in harmony, with no group demanding their own behavior of the others.[127]

We shouldn’t allow offended people to blackmail the freedoms of others. Again, this demanding spirit is the very thing Paul is writing against.

Fundamentalist Christians say that they are “stumbled” by the drinking of alcohol, listening to rap music, or watching R-rated films. Fair enough. But have they considered how non-Christians are stumbled by their teetotaling and entire Christian sub-culture? The fundamentalist Christian who creates non-biblical absolutes for the Christian community is embodying the very self-focus that Paul is speaking against in this chapter—namely, they are demanding their rights, rather than focusing on loving others—particularly people who don’t even know Jesus. Instead of having to merely surrender to Christ, the non-Christian needs to surrender to an entire extra-biblical Christian culture!

In a previous chapter, Paul encourages believers to associate with immoral people (1 Cor. 5:10). In the next chapter, he encourages believers to become “all things to all men” to reach them for Christ (1 Cor. 9:19-23). In morally neutral areas, believers should be willing to engage in the culture.

MISAPPLICATION #5. “I shouldn’t ever change my conscience.” Our conscience is a helpful tool in spiritual growth, but it is also fallible. Therefore, we should never say, “Let conscience be your guide.” Biblical truth can and should reeducate our conscience (Rom. 12:1-2).

Issues of personal conscience are tricky. They can legitimately come from God, but they can also come from our own ignorance or confusion regarding biblical truth. Since this isn’t always clear, we should dialogue respectfully. Paul writes, “Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind” (Rom. 14:5), implying that it is entirely appropriate to discuss these issues of conscience. He also writes, “I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself” (Rom. 14:14; cf. Col. 2:16-17). Those with a sensitive conscience should assess their ethical instincts by asking, “Is this a biblical issue or merely a cultural or personal issue?”

While we can dialogue about these issues, we should refrain from demonizing others. Paul writes, “The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another?” (Rom. 14:3-4) Later he writes, “Why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt?” (Rom. 14:10) This sort of contemptuous disputing is exactly what Paul was writing against.

Proper application of this passage

Put simply, Paul is teaching us to give up our rights for the sake of loving others. We can be intellectually right about an issue, but our application of these truths could be unloving. The “know-it-all” could say, “But I’m in the right!” But we would retort, “Yeah, but you’re still a major jerk!” We might consider these questions to see the importance of this topic for believers:

  • Do I alienate others by how I talk or act?
  • Are you more concerned with how much you know than with how you love others?
  • Do you prioritize being right over being sensitive to those around you?
  • When you open your mouth are you considering how what you say will affect others?
  • Do I spend more time thinking about my unmet expectations, or the needs of others?
  • When I suggest an activity, am I thinking of what would be the best for others or just myself?
  • Can I refrain from certain freedoms for the sake of others’ spiritual growth?
  • Are you willing to set aside certain desires for the sake of others?
  • Do you spend more time spouting off personal opinions than you do seeking God’s will?
  • Are you trying to hold those around you to your arbitrary standards due to your own weaknesses?
Conclusion

The point isn’t to create a list of absolutes. Instead, Paul’s point is that a spiritually mature person is thoughtful of the needs of others. Rather than living for self, they think through the intended or unintended consequences of their actions.

Appendix: Alternate Reading Considered

We have outlined the traditional academic interpretation view above. However, a more recent academic view has been espoused by David Garland among others. Instead of seeing idol meat as fine in chapter 8 and sinful in chapter 10, this view contends that Paul was outlawing all idol meat.

Under this view, the “weak” are not a separate party in Corinth. Instead, they were a hypothetical party created by Paul that serve as a contrast to all the believers in Corinth. Like the imaginary opponent in Romans, the “weak” are a literary construct used by Paul to argue against the Corinthians “know-it-alls.” In other words, the “strong” or “know-it-alls” constituted all the believers in Corinth. David Garland writes,

The issue does not revolve around the one with a weak conscience; Paul’s goal is to change the activity of the knowers, who, despite their imagined theological sophistication, are in danger of being partners with demons.[128]

What he actually says is that he fears that an individual will be drawn into idolatry again. Paul’s solicitude for the weak person is not over the possibility that he or she might suffer from unnecessary pangs of conscience. His concern is explicitly expressed in 8:11: such a person may perish eternally![129]

If this was part of their argument, theoretically they are correct; eating does not affect one’s relationship to God or bring God’s judgment. We should not take this statement, ‘We do not lack if we do not eat, nor do we gain if we do eat,’ to hint that Paul sides with those who think that eating idol food is unobjectionable. Life is not lived in the theoretical abstract, and eating food sacrificed to idols can lead to partnership with demons (10:20). Mishandling the Lord’s Supper can lead to sickness and death (11:29–30). Paul’s illustrations from the OT in 10:1–13 reveal that idol food is not as harmless as they assumed. It can kill—most significantly, it kills a person’s relationship to God. Kosher laws may be a matter of indifference, but idol food is not. Nothing is unclean in itself, unless it is known to be idol food. Just as sexual relations are not unclean in themselves but can be perverted by human sin into porneia, food is not unclean in itself but can become tainted by its associations with demons and thus become something forbidden. Consuming food in an idolatrous context or food plainly associated with idolatry is not a matter of indifference but one that has deadly consequences. Paul subtly corrects their view by pointing out that attending idol banquets can cause far greater harm than they have imagined. They might wound others eternally and harm themselves eternally. Rather than implying that neither eating nor abstaining from idol food makes any difference, this verse lays the foundation for his statement in 8:13, “I will absolutely never eat meat.” Abstinence, in this case, benefits others and oneself.[130]

Paul is not afraid that they might offend the weak in some way but that they might cause them to fall away from their Christian faith.[131]

We disagree with this view, because (1) it creates an artificial literary convention without substantiation and (2) it doesn’t cohere with chapter 10, where Paul explicitly states that eating meat sacrificed to idols is permissible. The point is not the meat, but the way it affects fellow believers.

1 Corinthians 9.1 (All things to all men)

In chapter 8, the Corinthians were using their freedom to eat meat sacrificed to idols to damage their brothers in Christ. We could imagine the “know-it-all” Corinthians saying, “You’re calling on us to stop eating idol meat? Well, what are you giving up?” Paul’s response is contained in this chapter.

Paul sets himself up as a model to be followed in this area of “freedoms.” While the Corinthian “know-it-alls” wouldn’t even sacrifice their freedom to eat meat, Paul sacrificed his right to collect a paycheck. Paul is modeling the very thing that he wants to see in these people (cf. 1 Cor. 11:1). If Paul could sacrifice his freedoms in major areas, then why couldn’t the Corinthians do this in minor ones?

In this section, notice the barrage of rhetorical questions that Paul uses. In Greek, each of these demands an affirmative answer “because they start with the Greek participle ou.”[132] In other words, Paul is asking questions that are obvious to his readers.

#1. Argument from apostleship

(9:1) “Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?” Fee argues that Paul’s “apostleship itself [had] been called into question.”[133] This is certainly true once we get to 2 Corinthians. Given the fact that these two letters were written so closely together, this could be the case here as well.

However, it seems that Paul is making an argument from the sure to the unsure. That is, he is assuming that they affirm his apostleship, and he’s building his argument based on that assumed premise.

(9:2) “If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.” We know that some were doubting Paul’s apostleship in 2 Corinthians. Perhaps Paul is alluding to this here. However, if the Corinthians denied Paul’s apostleship, then they would need to deny their own spiritual standing as well.[134] Blomberg writes, “For the Corinthians to question his apostolicity calls into question their own spiritual existence!”[135]

The “seal” (sphragis) was a way of showing a person’s identification with a letter. It’s the same term Paul uses for being “sealed” with the Holy Spirit. Paul’s ministry showed his standing. Fee writes, “Their very existence authenticates his apostleship.”[136]

(9:3) “My defense to those who examine me is this:” The Corinthians were judging Paul’s motives and examining him (1 Cor. 4:3-5). Here he points out objective criteria for their judgment and defends his ministry and character. If he didn’t do this, it might compromise his message. This verse could look back on verses 1-2.

(9:4-5) “Do we not have a right to eat and drink? 5 Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?” Paul not only had the right to eat and drink (see chapter 8), but he also had the right to a wife, which he didn’t take (see chapter 7).

This verse implies that all of the other apostles were married (“even as the rest of the apostles”). Specifically, we know that Peter was married (Mk. 1:30; Mt. 8:14).

(9:6) “Or do only Barnabas and I not have a right to refrain from working?” Paul is lumping himself (and Barnabas) in with the rest of the apostles. It must’ve been widely accepted that the apostles were allowed to accept pay for their work, and this even included paying for their wives.

Again, you think that Paul is arguing for a paycheck here. He isn’t. He’s arguing for his right to be paid. He argues persuasively for his right to be paid, but then he shows that he willingly gave that up.

If Paul didn’t make a good case for this, then the Corinthians could’ve said, “Paul wasn’t paid, but that’s because he didn’t deserve the money.” Instead, Paul argues, “I did deserve it, but I refused it.” In a world where “money talks,” this would’ve spoken powerfully to his audience. After all, what kind of a man refuses to accept money?

#2. Argument from common sense

(9:7) “Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock?” Paul makes a rapid fire series of secular arguments: soldiers deserve pay, vineyard owners deserve fruit, and farmers deserve milk.

#3. Argument from Scripture

(9:8) “I am not speaking these things according to human judgment, am I? Or does not the Law also say these things?” Paul has just made an argument from everyday experience or common sense. He goes on to argue that this is also supported by Scripture.

(9:9) “For it is written in the Law of Moses, ‘You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.’ God is not concerned about oxen, is He?”

(9:9) Why does Paul cite Deuteronomy 25:4?

(9:10) “Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops.” Paul’s point is that even the oxen were allowed to share in their work.

(9:11) “If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?” Again, Paul is making an argument from “the lesser to the greater.” Truly, spiritual things are more valuable than material things (Rom. 15:27). Would it be too much to ask for them to support him financially?

#4. Argument from other teachers

(9:12a) “If others share the right over you, do we not more?” “Others” had exercised this right, and the Corinthians didn’t blink an eye at this.

(9:12b) “Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ.” Paul shows his hand here briefly. It’s as if he can’t handle it, and needs to tell them that he’s refusing this right.

Apparently, Paul had been accused of being in ministry for the money, so he refused to take any money. This comes up in his second letter, when he refers to the “many” false teachers “peddling the word of God” (2 Cor. 2:17; cf. 1 Thess. 2:5-10).

#5. Argument from temple practices

(9:13) “Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar?” Paul could be referring to Pagan worship, OT worship,[137] or perhaps both.[138] In both the Jewish and Pagan worlds, priests were allowed to eat from the sacrifices, so it might not be important to debate over.

#6. Argument from Jesus

(9:14) “So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.” Paul may be thinking of Jesus’ words that “the worker is worthy of his wages” (Lk. 10:7; Mt. 10:10). This verse shows that this principle can be generalized to all vocational servants (“those who proclaim the gospel,” not just Paul).

Paul voluntarily gave up his rights

Paul has been building his argument for why he deserves to get paid for the last fourteen verses. As the reader, you’re expecting him to now say, “So, pay up!” Instead, he takes the complete opposition application. Fee rightly notes, “With every kind of available argument he contends that ‘If others have the right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?’ (v. 12a). Yet after all that, the conclusion in vv. 15–18 is not that they should therefore support him; it is the precise opposite—an explanation, indeed defense, of his policy of not accepting that for which he has just argued so strenuously.”[139] Paul is modeling the very thing that he is calling on this church to do: give up their rights for the sake of others.

Paul worked with his hands in Corinth (Acts 18:3). He received money from Macedonia to do full-time vocational work (Acts 18:4-5; cf. Phil. 4:15-16). Paul would refuse to take money for the sake of modeling (2 Thess. 3:7-9).

(9:15) “But I have used none of these things. And I am not writing these things so that it will be done so in my case; for it would be better for me to die than have any man make my boast an empty one.” I remember hearing D.A. Carson say that he’d rather die than commit adultery, and he’d rather die than dishonor the gospel. At the time, this seemed extreme, but it seems that he got this directly from Paul! Morris writes, “The text here is very difficult. Paul appears to break off his sentence and never complete it: ‘It would be better for me to die than—No-one will make this boast of mine an empty one!’ The break in construction marks Paul’s deep emotion, and his emotion shows the importance he ascribed to his practice.”[140] Blomberg writes, “Verse 15c forms an emotional outburst in the form of an anacoluthon (a grammatically incomplete sentence) in the Greek, literally, ‘For it would be better for me to die than—no one will empty me of my boast!’”[141]

This is similar to Paul: “Then Moses became very angry [about the rebellion by Korah, Dathan and Abiram] and said to the Lord, ‘Do not accept their offering. I have not taken so much as a donkey from them, nor have I wronged any of them’” (Num. 16:15).

(9:16) “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.” Paul didn’t view his ministry as something to boast about. Instead, he thought about it as a stewardship (cf. 1 Cor. 4:1-2).

Fee argues that Paul’s “compulsion” to preach the gospel “most likely refers to his divine destiny,”[142] rather than a psychological urge to preach. He writes, “To preach the gospel of Christ is not something he chose to do, which is quite the point of v. 17; it is something he must do.”[143] Yet how does this fit with the reality that Paul wrote, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel”? It seems like he does have a choice. It seems that he feels compelled to preach—much like the prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 20:9).

(9:17) “For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me.” Stewards don’t get rewarded. They possess the money, but don’t own it for themselves (cf. 1 Cor. 4:1). As Jesus taught, “When you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done’” (Lk. 17:10). Johnson writes, “Since he has been directly and personally commissioned by Christ to preach the gospel as an apostle, he views the discharge of this office as a duty to be fulfilled joyfully but not as something he has freely chosen on his own initiative. Therefore no special recognition is to be given to him beyond faithful service to this calling. But to forgo his right to be paid is not required of him to fulfill his apostolic calling. This gives him the opportunity to offer to Christ an extra measure of loving service that he believes will be recognized in the future by his Lord.”[144]

“If I do this voluntarily (hekōn), I have a reward…” Peter uses the same root word (hekousiōs) to refer to shepherding the flock “voluntarily,” rather than “under compulsion” (1 Pet. 5:2).

(9:18) “What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.” Is there anything that Paul could do that would get him a reward? Yes, he could sacrifice his rights! By refusing their money, Paul was going above and beyond what was required of him. People often say, “I’m not going to church… They’re just take your money.” Paul would take this excuse away from people, but refusing their money. This was his basis for reward. Fee writes, “In offering the ‘free’ gospel ‘free of charge’ his own ministry becomes a living paradigm of the gospel itself.”[145]

All things to all people

(9:19) “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more.” People would’ve killed for Paul’s Roman citizenship, which made him a “free” man. But Paul would rather be a slave with a large influence for Christ, rather than a free man with no influence.

(9:20) “To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law;” When Paul would speak to Jews, he would keep the law for their sake, so he wouldn’t stumble them unnecessarily. Paul did this when he circumcised Timothy (Acts 16:1-3; cf. maybe Acts 21:26?). The gospel is stumbling enough (1 Cor. 1:23). Remember, Paul already wrote, “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God” (1 Cor. 7:19).

(9:21) “To those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law.” Paul still held to Christian ethics (“under the law of Christ”), but he would compromise on unimportant matters in order to reach Gentiles. The “law of Christ” is the law of love (Jn. 15:12; Gal. 6:2).

(9:22) “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.” The goal of all of this contextualization is to reach more people for Christ.

(9:23) “I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.” His guiding principle in these matters was how much the gospel would impact people.

“Fellow partaker…” The Greek is ambiguous. The term synkoinōnos means “participants, partner.” It could mean that he shares the blessings (NIV, ESV, NLT), or he becomes a fellow coworker with the gospel (NASB, NET).

Application

What is the best way to keep your kid from drowning? You could keep them from all bodies of water for their entire lives, or you could teach them how to swim. This is the difference between isolation and inoculation.

We need to be flexible in these cultural categories, because truly we don’t truly belong to any of these categories and because we want to win people in all of these categories.

Cultural containment creates barriers for people seeking God. There is nothing intriguing to non-Christians about fundamentalism. Do we want strict cultural boundaries that make it as hard as possible to sin? Or reasonable boundaries that make it as easy as possible for people to come to Christ?

Believing and belonging. One of the big factors of faith is this: It’s not the question of whether I can believe what Christians believe, but whether I can be like one of these Christian people. Christianity might be reasonable to a non-Christian, but they might never follow Christ, if they are repulsed by the Christian lifestyle.

Cultural containment leads to hypocrisy. The church is often different where it should be the same and the same where it should be different.

Cultural containment is unhealthy for believers. When we get off mission, things get weird. Hypocrisy. Theological rabbit trails. Moreover, this is a huge waste of time! There is one problem with trying to keep sin out of the church… the church is filled with sinners!

1 Corinthians 9.2 (Goals and grace)

Opening questions: Why have I been trying to follow God for years, but I haven’t seen serious change in my life? How come I lack direction in what God is trying to do in my life? Why do I see others growing, while I feel stuck?

(9:24) “Do you not know…?” Paul is assuming that they are aware of the practice of athletic competition in Corinth. Morris writes, “Athletic contests were common in the Greek world, and the Isthmian Games, second only to the Olympic Games, were held every two years at Corinth.”[146]

“Those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize?” If we misread the metaphor, we could come to wrong conclusions. For one, we need to realize that this is a metaphor (Paul isn’t literally commanding Christians to run). What does the metaphor mean? In athletic games, we compete against each other. In Paul’s metaphor, we compete against ourselves. Paul’s imperative (“run in such a way that you may win”) focuses on the attitude of the individual believer. Fee understands this passage to mean, “Run as that one runs who wins the prize.”[147]

“Run in a race (stadiō) in the Greek is literally “run in a stadium.”[148] The imagery is that of a public competition.

“Run in such a way that you may win.” Win what? Salvation? Not at all. Athletes weren’t executed if they came in last place; rather, they forfeited rewards. Paul compares eternal rewards to the athletic contests in Corinth. This is the central imperative for this section.

(9:25) “Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things.” Why do athletes show self-restraint? Why do they train so much, for so long, and with so much suffering? Why do they not eat that extra doughnut or get up in the early hours to train, when they could be getting extra sleep? They restrict themselves in these ways because they have their eyes on the prize. They are motivated by reward—not punishment.

“Competes” (agōnizomai) is the root from which we get our English word “agonize.”

“They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” Athletes in ancient Corinth would compete for their “perishable wreath.” Morris writes, “In the Isthmian Games it was a pine wreath at first, later celery was used, and towards the end of the first century, pine again.”[149] Paul is saying, “Non-Christians agonize and compete for a celery hat… Don’t you know that you are competing for something far, far greater?” Again, Morris comments, “The strenuous self-denial of the athlete as he sought a fleeting reward is a rebuke to half-hearted, flabby Christian service. The athlete denies himself many lawful pleasures and the Christian must similarly avoid not only definite sin, but anything that hinders spiritual progress.”[150]

This reward isn’t just for Paul, but for “everyone.” Note his use of the first-person plural “we” in this verse (cf. 2 Tim 4:8; Jas 1:12; 1 Pet 5:4; Rev 2:10).

(9:26) “Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim.” Fee writes, “This can only mean ‘as one who has no fixed goal.’”[151] Paul was goal-oriented. He had his mind fixed on eternity, and this is what motivated him.

“I box in such a way, as not beating the air.” This imagery could refer to “either shadow-sparring or missing his opponent.”[152] We favor the latter view. After all, shadow-boxing would be good training for a boxer. Paul must be thinking of the embarrassment of a fighter who swings his fists through the air, not connecting with his opponent.

(9:27) “But I discipline my body and make it my slave.”

“Discipline” (hypōpiazō) literally means “to blacken an eye, give a black eye, strike in the face” (BDAG). This isn’t referring to asceticism and hurting his body for spiritual reward (Col. 2:21-23). Rather, this refers to controlling his body. The term “discipline” (hypōpiazō) is elsewhere used metaphorically—not literally (cf. Lk. 18:5). Fee writes, “Such ‘bruising of the body’ probably refers to hardships to which he voluntarily subjected himself in preaching to the Corinthians, which included working with his own hands, and which in turn meant suffering the privations expressed in 4:11–13. In this way he ‘disciplined’ himself ‘for the sake of the gospel,’ so that he, along with them, might share in the promises of the gospel.”[153]

“Disqualified” (adokimos) means “which has not stood the test.”[154] Paul was thinking about the bema seat reward here (1 Cor. 3:15).

“Make it my slave…” is similar to verse 19, where Paul writes, “I have made myself a slave to all.”

“So that, after I have preached [kēryx] to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” Mare writes, “The ancient kēryx was the herald in the Greek games who announced the rules of the contest, but the Christian herald—i.e., preacher—not only announces the rules but “plays” in the game as well.”[155] By contrast, Fee thinks Paul is speaking of literal preaching here, because this is his normal term for preaching.[156]

Why should I create and pursue goals?

God is goal oriented. God is goal oriented (Jn. 5:17; Eph. 1:10). Jesus had personal goals for his ministry (Lk. 13:32; Jn. 17:4).

God designed humans to be goal-oriented. Before the Fall, God had Adam doing meaningful work (Gen. 2:15ff), and God will continue to have us doing meaningful work in heaven (Lk. 19:17).

Paul pursued plans and goals in his life. Paul had all sorts of plans for his ministry (Rom. 15:19b-25, 32; 1 Cor. 16:5-9). He perpetually strove for more spiritual growth and impact for Christ: “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). He viewed his ministry as something that he should “fulfill” (2 Tim. 4:7-8), which is impossible to do unless there are goals in mind.

Refusal to create and pursue goals is a sin. Jesus taught, “The servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’ But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it” (Mt. 25:24-27 NLT).

What can we learn from this servant and his failure to create and pursue goals with his Master’s resources?

(1) He viewed God as a “harsh man.” That is, he didn’t believe in using his resources for the Master because he didn’t love the Master.

(2) He was afraid of failure (“I was afraid…”).

(3) The Master (God) was pretty angry that he didn’t even try.

Refusal to work hard is a sin. Solomon has much to say about the person whom he dubs “the sluggard.”

(Prov. 6:6-11) Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! 7 It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, 8 yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. 9 How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? 10 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest— 11 and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.

The hardworking man doesn’t need someone to be on his case. He’s self-initiative (v.7). He thinks ahead (v.8). The sluggard exaggerates how much rest he needs (v.10).

(Prov. 10:4) Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.

(Prov. 10:15) The wealth of the rich is their fortified city, but poverty is the ruin of the poor.

(Prov. 10:26) As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is a sluggard to those who send him.

Imagine swishing vinegar in your mouth, rather than Scope. It would burn and taste terrible. We’ve all had smoke curl up into our eyes, and it burns our eyes. This is how sluggards feel to their bosses.

(Prov. 12:24) Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in slave labor.

Those who perpetually work at minimum wage in our culture really can never get out of their poverty.

(Prov. 12:27) The lazy man does not roast his game, but the diligent man prizes his possessions.

In this time period, they would hunt for their food. They needed to roast their game before it spoiled. This lazy man would hunt, but wouldn’t roast it before it spoiled. The lazy person doesn’t finish what he starts. He spends all of this time hunting, but never gets the reward of his effort. If only he did a little bit more, he would’ve been able to enjoy it. The lazy person passes off responsibility, rather than finishing their job.

(Prov. 13:4) The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.

The sluggard has desires, but it never translates into action.

(Prov. 13:11) Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.

The “get rich quick” schemer doesn’t really value what he has. So he slowly loses it. When lazy people come into money, they often spend it foolishly.

(Prov. 14:23) All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.

The sluggard likes to talk about their problem, but they don’t like to do anything about it.

(Prov. 15:19) The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway.

This strikes us as an issue with their attitude and perspective. The sluggard feels like their life is circumstantially poor. This might also be that the hard worker will take the longer route on the highway. The sluggard will take the shorter route that is filled with thorns.

(Prov. 19:15) Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless man goes hungry.

Laziness begets more laziness.

(Prov. 20:13) Do not love sleep or you will grow poor; stay awake and you will have food to spare.

(Prov. 21:17) He who loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and oil will never be rich.

The sluggard uses their money on frivolous things or even addictions.

(Prov. 21:25-26) The sluggard’s craving will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work. 26 All day long he craves for more, but the righteous give without sparing.

(Prov. 24:30-34) I went past the field of the sluggard, past the vineyard of the man who lacks judgment; 31 thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins. 32 I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw: 33 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest— 34 and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.

This almost sounds like a man in a coffin! (v.33)

(Prov. 26:13-16) The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming the streets!” 14 As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed. 15 The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth. 16 The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who answer discreetly.

Is it that the lion is imaginary? He’s exaggerating his circumstances (v.13). He’s expecting the lion before he even gets out of bed! Picture the sound of a noisy hinge, as the door slowly opens (v.14). The sluggard moans the same way in their bed. They are so lazy that they can’t even feed themselves (v.15). He’s so deceived about his own wisdom (v.16). It seems like a cocktail of delusion, deception, and pride all at once.

Sluggards have a lot of rhetoric about love and grace in the Body of Christ: “Why aren’t people willing to give me a break? Why are people so strict? Where is the grace??” These people have a lot of rhetoric on love probably because they’re trying to take so much of it from others!

Setting and pursuing goals is EFFECTIVE. Dr. Dominque Morisano (of McGill University) found that setting intensive goals for college students over a four month period increased their academic performance by 30% on average.[157] In the business world, Sven Asmus (et al.) write, “Even without financial incentives goal-setting improves worker performance by 12 to 15% compared to the situation where no goals were defined.”[158]

Setting and pursuing goals is FREE. This is a functional strategy in life that costs no money, and little effort.

Important areas to set goals

Spiritual goals. Humans are wired to pursue goals. However, this can work against us. Often, believers become so obsessed with a goal-driven life that they pursue autonomous goals from God, which is sinful (Jas. 4:13-17; Prov. 3:5-6).

Getting a career. Paul writes, “If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8). Paul isn’t being harsh toward non-believers. Instead, he’s rebuking believers! He also writes, “If a man will not work, he shall not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10).

We need a career to provide for our own needs (Gal. 6:5) and to give to others (Gal. 6:2). We should also have a goal to get a career so that we can become financial givers, rather than being a burden on the Christian community (Eph. 4:28).

What stops us from setting and pursuing goals?

“I don’t care… Whatever…” This is basically a knee-jerk reaction to numb us from the pain of failure. The truth is that you do care—you care deeply. You’re just too afraid of failure. This attitude is especially common for men. They feel lots of shame if they try, but fail. However, what is really at stake if I fail? My life? Or just my ego? God can use failure, but he can’t use inaction and paralysis. What exactly is failure? Failure is never trying. After all, not trying is certain failure—not possible failure. Moreover, God can teach us invaluable lessons through failure.

Under the self-performance mindset (i.e. legalism), goal-setting results in arrogance or discouragement. By contrast, under grace, God gives us the power to succeed with humility and fail without hopelessness.

“I did mediocre… but I didn’t try.” Well, good for you! Congratulations for not using your gifts, talents, and opportunities! But why does that make you feel good about yourself? Would you rather be a gifted person who never does anything with it, or an average-joe who works hard and achieves great things?

In his book NurtureShock, Po Bronson emphasizes the need to praise hard work and effort, rather than gifting. He writes,

“According to a survey conducted by Columbia University, 85 percent of American parents think it’s important to tell their kids that they’re smart.”[159]

[Dr. Carol Dweck (and her team at Columbia University) ran a study on 400 5th graders…] “Dweck sent four female research assistants into New York fifth-grade classrooms. The researchers would take a single child out of the classroom for a nonverbal IQ test consisting of a series of puzzles—puzzles easy enough that all the children would do fairly well. Once the child finished the test, the researchers told each student his score, then gave him a single line of praise. Randomly divided into groups, some were praised for their intelligence. They were told, “You must be smart at this.” Other students were praised for their effort: “You must have worked really hard.”Then the students were given a choice of test for the second round. One choice was a test that would be more difficult than the first, but the researchers told the kids that they’d learn a lot from attempting the puzzles. The other choice, Dweck’s team explained, was an easy test, just like the first. Of those praised for their effort, 90 percent chose the harder set of puzzles. Of those praised for their intelligence, a majority chose the easy test. The “smart” kids took the cop-out.[160]

“In a subsequent round, none of the fifth-graders had a choice. The test was difficult, designed for kids two years ahead of their grade level. Predictably, everyone failed. But again, the two groups of children, divided at random at the study’s start, responded differently. Those praised for their effort on the first test assumed they simply hadn’t focused hard enough on this test. “They got very involved, willing to try every solution to the puzzles,” Dweck recalled. “Many of them remarked, unprovoked, ‘This is my favorite test.’” Not so for those praised for their smarts. They assumed their failure was evidence that they weren’t really smart at all. “Just watching them, you could see the strain. They were sweating and miserable.” Having artificially induced a round of failure, Dweck’s researchers then gave all the fifth-graders a final round of tests that were engineered to be as easy as the first round. Those who had been praised for their effort significantly improved on their first score—by about 30 percent. Those who’d been told they were smart did worse than they had at the very beginning—by about 20 percent. Dweck had suspected that praise could backfire, but even she was surprised by the magnitude of the effect. “Emphasizing effort gives a child a variable that they can control,” she explains. “They come to see themselves as in control of their success. Emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of the child’s control, and it provides no good recipe for responding to a failure.”[161]

“Dweck discovered that those who think that innate intelligence is the key to success begin to discount the importance of effort. I am smart, the kids’ reasoning goes; I don’t need to put out effort. Expending effort becomes stigmatized—it’s public proof that you can’t cut it on your natural gifts. Repeating her experiments, Dweck found this effect of praise on performance held true for students of every socioeconomic class. It hit both boys and girls—the very brightest girls especially (they collapsed the most following failure).”[162]

[Dr. Lisa Blackwell (Dweck’s protégé) works for Life Science Secondary Elementary School in East Harlem. Recently published work in the academic journal Child Development on a research project.] “Life Sciences is a health-science magnet school with high aspirations but 700 students whose main attributes are being predominantly minority and low achieving. Blackwell split her kids into two groups for an eight-session workshop. The control group was taught study skills, and the others got study skills and a special module on how intelligence is not innate. These students took turns reading aloud an essay on how the brain grows new neurons when challenged. They saw slides of the brain and acted out skits. “Even as I was teaching these ideas,” Blackwell noted, “I would hear the students joking, calling one another ‘dummy’ or ‘stupid.’ “After the module was concluded, Blackwell tracked her students’ grades to see if it had any effect. It didn’t take long. The teachers—who hadn’t known which students had been assigned to which workshop—could pick out the students who had been taught that intelligence can be developed. They improved their study habits and grades. In a single semester, Blackwell reversed the students’ longtime trend of decreasing math grades. The only difference between the control group and the test group were two lessons, a total of 50 minutes spent teaching not math but a single idea: that the brain is a muscle. Giving it a harder workout makes you smarter. That alone improved their math scores.[163]

“From 1970 to 2000, there were over 15,000 scholarly articles written on self-esteem and its relationship to everything—from sex to career advancement. But the results were often contradictory or inconclusive. So in 2003 the Association for Psychological Science asked Dr. Roy Baumeister, then a leading proponent of self-esteem, to review this literature. His team concluded that self-esteem research was polluted with flawed science. Most of those 15,000 studies asked people to rate their self-esteem and then asked them to rate their own intelligence, career success, relationship skills, etc. These self-reports were extremely unreliable, since people with high self-esteem have an inflated perception of their abilities. Only 200 of the studies employed a scientifically-sound way to measure self-esteem and its outcomes. After reviewing those 200 studies, Baumeister concluded that having high self-esteem didn’t improve grades or career achievement. It didn’t even reduce alcohol usage. And it especially did not lower violence of any sort. (Highly aggressive, violent people happen to think very highly of themselves, debunking the theory that people are aggressive to make up for low self-esteem.) At the time, Baumeister was quoted as saying that his findings were “the biggest disappointment of my career.”[164]

[Praise needs to be specific according to Bronson.[165]] “By the age of twelve, children believe that earning praise from a teacher is not a sign you did well—it’s actually a sign you lack ability and the teacher thinks you need extra encouragement. They’ve picked up the pattern: kids who are falling behind get drowned in praise. Teens, Meyer found, discounted praise to such an extent that they believed it’s a teacher’s criticism—not praise at all—that really conveys a positive belief in a student’s aptitude.”[166]

“Scholars from Reed College and Stanford reviewed over 150 praise studies. Their analysis determined that praised students become risk-averse and lack perceived autonomy. The scholars found consistent correlations between a liberal use of praise and students’ “shorter task persistence, more eye-checking with the teacher, and inflected speech such that answers have the intonation of questions.” When they get to college, heavily-praised students commonly drop out of classes rather than suffer a mediocre grade, and they have a hard time picking a major—they’re afraid to commit to something because they’re afraid of not succeeding.[167]

Frequently-praised children get more competitive and more interested in tearing others down. Image-maintenance becomes their primary concern.[168]

“A young scholar at the University of Illinois, Dr. Florrie Ng, reproduced Dweck’s paradigm with fifth-graders both in Illinois and in Hong Kong. Ng added an interesting dimension to the experiment. Rather than having the kids take the short IQ tests at their school, the children’s mothers brought them to the scholars’ offices on campus (both in Urbana-Champaign and at the University of Hong Kong). While the moms sat in the waiting room, half the kids were randomly given the really hard test, where they could get only about half right—inducing a sense of failure. At that point, the kids were given a five-minute break before the second test, and the moms were allowed into the testing room to talk with their child. On the way in, the moms were told their child’s actual raw score and were told a lie—that this score represented a below-average result. Hidden cameras recorded the five-minute interaction between mother and child. The American mothers carefully avoided making negative comments. They remained fairly upbeat and positive with their child. The majority of the minutes were spent talking about something other than the testing at hand, such as what they might have for dinner. But the Chinese children were likely to hear, “You didn’t concentrate when doing it,” and “Let’s look over your test.” The majority of the break was spent discussing the test and its importance. After the break, the Chinese kids’ scores on the second test jumped 33 percent, more than twice the gain of the Americans. The trade-off here would seem to be that the Chinese mothers acted harsh or cruel—but that stereotype may not reflect modern parenting in Hong Kong. Nor was it quite what Ng saw on the videotapes. While their words were firm, the Chinese mothers actually smiled and hugged their children every bit as much as the American mothers (and were no more likely to frown or raise their voices).[169]

“I just need to zone out.” One month after Call of Duty: Black Ops was released, the game was played for a total of 68,000 years.[170] Neurologist Frances E. Jensen writes, “Average young people, especially boys, will have played about ten thousand hours of video games by age twenty-one.”[171] Zimbardo and Coulombe point out, “Even if games were originally designed to inspire players and make a better reality, they are now being used to replace reality, and many young men are losing themselves in increasingly sophisticated virtual worlds that are totally enchanting. As one decade-long gamer from our survey said, ‘I can’t emphasize enough the predictability and control that a virtual world offers. In a world growing ever more complex, the simplicity of the virtual life is a very welcome distraction.’”[172] They add, “Watching television and porn requires no commitment and has a zero rate of rejection; it provides instant gratification that can alleviate the fear to some degree. As a side effect, however, it also reduces the motivation to get the skills needed to attract the girl, creating further distance between a man and his ultimate goal.”[173]

Neurologist Frances E. Jensen comments about an psychological experiment: “An experiment began in the spring of 2010 when two hundred students in a basic media literacy course at the University of Maryland were asked by their professor to do something unusual: go without their digital tools and toys—all media, in fact—for twenty-four hours… They asked close to one thousand students in twelve countries, including the United States, to write about their experiences after their twenty-four-hour period of media abstinence was over, and when the students did, they poured out their angst.”[174]

“I began going crazy.”

“I felt paralyzed—almost handicapped in my ability to live.”

“I felt dead.”

“Emptiness. Emptiness overwhelms me.”

“Unplugging . . . felt like turning off a life-support system.”

“I feel paralyzed.”

“I went into absolute panic mode.”

“It felt as though I was being tortured.”

“I was itching, like a crackhead, because I could not use my phone.”

“It was quite late and the only thing going through my mind was: (voice of psychopath) ‘I want Facebook.’ ‘I want Twitter.’ ‘I want YouTube.’ ‘I want TV.’”

Jensen concludes, “The compulsive need to be digitally connected happens on two levels, behaviorally and biochemically. Every ring, ping, beep, and burst of song from a smartphone results in an ‘Oh, wow’ moment in the brain. When the new text message or post is opened, the discovery is like a digital gift; it releases a pleasurable rush of dopamine in the brain. In fact, there is mounting evidence that Internet addiction has much in common with substance addiction.”[175]

“I can’t change.” The Christian life is not a self-help project. God isn’t concerned about your ability, but your availability. If you present yourself to him, he will transform your life.

“More, more, more!” After seeing the satisfaction of setting and achieving goals, this can become addictive. Like a car that is constantly running at 6,000 RPM’s, believers can easily “overheat” and slip into becoming workaholics—being outwardly active but not inwardly thoughtful. This fanaticism can lead to burnout. The strain of an “overheated ministry” can lead to catastrophic falls into sin, neglected relationships, and general unhappiness. Believers can be serving Christ all over the city, but not spending time in prayer for their people. This sort of drive isn’t actually loving, because it isn’t for others at all. It’s for ourselves.

How to set goals

SMART goals. This common method of goal-setting has been found to be effective:

Specific: Who, what, where, when?

Measurable: How would you know if the goal was met?

Achievable: Stretch yourself without discouraging yourself.

Realistic: Do you have the resources and skills to accomplish the goal?

Time-defined: What is the time limit for these goals? Short-term goals are better.

Develop a plan. What is your action plan for making this goal happen?

Monitor progress frequently. When would be some good times and benchmarks to check in on your progress?

Celebrate success. Achieving goals is exciting in and of itself. However, you should also set up a reward to celebrate your achievement of your goal.

Discussion Questions

How would we know if we were erring on two extremes in regards to contextualization? Either compromising truth or being detached from culture?

Imagine if someone said this, “Having goals is legalistic. I don’t make goals because the Bible says we’re under grace!” Do you agree with this? How might you respond?

In what ways might a poor work ethic (or functional life) disqualify a Christian to those around them?

1 Corinthians 10 (Vicarious teachings from the Old Testament)

(1 Cor. 10:1-5) Did Paul allegorize the OT?

Did Israel fall into idolatry because God had failed to bless them? NO!

(10:1-4) The connecting word (“For…”) shows that these are ways that believers can be “disqualified” from the race set before them (9:27).

Were they “unaware” in the sense that they had never read these OT narratives? Fee writes, “The nature of the following argument suggests that they were well aware of the data of the OT text; Paul wants to make sure they do not miss its significance for their lives.”[176]

The Israelites were our spiritual “fathers.” It’s interesting to note that Paul tells these Gentiles that the Jewish men in the Exodus were “our fathers.” Gentiles are brought in to the believing community through Jesus. What can we learn from the example of the Israelites?

All under the cloud…” This refers to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

All passed through the sea…” This refers to God rescue from slavery.

All were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea…” This refers to the identification with Moses and God’s leading them from judgment.

All ate the same spiritual food…” This refers to God’s provision through the word of God (Deut. 8:3). The manna only lasted one day. Similarly, we need to read the word daily to receive our spiritual food.

All drank the same spiritual drink…” This refers to our inner thirst for God (Jn. 4:10-14; 7:38-39).

They “all” had these divine blessings (mentioned five times), but “most” of them missed out on the Promised Land. Similarly, the Corinthians were “all” in Christ, but “most” of them were squandering these blessings. Many commentators see a parallel between the spiritual food and drink and the Lord’s Supper mentioned later.[177] In our estimation, the parallel is between the blessings—not the specific expression of those blessings. After all, the Lord’s Supper itself is a memorial—not a vehicle—of God’s grace.

 (10:5) “Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.” The first four verses (vv.1-4) are one long sentence in Greek.[178] Here we see a new sentence, which shows a major contrast to the blessings just listed.

Why was God displeased with “most” of the people of Israel? The problem wasn’t with God’s blessings, but with their lack of faith. The people were rescued by God from Egypt; yet most of them didn’t make it to the Promised Land because of their idolatry. God could get the people out of Egypt, but he couldn’t get Egypt out of them.

The analogy is not that we will be judged and sent to hell. The analogy is that we will be ineffective for Christ (1 Cor. 3:10-15; 9:24-27). The author of Hebrews uses this same OT narrative to refer to the rest of faith from our works—not the rest of death in heaven (see comments on Heb. 3:7-4:11).

The language of this passage is lifted from the Septuagintal version of Numbers 14:16.

What specifically caused the Israelites to forfeit God’s blessings?

(10:6, 11) “Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved… 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” The story of the Exodus serves as an illustration for those in the new covenant not to fall back into idolatry. Paul uses the word “examples” (typoi). These are “types” that point toward later spiritual realities. We’re supposed to learn from these events, so that we don’t allow history to repeat itself.

(1) Idolatry

(10:7) “Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.’” Paul cites Exodus 32:6, where the people fell almost immediately into orgies and idolatry. The term “play” almost “certainly carries overtones of sexual play.”[179] Consequently, God judged 3,000 Levites (Ex. 32:28) and brought a plague on many others (Ex. 32:35).

Idol-worship is anything that takes first-place in our lives (Col. 3:5).

(10:7) Why does Paul cite Exodus 32:6?

(2) Sexual immorality

(10:8) “Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day.” 23,000 people died as a result of immorality (Num. 25:1-9). Paul is connecting idolatry with sexual immorality. The Temple of Aphrodite was standing in Corinth, where the idol worship led to religious prostitution.

(10:8) Were there 23,000 or 24,000 slain?

(3) Ingratitude

(10:9) “Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents.” God rescued the people, but he also physically disciplined the people afterwards (Num. 21:4-7; Ps. 78:18). The people said, “The people spoke against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food” (Num. 21:5).

The “Lord” here can be referring to Yahweh or the Lord Jesus. Many manuscripts read “Christ” here instead of “Lord.”[180] Fee argues that the original reading was “Christ,” and that this is “almost certain.”[181]

“There’s nothing to eat out here, and we hate this food!”

(10:10) “Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.” Idolatry isn’t the only way to forfeit God’s blessing. “Grumbling” can do this as well (Num. 14:1-38; 16:41-49). To “grumble” (goguzzete) means “to express oneself in low tones of disapprobation, grumble, murmur” or “to express oneself in low tones of affirmation, speak secretly, whisper” (BDAG). When the workers were angry with the grace of the landowner, they “grumbled at the landowner” (Mt. 20:11). The Pharisees “grumbled” at the liberty of Jesus’ disciples (Lk. 5:30).

(10:11) “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” These accounts were recorded so that we could learn from them.

(4) Self-righteousness

(10:12) “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” We shouldn’t be so self-righteous that we think that we are immune to falling into sin like those people. Again (cf. 1 Cor. 8:11), Fee argues that Paul is worried about their loss of salvation. He writes, “Some sins are so incompatible with life in Christ that sure judgment, meaning loss of salvation, is the inevitable result of persistence in them. These are not matters of being ‘taken in,’ as it were, by temptation, thus falling into sin. These are deliberate acts, predicated on a false security, that put God to the test, as though daring him to judge one of his ‘baptized ones.’”[182] We fully disagree. Paul is concerned about the inconsistency of believers falling into idolatry and sin—not the impossibility of these. Paul could also be warning them about the physical loss of life if they persist in sin (cf. 1 Cor. 11:27), but not the spiritual loss of eternal life.

We are so acclimated to sin that we often don’t realize that we have a problem.

(5) Fatalism

(10:13) “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” We all have temptation in “common.” We need to remember that when we’re tempted with sin that we aren’t unique or weird. We all need help and can confess with confidence that we’re all struggling in some way.

We can also be confident that no temptation will be too difficult to escape. Our role is to look for that escape and take it (v.14).

Are you thinking or saying concepts like these?

“I’m too strange for you to change me.”

“God, you’re not faithful.”

“I couldn’t help falling into sin.”

Then you are directly contradicting what God says in this verse: He says that he’s faithful, and you are believing that he’s not!

(10:14) “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” Paul earlier told them to “flee immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18). Now he uses the same language to tell them to “flee idolatry.”

(10:15) “I speak as to wise men; you judge what I say.” If you are so wise, then you should listen to this wisdom from Paul.

(10:16) “Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?” When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we’re sharing in Jesus’ work for us, just as the priests shared in the Temple sacrifices (v.18).

(10:17) “Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.” We should share from one piece of bread, because we’re one body of Christ.

(10:18) “Look at the nation Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the altar?”

(10:19-20) “What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons.” The idol isn’t real, but demons stand behind idolatry. Morris writes, “The problem before the Corinthians was a difficult one. To eat idol meat might be held to sanction idolatry; not to eat it might imply that the idol was real. Paul starts with vigorous questions that imply that the idol sacrifice and the idol are both shams.”[183]

(10:21) “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.” Clearly, you are physically able to drink from both, but the point is that these are fundamentally inconsistent. True spirituality is mutually exclusive with idolatry.

(10:22) “Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? We are not stronger than He, are we?”

(10:23) “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.” Paul returns to the topics he was discussing in chapters 8-9. As we can see, he has been making this case in chapter 10 in order to show why we shouldn’t stumble our brother. We’re allowed to eat the meat, but is it beneficial to others?

(10:24) “Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.” We should think of what is best for each other.

(10:25-26) “Eat anything that is sold in the meat market without asking questions for conscience’ sake; 26 for the earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains.” Food is intrinsically good, because God created everything (Ps. 24:1). In Romans, Paul’s view is identical: “I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean” (Rom. 14:14). Morris writes, “This is in sharp contrast to the Jewish approach. Jews were very scrupulous and made searching inquiries before they would eat meat. Paul’s attitude was revolutionary. He took seriously the truth that an idol is nothing. This refusal to ask questions shows it did not matter to him whether a piece of meat had been offered to an idol or not. He discouraged over-scrupulousness.”[184] Blomberg writes, “Paul’s command is unqualified: feel free to buy it and eat it.”[185]

(10:27-29a) “If one of the unbelievers invites you and you want to go, eat anything that is set before you without asking questions for conscience’ sake. 28 But if anyone says to you, ‘This is meat sacrificed to idols,’ do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for conscience’ sake; 29 I mean not your own conscience, but the other man’s…” We shouldn’t violate another person’s conscience. This might be comparable to eating a greasy cheeseburger in front of a Hindu-covert to Christ. This would be stumbling to them.

(10:29b-30) “For why is my freedom judged by another’s conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks?” We shouldn’t let other people’s sensitive conscience change our moral values. Instead, we should do what we can to help our brother with the weak conscience.

(10:31-33) “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved.” The question is really this: What would glorify God the most and what would reach the most people for Christ? (cf. Col. 3:17) Note the connection between reaching people for Christ and glorifying God.

(10:33) Was Paul a man-pleaser or not?

1 Corinthians 11:1-16 (Men and Women)

(11:1) “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” Rather than imitating the sophists, Paul calls on them to imitate him and Christ. This passage probably belongs in the thinking of chapter 10—not chapter 11.

(11:2) “Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you.” Paul taught this group in person (Acts 18), so they were familiar with his “traditions” (NASB) or “teachings” (NIV).

(11:2) Should we follow traditions or not?

(1 Cor. 11:3) Does the Bible teach that men have authority over women?

(11:3) “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.”

(1 Cor. 11:4) Is it wrong for a man to wear a baseball cap while praying?

(11:4) “Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head.” Paul is referring to a literal “head” in the first instance, but a metaphorical “head” (Christ) in the second. After all, Christ is the “head” of the man (v.3).[186] After all, what is the connection between verses 3 and 4, unless Paul is pointing to Jesus as the “head” of the man?

(11:5) But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved.

(11:6) For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head.

(1 Cor. 11:5-6) Is it wrong for a woman to have her head uncovered while praying?

(11:7) For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.

(11:8) For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man;

(11:9) for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.

(1 Cor. 11:7-9) Are women made in God’s image or man’s?

(11:10) Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.

(1 Cor. 11:10) What does it mean that a woman has “authority” (exousia) on her head?

(1 Cor. 11:10) Because of the angels?

(11:11-12) “However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God.” Men and women are equal (cf. Gal. 3:28).

(11:13) “Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?” This cultural understanding must be so clear that Paul can even call on the people themselves to judge this. This is also an indicator from the text that Paul is making an appeal to their cultural understanding. This principle is universally binding—even if the expression of the principle may look different.

(11:14) “Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him,”

(1 Cor. 11:14) Does nature teach that long hair is wrong?

(11:15) “But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering.” Fee writes, “Long hair is the woman’s glory because it has been given in the place of a covering.”[187]

(11:16) “But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God.” Paul makes a similar appeal in 1 Corinthians 4:17, 7:17, and 14:33.

1 Corinthians 11:16-34 (Showing up to fellowship to give—not to take)

(11:17) “But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse.” Note the contrast here with verse 2 (“Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions”). Up until this point, commentators note that Paul has been using a “Yes, but…” style. That is, first Paul will agree, but then he disagrees. Here, we see that “Paul abandons his ‘Yes, but’ logic” for the first time.[188] As D.A. Carson states in one of his lectures, “Paul doesn’t give them another ‘yes, but…’ He just gives them a ‘but’!”

Paul begins a lengthy rebuke based on the divisions that were occurring in the Christian community. Why even bother showing up for fellowship, if they are only going to be divisive? It would be hard to hear from Paul that your house church gatherings were doing more harm than good.

(11:18) “For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it.” There were “divisions” (schismata) in this group. Remember, Paul had heard about this from Chloe’s people (1:10). Those earlier divisions referred to the obsession of leader worship, and the “cult of personality” that resulted in factions. Here, the divisions are of a different kind. In this context, the divisions refer to an obsession over social rank and status. Earlier in chapters 1-4, Paul had no doubt that the church was divided, but here he needs to say “in part I believe it.”

Dinner parties in Greco-Roman society were highly segregated—based on social rank and class. That is, the rich and important were highly favored, while the poor and lowly were treated like scum. Blomberg writes, “Latecomers (the majority, who probably had to finish work before coming on Saturday or Sunday evening—there was as of yet no legalized day off in the Roman empire) would be seated separately in the adjacent atrium or courtyard.”[189] It was just assumed that the lower classes would sit in a lower place in the hierarchy during meal times.[190] We see various examples of this concept in Roman literature from the time period:

  • Juvenal (the 2nd century Roman satirist) wrote a satirical poem about this social institution (Juvenal, Satire 5).
  • Martial (1st century Roman poet): “Since I am asked to dinner… why is not the same dinner served to me as to you? You take oysters fattened in the Lucrine lake, I suck a mussel through a hole in the shell; you get mushrooms, I take hog funguses; you tackle turbot, but I brill. Golden with fat, a turtledove gorges you with its bloated rump; there is set before me a magpie that has died in its cage. Why do I dine without you although, Ponticus, I am dining with you? The dole has gone; let us have the benefit of that; let us eat the same fare” (Epigram60).[191]
  • Pliny the Younger (early 2nd century Roman governor): “It would take too long to go into the details … of how I happened to be dining with a man—though no particular friend of his—whose elegant economy, as he called it, seemed to me a sort of stingy extravagance. The best dishes were set in front of himself and a select few, and cheap scraps of food before the rest of the company. He had even put the wine into tiny little flasks, divided into three categories, not with the idea of giving his guests opportunity of choosing, but to make it impossible for them to refuse what they were given. One lot was intended for himself and for us, another for his lesser friends (all his friends are graded) and his and our freedmen… My freedmen do not drink the sort of wine I do, but I drink theirs” (Pliny, Epistles6).[192]

Even the structure of the houses was designed to reinforce this classism. Alan Johnson writes, “The wealthier the household, the more status was recognized in the partitioning of space within the home. This was especially the case when meals were served. The better food and service came to the guests of greater status, who occupied the large triclinium dining room, while those who counted less were served in the nearby atrium with scraps of food.”[193]

Archaeology indicates that a famine swept through Corinth, Greece at this time.[194] Johnson observes, “This would intensify the shamefulness of holding a dinner without providing food for all to share… Their unchristian behavior could bring nothing from him but sharp censure.”[195]

We know that there were some wealthy and upper-class believers in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:26). Apparently, they were carrying over their status discrimination into Christian fellowship. In contrast to this, Paul is sharply rebuking these attitudes—especially during times of celebrating the Lord’s Supper. David Garland writes, “The genuine Christian recognizes that there are no class divisions at the Lord’s table. No one is distinguished at this table except One.”[196]

(11:19) “For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you.” Paul was a realist. He believed that these “divisions” (haireseis) were inevitable. Through divisions, God reveals the true followers of Christ through these times of testing.

(11:20-21) “Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper, 21 for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk.” The Corinthians were meeting for fellowship and celebrating the Lord’s Supper. They must have been reaching for the bread and wine in a frenzy, stepping in front of each other. Some weren’t even getting fed, while others gorged themselves—or even got drunk! It looks like the early Christians would have “love feasts” (Jude 12), where they would eat meals together and take the Lord’s Supper at the same time. Earlier, Paul wrote that we shouldn’t eat with hypocritical brothers (1 Cor. 5:11).

His “own” supper? This is supposed to be the Lord’s Supper!

(11:22) “What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you.” Obviously, these rich Christians had houses: they were abusing this status. Therefore, Paul is arguing that they are using these privileges to “shame” the poor Christians among them. Why come together for the purpose of shaming fellow believers? Later, Paul writes, “So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you will not come together for judgment. The remaining matters I will arrange when I come” (1 Cor. 11:33-34).

They could’ve eaten at home. But they were rubbing it in the faces of the lower classes. The purpose of the Lord’s Supper was a remembering, proclaiming, and sharing in the death of Christ. They were making this a disgrace by their practice of it.

Paul explains the Lord’s Supper

(11:23) “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread.” This is language of handling sacred tradition here (“received… delivered” see comments on 15:3-5). Paul rebukes their selfish attitude during the Lord’s Supper by reminding them of the very first Lord’s Supper. Morris writes, “Paul brings out the poignant truth that that feast of love that was to bring such strength and consolation to Christians was instituted at the very time when human malignancy was engaged in betraying the Saviour to his enemies.”[197]

(11:24-25) “And when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ 25 In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’” Jesus tells us that we should remember him through the Lord’s Supper. Morris writes, “This is neuter (touto), not masculine as it should be if it referred to the masculine word for bread (artos). It may refer to the whole action, as the second this does.”[198] For an analysis of transubstantiation, see Matthew 26:26 and John 6:53.

It’s possible that we could be distracted on important things, but we could forget about the main thing. This is why Jesus insists that we remember this one thing. In his sermon on this passage, Carson says, “In some ways, it is tragic beyond words that Jesus thought we needed something like this.” So-called “church life” preoccupies itself with many ministries, but we are prone to drift away from the centerpiece of our faith if we’re not careful: the death of Christ.

(11:26) “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” Paul doesn’t tell us how often we should celebrate the Lord’s Supper (“as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup”).

Communion looks forward to the return of Christ. Morris writes, “Until he comes looks forward to the Lord’s return. Holy Communion has an eschatological aspect. It will not be necessary in the new order, but until then it keeps us mindful, not only of Jesus’ first coming, when he suffered for our sins, but also of his second coming, when he will take us to himself.”[199] When we practice the Lord’s Supper, we aren’t just looking back at Jesus’ death, but also looking forward to when we will “see his face” (Rev. 22:4).

(11:27) “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.”

(1 Cor. 11:27) Taking the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner?

(11:28) “But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” Notice that the “bread” is still literal bread—not the Body of Jesus (e.g. transubstantiation). Examining oneself could refer to seeing if you are a true believer (2 Cor. 13:5). In context, however, it refers to showing up to the meal with an others-centered attitude, rather than looking for what I can take from others. Blomberg writes, “‘Examine’ (v. 28) means ‘test and find approved.’ If their behavior towards their fellow-Christians is appropriate, then they qualify to participate themselves.”[200] Johnson writes, “To examine (‘test for genuineness’) is not, as often understood, to become either retrospective or introspective concerning our sinfulness, however needed that might be from time to time, but ‘to confirm that [our] understanding, attitude, and conduct are genuine in sharing … in all that the body and blood of Christ proclaims, both in redemptive and in social terms’ (Thiselton 2000:891). We must recognize our part in the crucified-Christ-for-us before we eat the bread and drink the cup.”[201] Fee writes, “Before they participate in the meal, they should examine themselves in terms of their attitudes toward the body, how they are treating others, since the meal itself is a place of proclaiming the gospel. Although this does not lay a heavy dose of self-introspection on believers, as v. 29 will make plain, it does raise proper cautions about casual participation at this Table by those who are not themselves ready to come under obedience to the gospel that is here proclaimed.”[202]

(11:29) “For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly.”

(1 Cor. 11:29) Is Paul referring to transubstantiation in this passage? Or something else?

(11:30) “For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.” God can shortened our lives because of flagrant and unrepentant sin. He can also bring sickness to get us to rely on him more. When we’re sick, we see a greater need for God, rather than having a prideful attitude. It could be that Paul could see this prophetically for this specific church at this specific time.[203]

(11:31) “But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged.” See comments on verse 27 and 29.

(11:32) “But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.” The purpose of this “judgment” is not hell, but discipline.[204] God uses this to get us back on track with him. Fee writes, “This paragraph has had an unfortunate history of understanding in the church. The very Table that is God’s reminder, and therefore his repeated gift, of grace, the Table where we affirm again who and whose we are, has been allowed to become a table of condemnation for the very people who most truly need the assurance of acceptance that this table affords—the sinful, the weak, the weary. One does not have to ‘get rid of the sin in one’s life’ in order to partake. Here by faith one may once again receive the assurance that ‘Christ receiveth sinners.’”[205]

Serve others

(11:33-34) “So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. 34 If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you will not come together for judgment. The remaining matters I will arrange when I come.” Paul returns to the issue he took up at the beginning: these believers were being flagrantly selfish. Fee writes, “In this context ‘If anyone is hungry …’ almost certainly means ‘If anyone wants to gorge.…’ That is, if you want to satisfy your desire for the kinds of meals that the wealthy are accustomed to eat together, do that at home, but not in the context of the gathered assembly, where some ‘have nothing’ and are thereby humiliated (vv. 21–22).”[206]

Paul has more to say, but he’ll wait until he can come to visit.

Application

People can turn God-ordained spiritual events into an exercise in selfishness. We can’t expect God to bless our time together, if we’re holding onto a selfish attitude.

Do you show up to times of fellowship trying to take or trying to “share” (koinonia)?

How frequently do you meditate on the Cross? (The regularity of the Lord’s Supper isn’t as important as remembering daily.)

God didn’t discipline these believers for their debauchery, but for their hypocrisy!

1 Corinthians 12.1 (The Spiritual Gifts)

(12:1) “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware.” Paul has been responding to their questions (7:1, 25; 8:1). Now he has reached the subject of spiritual gifts. He presumes that they are ignorant of this topic.

(12:2) “You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the mute idols, however you were led.” The Corinthians believed they were wise. Paul is reminding them where they came from.

(12:3) “Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed”; and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.”

(12:3) Is it impossible for a false teacher to say the phrase “Jesus is Lord”?

Blomberg writes, “Here is the fundamental early Christian confession of faith (cf. Rom. 10:9–10), flying both in the face of pagan affirmations of some other deity or emperor as god and master and in the face of Jewish insistence that Yahweh alone merited the title.”[207]

(12:4-6) “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.” The Corinthians were probably used to different gods and idols for each spiritual gift or activity (v.2). Paul is saying that there is diversity in the spiritual gifts, but also unity. Morris writes, “For the third time Paul brings out his point that there can be no division among Christians on the ground of the ‘gifts’, because it is one and the same God who provides the gifts in all their diversity.”[208]

Notice how Paul mentions all three members of the Trinity in verses 4-6.

(12:7) “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” God gives a spiritual gift to “each one.” Every believer has a spiritual gift.

We aren’t given gifts for schisms or factions. We are given them for “the common good.”

(12:8-10) “For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.” For an explanation of the spiritual gifts, see our earlier articles “Spiritual Gifts” and “The Charismatic Gifts.”

(12:11) “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.” The Holy Spirit is a person. He has a “will,” and is called a “He,” rather than an “it.”

1 Corinthians 12.2 (The Body of Christ)

For this section, we drew heavily from chapter 5 of Dennis McCallum’s book Members of One Another (2010).

What is the Body of Christ?

(12:12) “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.” Our physical bodies have both unity and diversity. A person has many body parts, but is still one physical body. The same is true in the Body of Christ—the Christian community (cf. 1 Cor. 10:17; 12:27-28).

Greco-Roman authors used this imagery of a human body to refer to society as a whole, but they came to far different conclusions from Paul. While Paul uses the metaphor to show our equality and unity, other authors used it to merely show interdependence:[209]

  • Menenius Agrippa (~494 BC, recorded in Livy, History, 2.32) used the metaphor to argue that the arms and legs of the body (i.e. the workers and slaves) should feed the stomach (i.e. the wealthy rulers). In other words, the message was: “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you!”
  • Josephus used the metaphor to describe how robbers were affecting the whole region of Judea (Jewish Wars, 4.406).
  • Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (2.1; 7.13) and Epictetus (2.10.3-4) used the metaphor to describe interdependence as well.

Johnson writes, “In these secular writings the political body is viewed as hierarchically constituted, with different stereotyped roles assigned by nature to different members. For example, the limbs (workers) are to remain active (no strikes!) so the belly (ruling class) can be fed, otherwise the whole body will die. Such use of the body image for high-status conservative ideological purposes is not Paul’s point.”[210]

How do we get into the Body of Christ?

(12:13) “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” We don’t become a member of the Body of Christ through our upbringing, water baptism, or formal church membership. We become members (in the realist sense) by having a direct encounter with Christ. This occurs when we personally make the decision to surrender to the love of Christ. At this moment, we are placed into Christ, and Christ is placed into us.

This is referring to spiritual baptism—not water baptism.[211] The focus of our unity is not “baptism” but rather the “one Spirit.” If we do not have the Holy Spirit, then we are not members of Christ (Rom. 8:9).

There are no second-class Christians. We were “all” baptized into Christ. Paul became a member in the same way that they did (“We” versus “you”).

“Whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free…” These were the three major causes for discrimination in the ancient world, as well as today: race, religion, and social status. While we still retain these identities, they lose their significance in light of our ultimate identity in Christ.

If I’m united to Christ, and you are united to Christ, then I’m united to you (and you to me).

Why is this subject so important?

Paul gives the funny illustration of your body parts saying that they don’t want to be in the physical body anymore. The same is true with believers who aren’t in actively participating in fellowship.

(12:14) “For the body is not one member, but many.” He repeats the same thought found in verse 12.

(12:15-16) “If the foot says, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.” We can deny that we are members of the body, but this doesn’t change reality. When a believer denies this fundamental truth, they are denying reality. It’s like denying that they are a member of the human race. You can deny reality, but reality doesn’t change.

Why then should we dedicate our lives to fellow believers? Because this is who we are in Christ!

(12:17) “If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?” This passage shows that every member is needed. We might feel like we’re not needed, but this doesn’t line up with reality.

(12:18) “But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.” We might deny that we’re identified with Christ or deny that we’re needed. This does more than deny reality; it denies God’s sovereignty. If we are rebelling against this, we are rebelling against the sovereign hand of God himself.

This probably looks back to Paul’s explanation of the spiritual gifts, and how God distributes “to each one individually just as He wills” (v.11). Rather than trying to become one part or another (or have one gift over another), we need to discover through serving others where God has placed us and work at in that role.

(12:19) “If they were all one member, where would the body be?” God creatively arranged the body of Christ to be a place of diversity—not monolithic unanimity. While we all hold to the same truth, we are different in our gifts.

In a sort of comical representation, Paul asks the question, “If they were all one member, where would the body be?” Imagine if your whole body was just a 200 lbs eyeball! This wouldn’t be a body, but a “monstrosity.”[212]

We each have individuality. It isn’t like being assimilated into the Borg (from Star Trek). We remain ourselves.

(12:20) “But now there are many members, but one body.” Again, he repeats the concept found in verse 12 and verse 14.

(12:21) “And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” This is comical. After all, “eyes” cannot even talk at all!

But just imagine the foolishness of an eye telling a hand that the other isn’t needed. Paul is stressing not just the presence of the body part, but rather its needed function. In this verse, Paul smashes the Corinthian divisiveness—either their intellectual pride (chs.1-4) or their social hierarchy (ch.11). Rather than simply telling them to stop being divisive, Paul aptly emphasizes our corporate identity in Jesus: “Be who you are.”

(12:22-24) “On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; 23 and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, 24 whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked.” Appearances can be deceiving. One member may “seem” weaker, but as it turns out, they are completely necessary. The “less honorable” parts are thought to be the sexual organs according to Fee[213] and Johnson.[214]

What is Paul’s reason for incorporating and loving “less honorable” or “less presentable” members in the Christian community? He bases his argument on our corporate identity in Christ.

(12:25) “so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.” Status seeking leads to division (cf. 1 Cor. 1:10; 11:18). Instead of dividing over race, social status, etc., we are supposed to “care” for one another. This term (merimnao) can be translated as anxiety in a negative sense. Here it refers to caring for the needs of less honorable believers.

This doesn’t refer to organizational unity, but to relational unity (cf. Eph. 4:1-3; Phil. 2:1-3).

(12:26) “If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it…” Paul fills out the organic link: If my tooth aches, then my whole body suffers.

“If one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” Likewise, if one part of my body is powerful, then the whole person is honored. Johnson writes, “To give honor to, say, the legs of a runner or the hands of a surgeon brings praise to the whole person.”[215] Of course, we don’t share the honor, but we do share the joy. If my brother in Christ is getting honored, I am not also being honored. However, I do get to experience joy for him. A true sign of humility is to forget about myself so completely that I could experience joy whether I am the one getting honored or if someone else was getting the honor. The humble person can experience the same amount of joy either way.

In Romans 12:15, Paul commands us to, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Here, we do not have an imperative, but an indicative. That is, this isn’t a command, but a statement of fact.

(12:27) “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.” Paul brings his case to a close by reaffirming this same principle one more time (cf. v.12, 14, 20).

(12:28) “And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.” Paul isn’t saying that all gifts are of equal function in the Christian community. Some have more of a use (e.g. apostles, prophecy, teaching). Similarly, the apostles in Jerusalem said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables” (Acts 6:2). It isn’t that serving tables is beneath anyone—even an apostle. Instead, the point is that teaching the Bible is more important. Later Paul writes that we should desire the “greater gifts” (v.31).

(12:28) Are the spiritual gifts equal or not?

(12:29-30) “All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? 30 All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?” We do not all have every spiritual gift, but we should all work toward developing each of these qualities.

(12:31) “But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way.” Love relationships are far more important than the spiritual gifts.

Application

What are the names of the people in my life who need me?

Discussion questions

Why did Paul pick a human body as a metaphor to describe the church? In what ways is the church supposed to be similar to a human body? In what ways is it different?

What do you think of this quote from Duin? Do you agree or do you think she’s exaggerating the state of the church today?

Julia Duin: “One of the top reasons people give for their leaving church is loneliness: the feeling—especially in large congregations—that no one knows or cares whether they are there. Many churches have become like supermarkets or gas stations: totally depersonalized arenas where most people no longer feel a responsibility to be hospitable to the person standing next to them… As for those who drop out, no one notices… The people I talk with who have found true community and then must leave it, due to family or job reasons, pine for it for the rest of their lives.”[216]

What are the benefits of being in a close and committed group?

What are some things that could potentially kill close and committed fellowship?

What would you expect to see in a group, if people were losing it in this area? What would be some of the first signs of breakdown in this area?

What would you say to a Christian, if they told you that they don’t have time for fellowship?

Or, what would you say if a Christian claimed it was bizarre or weird to meet together so much?

See “High dedication ethos”

1 Corinthians 13 (Love)

Imagine interviewing a person for a new ministry position at the church. They have intelligence, gifting, charisma, and people follow them. They could have all of these things, but if they are not loving, they would be completely unqualified for the job! The spiritual gifts are nothing without love, and this is Paul’s point in this chapter. The Corinthians were obsessed with their gifts, but Paul was obsessed with love.

(13:1) “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” The first thing Paul addresses is the practice of tongues.

The “noisy gong” and “clanging symbol” are loud, but they have no melody.[217]

The primary interpretation of “tongues” is most likely charismatic tongues, but it might refer to all speaking in general.

We’ve all met the Christian who shares their mind at a Bible study, and has deep things to say. But when that person is unloving, it sounds like they are a symphony of pots and pans clanging together! Do people ever hear me share biblical truth, but to them, it sounds like a clanging symbol?

(13:2) “If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” Remember, the Corinthians thought that they were wise and understood the mysteries of God (see chapters 1-2). Yet they were unloving.

These gifts are all good, but they are not ultimate. Johnson writes, “It is not that the gifts are unimportant, but they bear fruit only where love attends them and is their driving force.”[218]

(13:3) “And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” Paul is saying that it is possible to have outward actions that are sacrificial, while not having an inner heart filled with love. Morris writes, “It is sobering to reflect that one may be generous to the point of beggary, and yet completely lacking in love.”[219] Johnson writes, “Modern commentators are divided as to whether they prefer the reading ‘burn’ (Bruce, Barrett, Snyder) or ‘boast’ (Thiselton, Fee).”[220]

(13:4-6) “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth…” Paul gives seven examples of what love does and eight examples of what love refuses to do.[221]

For each of these qualities, imagine your name being replaced with the word “love.” For instance, “James is patient… James is kind…” Do you think that anyone could say these things about you in this way? This shows us how far each of us has to grow in the area of love.

Patience (makrothymia): This can be defined as “state of remaining tranquil while awaiting an outcome, patience, steadfastness, endurance” (BDAG). It can refer to the preparation of battle. Brown writes, “Being strictly military terms, the various words are readily used as metaphors in connection with the battles of life.”[222] This is the ability to wait on God before the battle and not hit the panic button. This refers to waiting on God “in season or out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2).

Kindness (crestotes): This refers to “uprightness in one’s relations with others, uprightness” or “the quality of being helpful or beneficial, goodness, kindness, generosity” (BDAG). Brown defines this as “a friendly nature.”[223] Jesus was strong and fierce, but when kids saw him, they wanted to crawl all over him like a jungle gym. It is sometimes combined with compassion (Eph. 4:32).

Not jealous (ou zeloi): This is the root for “zealous” in English. It means to “be positively and intensely interested in something, strive, desire, exert oneself earnestly, be dedicated” (BDAG). As you can see, this term can have a positive connotation. Paul says that there is a “godly jealousy” (2 Cor. 11:2; cf. Gal. 4:17; Rev. 3:19). In its negative form, it refers to “intense negative feelings over another’s achievements or success, be filled with jealousy, envy” (BDAG). It is sometimes paired with quarrelling (1 Cor. 3:1-3; Gal. 5:20).

Am I the sort of person that envies what others have? Do I grumble over my situation and circumstances as if I’ve been unfairly treated by God?

Does not brag (ou perpereuetai): This means “to heap praise on oneself” or “to be a braggart or windbag” (BDAG).

Am I the person who needs to boast about my successes? Do I need to add or omit key details of a story in order to paint myself in a favorable light?

Not arrogant (ou physioutai): This literally means to “blow up or inflate” or “to cause to have an exaggerated self-conception, puff up, make proud” (BDAG). Paul already used this in 8:1 to describe the person who uses knowledge to be “puffed up.” Johnson writes, “The first (perpereuetai) is a bragging action (“I don’t need you!” 12:21). The second (physioutai) involves having inflated thoughts of one’s self-importance and seeking attention in the manner of children who, untouched by life’s sufferings, lack humility”[224]

Not unbecomingly (ouk ashemonei): This means to “behave disgracefully, dishonorably, indecently” (BDAG). Do people generally trust my character? Would they trust me in serious circumstances to come through? Or do I lack integrity?

Does not seek its own: This is the sort of person that is focused on others—not themselves.

Not provoked (ou paroxyntai): We use the term “paroxysm” in modern medicine to refer to a spasm or seizure. This is the sort of person who doesn’t easily lose their cool, get offended, or lash out at others.

This isn’t something that someone else makes us do. Righteous anger is an action; unrighteous is a reaction.

Does not take into account a wrong suffered: The Greek term is an accounting term (logizomai). This is a forgiving person. Either they confront you on the issue, or they don’t keep a record of it. Johnson writes, “Love does not condone the wrong or harm done but names it as evil; then, however, shows willingness to forgive the wrong by not keeping an account of each harm with a view to future retaliation.”[225]

Does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth: Biblical love is not a fuzzy, nebulous love. It is based on truth. The Corinthians rejoiced over adultery (ch.5) and litigation (ch.6).

Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things: This is a sacrificial form of love. When it says “believes all things,” this doesn’t mean that we are naïve. This is based on the previous verse, where it “rejoices with the truth.” There is nothing loving about ignoring the truth. Instead, this means that we believe in what people can become, including having a vision for others. It means being willing to give others the “benefit of the doubt.”[226]

(13:7) “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

(13:7) Should Christians believe all things?

(13:8-13) Are prophecy and tongues temporary?

(13:8-10) “Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.” Why are spiritual gifts less important than love? These gifts won’t be important in the long view. In eternity, love will continue to exist—even if these other gifts do not.

The gift of prophecy wasn’t perfect revelation like Scripture. We only prophesy “in part.”

(13:11-12) “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” When we grow just a couple of decades older, we think completely differently. Similarly, when we meet God, this will radically change our thoughts on this life.

Regarding Paul’s imagery of the mirror, Morris writes, “Mirrors in the first century were of polished metal. Corinth was famous for its mirrors, but few Christians would have been able to afford a mirror of good quality. In the nature of the case the reflection would not be very clear.”[227]

(13:13) “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Love is the greatest ethic. If we do not have this, we are missing the point.

(13:13) Why does Paul place love above faith and hope?

1 Corinthians 14 (Tongues and prophecy)

We would suggest reading our earlier article “The Charismatic Gifts” in addition to reading through this passage, which gives a balanced and systematic approach to the charismatic gifts—such as the gifts of tongues and prophecy.

Remember, Paul said that there are different “kinds of tongues” (1 Cor. 12:9). Some refer to other literal languages (e.g. Acts 2:6), while others refer to the tongues “of angels” (1 Cor. 13:1). Therefore, some are intelligible, while others are unintelligible. This form of unintelligible tongues is only mentioned in 1 Corinthians and the book of Acts, and nowhere else in the epistles or the gospels. In this chapter, we need to answer a number of questions:

  • What is the gift of tongues in this context?
  • Is this gift still operative today?
  • How should it be used in Christian community?
  • How does this situation in the Corinthian church apply to our contemporary setting?

The main thrust of Paul’s message is this: use your gifts to love others and build them up.

Build up OTHERS—not YOURSELVES!

(14:1) “Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.” As chapter 13 stated, love is the highest virtue. Yet Paul also encouraged spiritual gifts. It isn’t either that we love or we use our spiritual gifts. It’s not either/or; it’s both/and.

Even within the realm of the spiritual gifts, there is a hierarchy of gifts. Paul places prophesying above speaking in tongues (cf. 1 Cor. 12:10). Morris defines prophecy as close to preaching, but the difference to him is that the words are less prepared and “the uttering of words directly inspired by God.”[228] This last statement seems to go too far. It’s enough to say that God moves people to speak prophetic words without calling it “inspired by God.” God moves us to serve, love, and speak in various ways, but surely no one would claim that this is perfectly inspired by God.

(14:2) “For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries.” God primarily gave the gift of tongues so believers could connect with Him. The purpose is self-edification. Yet the other gifts are for edifying others. Paul is asking, “Would you rather have a gift that edifies yourself or someone else?” Prophecy reveals mysteries, while tongues conceal them.

(14:3) “But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation.” Prophecy isn’t simply about predicting the future. In this context, it is for the building up of the church. This happens when we show how the Bible is relevant for people in our lives—much like the prophets did in the OT.

(14:4) “One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church.” Paul is drawing the contrast between self-edification and edifying the church.

(14:5) “Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying.” Paul clearly thinks that some gifts are better than others. His criterion? Does it edify others, or just the person herself?

(14:6) “But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking in tongues, what will I profit you unless I speak to you either by way of revelation or of knowledge or of prophecy or of teaching?” Why speak in tongues if it doesn’t build anyone up?

ANALOGY #1: Musical sounds

(14:7) “Yet even lifeless things, either flute or harp, in producing a sound, if they do not produce a distinction in the tones, how will it be known what is played on the flute or on the harp?” Paul compares tongues with musical instruments that don’t fit chords and musical scales. What an unpleasant experience to listen to a singer who is off key, or a guitarist whose instrument isn’t tuned properly. Even worse, would be a musician who only plays one note.

ANALOGY #2: Military sounds

(14:8-9) “For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle? 9 So also you, unless you utter by the tongue speech that is clear, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air.” Paul compares tongues to a bugle that doesn’t communicate when to go to battle (v.8). What is the point? Imagine going to a musical performance where the band doesn’t play together? Or imagine going to war, gripping your sword and shield, and the bugler makes a bunch of confusing noises: “Should we charge or should we wait?” The same is true in Christian community. Imagine if everyone showed up “speaking into the air” without understanding each other.

ANALOGY #3: Meaningless sounds

(14:10-11) “There are, perhaps, a great many kinds of languages in the world, and no kind is without meaning. 11 If then I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be to the one who speaks a barbarian, and the one who speaks will be a barbarian to me.” Paul compares their practices to sounding like “barbarians” to each other. If you can’t understand the “meaning” of the language, it sounds like nonsense.

1. Build up OTHER CHRISTIANS

(14:12) “So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church.” Paul keeps hammering home the same point: build up others—not yourselves.

(14:13) “Therefore let one who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret.” Tongues are useless for edification without an interpretation.

(14:14) “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.” One of the main problems Paul sees is that this practice was that it is sub-rational. The gift of tongues might help relieve certain burdens in the heart, because the individual is praying “to God” (v.2). But it doesn’t help other people.

(14:15) “What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also…” The goal is to have both spirit and mind—not sub-rational spirituality.

“…I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also…” Christian music should have good theological content—not just “feel good” appeal.

2. Build up others in PRAYER

(14:16-17) “Otherwise if you bless in the spirit only, how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted say the “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying? 17 For you are giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not edified.” Tongues need to be interpreted; otherwise, it doesn’t edify the church. How can people agree with you giving thanks, if they can’t understand you?

3. Build up others in TEACHING

(14:18-19) “I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all; 19 however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue.” Paul had the gift of tongues, but would rather teach with clarity. He values five intelligible words to ten thousand unintelligible words. On a strict literal reading, Paul is saying that prophecy is 2,000 times better than tongues!

4. Build up others in your THINKING

(14:20) “Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.” Paul keeps returning to the life of the mind and its importance in the Christian life. We’re not supposed to be intellectually naïve. Again, one of Paul’ main problems with this practice is the fact that it is sub-rational. Johnson writes, “Paul does not say that tongues speaking is infantile. The childish thinking is the failure to recognize that tongues speech in public worship without interpretation does not benefit the congregation. It is the self-centered, childish love of display and attention seeking that Paul deplores.”[229]

5. Build up NON-CHRISTIANS

(14:21) “In the Law it is written, ‘By men of strange tongues and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people, and even so they will not listen to Me,’ says the Lord.” For an exposition of this passage, see “Why does Paul quote Isaiah 28:11?”

Note that Paul refers to the book of Isaiah as “the Law” (cf. Rom. 3:19).

(14:22) “So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers but to those who believe.” For an exposition of this passage, see “Are tongues a sign for non-Christians?”

This could be a rhetorical question, because it has a similar construction as Galatians 4:16. Or it could mean that prophecy turns unbelievers into believers.[230]

(14:23-25) “Therefore if the whole church assembles together and all speak in tongues, and ungifted men or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad? 24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you.” Our times of fellowship need to be sensitive to non-Christians. “Convicted” (NASB) could also be rendered “convinced” (NIV, v.24).

Restrictions for TONGUES

(14:26) “What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” Morris notes that Paul does not specifically mention reading Scripture in the early Christian meetings.[231] However, it’s possible that this is what Paul meant by “a word of instruction” (NIV) or “teaching” (NASB). Moreover, it could be that Paul presupposed that these believers read Scripture. Note that Paul also omits prayer or prophecy from his list of activities, which we would also presuppose.

(14:27) “If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret.” Those who speak in tongues should not go on and on. In other words, this should be short, orderly, and successive.

(14:28) “But if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God.” Tongues should not occur unless an interpreter is present.

Restrictions for PROPHECY

(14:29) “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment.” We’re supposed to be able to correct one another in regards to doctrine. This is left up to the entire Christian community—not just a specific member.

(14:30-33) “But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; 33 for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.” Paul is pushing for orderly meetings. They all can’t just speak at once. Prophets need to keep themselves under control (v.32).

Restrictions for WOMEN

(14:34-35) “The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. 35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.” For an exposition of this passage, see “Are women supposed to keep silent?”

Restrictions based on SCRIPTURE

(14:36) “Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only?” The Corinthians had an inflated view of their own wisdom. Paul humbles them by showing them how they fit into God’s larger word and knowledge: “Did the word come from you or to you?” In other words, the Corinthians thought that their rules and order trumped God’s way.[232] Paul is asking if the Corinthians “can set up your own practices and ignore the common order of all the churches?”[233]

(14:37) “If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment.” These believers shouldn’t place their prophets over the teaching of the apostles. Morris writes, “He could not possibly make a higher claim (which we should not overlook for its bearing on the question of the way the New Testament writers viewed their inspiration). Not only is this the Lord’s command, but anyone who is a prophet or spiritually gifted will recognize the fact. Some of the Corinthians claimed to have spiritual discernment. Let them show it by recognizing inspiration when they saw it.”[234]

They should submit to the apostolic writings, rather than their own created rules.[235]

(14:38) “But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.” If they don’t recognize Paul’s wisdom, then they will not be recognized by God.

(14:39-40) “Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues. 40 But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner.”

Discussion Questions

(Read vv.1-19) What are Paul’s main reasons for why we should limit the use of speaking in tongues? Pull them out of the text as a group.

What are some principles of keeping a balance between creativity and spontaneity and keeping a meeting orderly?

What signs would we see in someone who is showing up to fellowship to take, rather to give to others?

What are some practical ways to build up a time of fellowship: BEFORE, DURING, and AFTER?

1 Corinthians 15 (Resurrection)

(15:1-2) “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.” Paul felt the need to explain the basics of the gospel to them again.

(15:2) Does this passage threaten eternal security?

(15:3) “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,” The gospel is the most important issue in the Christian faith. Paul writes that it is of “first importance.” His language does not refer to the order of speech (i.e. “this is the first thing I need to say…”). Instead, “first importance” refers to the primacy of this doctrine (i.e. “this is at the top of the list…”).[236]

(15:3b-5) Was this an early Christian statement of faith?

(15:4) “and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,” “According to the Scriptures” might only modify “He was raised,” rather than the prepositional phrase “on the third day.” The problem here is that we don’t have anything in the OT that refers to the Messiah being raised on the third day specifically.[237]

(15:5) “and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.”

(15:6) “After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep;” Paul wouldn’t bring up these 500 witnesses unless he was confident that this event actually happened. Some believe that this event coincides with Jesus’ appearance in Matthew 28. This was a large group, where some still doubted (Mt. 28:17).[238]

(15:7) “then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles;” James didn’t believe that his brother (Jesus) was the divine Messiah (Jn. 7:5). But after this appearance, we discover that James had a life-changing experience (see “Introduction to James”).

(15:8) “and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.” Paul states that he was “untimely born.” The Greek term ektromati means a “miscarriage” or “abortion.”[239] Paul didn’t have a high view of himself apart from Christ’s gracious choice of him. Paul wasn’t in the original apostolic band to be with Jesus during his earthly ministry. He viewed himself as being “untimely born,” because he didn’t get to experience Jesus during this time. Paul’s enemies might have tried to use this against him.[240]

(15:9-10) “For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” Even if Paul was naturally inferior, he embraces this. He doesn’t focus on his background or his past sins. Instead, he focuses on God’s grace toward him. Many believers dwell on the past. They focus on their family upbringing, their sins, their problems… Paul didn’t ignore this, but he chose to focus on the grace of God instead.

Paul could speak about his hard work under grace. He did work hard, but God was causing the power through him. To discount God’s work through our lives is to discount God himself.

(15:11) “Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.” Paul doesn’t focus on who gets “credit” for these believers in Corinth. Instead, he focuses on the fact that God reached these people.

(15:12-19) “Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 15 Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then a number of consequences necessarily follow: preaching is pointless (v.14), faith is pointless (v.14), the apostles are false witnesses (v.15), they are working against God (v.15), we are still guilty before God (v.17), dead believers are in hell (v.18), and Christians should be pitied (v.19).

The Corinthians probably had a hard time believing in the general resurrection of the dead, because neo-Platonic philosophy despised this doctrine.

The debate in Corinth was not over whether Jesus rose from the dead. The debate was over whether believers will rise from the dead. Paul argues that if Jesus rose, then so will we.

Consequences of Jesus’ resurrection

(15:20) “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.” The first fruits refers to the immediate offering that the Israelites gave to God when the harvest began (Lev. 23:10-11, 17, 20). This also showed that the rest of the harvest would proceed the first fruits.

Why does Paul bring this up? Paul is showing that if Jesus was raised, then it implies that we will be raised as well. As Morris writes, “First fruits imply later fruits.”[241] We’ve been burying “seeds” in the ground for millennia, but now, One of them has risen.

(15:21) “For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.” Paul saw that Adam was a type (or “foreshadowing” or “prototype”) of Christ (cf. Rom. 5:12-15). Paul affirmed the humanity of Jesus.

(15:22) “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” Paul is saying that all people will be raised—even if some are raised for judgment. Universalists argue that this passage implies that “all” will be saved. But look closely: Paul specifies that this only for those who are “in Christ” (v.22) and to “those who are Christ’s” (v.23).

We were born into Adam, and we need to be reborn through Christ.

(15:23-26) “But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, 24 then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be abolished is death.” Scholars debate how these passages should be understood regarding views of eschatology. In our estimation, these verses support Premillennialism (see Endless Hope or Hopeless End, pp.133-134).

Paul specifies the resurrection of different GROUPS. He writes that Christ will bring people to life “each in his own order” (1 Cor. 15:23). This Greek term (tagmata) is “a clearly defined group” or “a stage in a sequence.”[242] If Paul believed that everyone would be raised all at once (as Amillennialism teaches), then this statement would carry no meaning.

Paul specifies the resurrection at different TIMES. Throughout this section, he uses the term “then” (eita) to distinguish the separate events that will occur. Just as a large gap of time occurred between Jesus’ resurrection (“Christ the first fruits”) and his Second Coming (“after that those who are Christ’s at His coming”), so there is also a gap between his Second Coming and the New Heavens and Earth (“then comes the end”).[243]

Paul alludes to Psalm 110:1 and Psalm 8:6 (v.25).

Death came for Christ, but Christ will come back for death.

(15:27) “For He has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, ‘All things are put in subjection,’ it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him.” God the Father is not subject to God the Son. Johnson states that this verse avoids “ending with two rival deities and two kingdoms.”[244] Instead, this shows that the members of the Trinity work together beautifully and dynamically.

(15:28) “When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.” Jesus will “hand over the kingdom to the God and Father” (v.24). This is what is meant by Jesus “subjecting” himself to God. That is, God the Father gave Jesus the kingdom, and Jesus gives the kingdom back to the Father. This is complete and ultimate humility on Christ’s behalf (Phil. 2:5-11).

Paul alludes to Psalm 8:6. The expression “all in all” probably refers to all the glory going to God (cf. Rom. 11:36), God being “pervasively sovereign,”[245] or “an affirmation of the absolute lordship of God over all creation and human life in particular.”[246] While God already is sovereign over creation, in eternity, this loving sovereignty will be fully displayed. It could refer to the “summing up of all things in Christ” (Eph. 1:10).

#1. If there is no resurrection, then why do people baptize the dead?

(15:29) “Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them?”

(15:29) What is baptism for the dead?

#2. If there is no resurrection, then why would we suffer for Christ?

(15:30) “Why are we also in danger every hour?” Paul builds his case for the resurrection. If he won’t be raised, why endure persecution like this?

(15:31) “I affirm, brethren, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.” This is an idiom that might be loosely understood as, “I swear by all that I hold dear.”[247]

(15:32a) “If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me?” Some argue that this could refer to literal beasts. After all, Paul earlier referred to nearly dying in Asia (which included Ephesus) in 2 Corinthians 1:8. He refers to being “rescued out of the lion’s mouth” at the end of his life (2 Tim. 4:16).

Others like Morris,[248] Johnson,[249] and Blomberg[250] argue that this statement is metaphorical, because Paul was a Roman citizen, and he wouldn’t have been made to fight the beasts. Moreover, Ignatius used this expression in AD 105 to refer to fighting with Roman soldiers (Epistle to the Romans, 5:1). Morris cites many other examples of sages who used this expression in a non-literal way.[251] Thus, he concludes, “Paul is surely employing this metaphorical use.”

On the other hand, Paul was well acquainted with giving up his rights as a Roman citizen in order to further the cause of Christ (e.g. suffering a beating and imprisonment in Philippi, Acts 16). Moreover, sometimes Romans (like Acilius Glabrio) were commanded to fight in the arena.[252]

Some commentators relate this incident to the riot in Acts 19:23ff. But this doesn’t fit well because Gaius and Aristarchus were being attacked (Acts 19:29), not Paul (Acts 19:30). In the end, we are simply not sure if Paul was speaking literally or metaphorically. Regardless, Paul was writing seriously! He faced severe trials at the hands of his enemies—whether this involved literal lions or simply some other time of torture.

#3. If there is no resurrection, then how is that working out in your practical lives?

(15:32b) “If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” This is likely a citation of Isaiah 22:13. However, Sardanapallus (the founder of the city of Tarsus) had these words on his tombstone:

Eat, drink, and play, because all things else are not worth this.… Well aware that you are by nature mortal, magnifying the desire of your heart, delighting yourselves in merriments, there is no enjoyment for you after death. For I too am dust, though I have reigned over Ninus. Mine are all the food I have eaten, and my loose indulgences, and the delights of love that I have enjoyed; but those numerous blessings have been left behind. This to mortal man is wise advice on how to live (Cited in Strabo, 4 BC).[253]

Alan Johnson comments, “This is close to the advice given by the modern hedonist Hugh Hefner in his Playboy philosophy of life!”[254]

(15:32) Why does Paul quote Isaiah 22:13?

(15:33) “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’” Paul cites a fourth century BC comic-playwright named Menander. This comes from his comedy Thais. In the context of the play, Menander is referring to “sexual companionship.”[255] Johnson writes, “When a Roman boy came of age, his father gave him a special robe (toga virilus), and when it was put on he recited the words, ‘I have the right to do anything,’ to show he had entered into his majority. Something of this spirit was apparently at work in those who, adopting the Greek concept of the soul’s eternal separation from the body at death and denying the future bodily resurrection, felt free to pursue whatever they desired and go wherever their desires took them.”[256] It’s in this context that Paul tells them, “Do not be deceived.” Our bodies belong to Christ—not our pleasures (1 Cor. 6:12-20).

(15:34) “Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning…” Paul uses the word eknēpsate (“become sober-minded”). The word “originally meant become sober after drunkenness.”[257] In the context, these false views of the afterlife led to “sinning.” Theology and practice are closely intertwined in Paul’s mind.

“…For some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.” Does this refer to some of the Corinthians themselves? Or does it refer to their lifestyle and witness to the outside world? We opt for the latter—not the former. Paul has been quoting non-Christian sources, and he must have these lost people in view.

An objection considered

(15:35) “But someone will say, ‘How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?’”

Many people still object to this today. They argue (from ignorance) that God cannot possibly resurrect our bodies, because the molecules have been spread all around the world.

Analogy #1. Seed “die” to become plants

(15:36) “You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; 37 and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own.” Paul addresses an objection to his view. He uses an analogy for death and resurrection of seeds in order to speak of the resurrection of the dead.

Note that the seed needs to be buried and die before it can bear fruit. Also, the tree looks far, far more glorious than the little seed. As believers, our resurrection bodies will be far more glorious than our fallen bodies. We will have the same identity, but we will simply get a massive upgrade.

Analogy #2. God currently has a diversity of life… Why not more diversity in the afterlife?

(15:39) “All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish.” Just as there are different types of creatures in the natural world, there will be different types of resurrection bodies in the supernatural world (vv.40-42). Blomberg writes, “The world is filled with different kinds of bodies… that God has created. So why should it be thought incredible that he could create still one more kind—a resurrected human body?”[258] Or as Johnson writes, “If God is so imaginative in creating bodies in this present creation, how much more can he create a resurrection body that is unimaginably glorious!”[259]

(15:40) “There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another.” The “heavenly bodies” do not refer to the stars. The contrast is between heavenly and earthly bodies. Heavenly bodies refers to angels.[260]

(15:41) “There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.” God has already made such a beautiful and diverse universe. Paul is encouraging us to wonder what the next universe (i.e. the New Heavens and Earth) will look like.

(15:42-43) “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power;” Paul compares and contrasts the natural body with the supernatural (spiritual) body. Currently, we try to delay death with medicine, or cover up our dying and decay through cosmetics.

(15:44) “It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.”

(15:44) Will we have physical bodies or spiritual?

(15:45) “So also it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living soul.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” Paul cites Genesis 2:7. Jesus is not the “second Adam,” as we often read. Instead, he is the “last Adam.” There is no more need of a savior now that Jesus has come.

(15:46) “However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual.” Paul could be contradicting teachers like Philo (On the Creation, 134; Allegorical Interpretation, 1.31),[261] who taught that God made a spiritual man first, and a natural man second.

(15:47-48) “The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. 48 As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly.” Jesus will make our bodies like his (cf. Phil. 3:21).

(15:49) “Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.” We know that we received a body from the first Adam, so we can know that we’ll receive a new body from the last Adam.

God had to breathe life into the first Adam. But the last Adam (Jesus) will breathe life out for all humans.

(15:50) “Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” We can’t enter the New Heavens and Earth the way that we are. We need resurrected bodies.

(15:51) “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed,” In this passage, Paul teaches that some believers will not need to physically die (“not all sleep”). Of course, “sleep” is a biblical euphemism for death (cf. 1 Cor. 15:18; Jn. 11:12-14). When Jesus returns, he will not kill the remaining believers, only to immediately raise them from the dead! Instead, this final generation of Christians will be instantly given immortal and imperishable bodies.

Additionally, Paul calls the rescue of the Church a “mystery” (1 Cor. 15:51). But why? The OT repeatedly taught both the Second Coming (Dan. 7:13-14; Zech. 14:1-5) and the resurrection of the dead (Isa. 26:19; Dan. 12:2; Job 19:25-26; Ps. 22:29). He must be saying that the rescue of the Church is a new teaching—not foreseen in the OT Scriptures.

(15:52) “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” The rescue of the Church will be instantaneous (“in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye”). Paul uses the Greek word atomos here, which is the root from which we get the term “atom.” It literally means “indivisible.”[262] Hitchcock writes, “Today, we would translate this ‘in an instant,’ ‘in a split second,’ or ‘in a flash.’”[263] While this might be difficult to conceive of, we need to remember that God has supernaturally rescued (or at least transported) many people exactly like this in the past, including Enoch (Gen. 5:24), Elijah (2 Kings 2:1, 11), Jesus (Rev. 12:5; Acts 1:9), Philip (Acts 8:39-40), and Paul (2 Cor. 12:2-4).

(15:52) The last trumpet?

(15:53) “For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.”

(15:54-55) “But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”” God will bring death to an end. At the rescue of the Church, believers will be raised. This is an allusion to Hosea 13:14.

(15:56-57) “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The law doesn’t help with spiritual growth. While the beginning of this chapter paralleled Federal Headship from Romans 5, these two verses parallel the transition in Romans 7 and 8.

(15:58) “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” This theology has practical implications for the Christian life. If this is true, it has practical consequences. Notice the difference between this verse and the “no resurrection” thesis in verses 12-19.

This is quite a promise. If I’m working “in the Lord” (i.e. in my new identity), then I can bank on the fact that my work is not in vain.

Discussion Questions

RHETORICAL QUESTION: Would people look at your life and think you’re a fool for your investment in the cause of Christ? Would they pity you, as Paul writes in verses 12-19?

If heaven is so important, then why don’t Christians think about the afterlife very often?

Isn’t it escapism to look forward to the afterlife?

Reflecting on Heaven can be abstract: What does it practically look like to focus on Heaven? What might be some key ways to develop this? What should be some ways we avoid in developing this perspective?

Why might discussing these common questions regarding Heaven be important to us as believers? Won’t we just find out when we get there?

How might false or inaccurate views of Heaven negatively affect Christians or non-Christians?

Most Christians would never outright deny the reality of Heaven. But what does it look like to compromise on the eternal perspective?

Is it possible to encourage or correct a fellow believer into having an eternal perspective without falling into self-righteousness? If so, how might we go about leading others into a higher dedication to the cause of Christ in light of eternity?

1 Corinthians 16 (Final thoughts)

After Paul’s powerful words in chapter 15, you’d think that Paul would be finished with this letter. But he has a little more to say. In fact, some of these themes resurface in his second letter to the Corinthians. Wiersbe breaks down this final chapter into three important subjects of stewardship: (1) money, (2) opportunities, and (3) people.[264]

Money

(16:1) “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also.” Paul taught the importance of financial giving to multiple churches (at least Galatia and Corinth). Since he used this in multiple churches, we can infer that he liked this practice.

Paul refers to this financial giving campaign in his letter to the Romans. There, he writes, “The believers in Macedonia and Achaia [Corinth was located in this larger province] have eagerly taken up an offering for the poor among the believers in Jerusalem. 27 They were glad to do this because they feel they owe a real debt to them. Since the Gentiles received the spiritual blessings of the Good News from the believers in Jerusalem, they feel the least they can do in return is to help them financially” (Rom. 15:26-27 NLT).

Why was Paul collecting money for the Christians in Jerusalem? The Jerusalem church was being persecuted badly, including having their property seized (Heb. 10:32-34). Moreover, there had been a famine in AD 46, and they were probably still recovering from this (Acts 11:28).

Should we still collect our money today? Yes! Paul’s method has several advantages: (1) It’s anonymous. The church is giving the money, rather than an individual person. (2) By collecting money, we can meet big needs that individuals cannot. (3) Individuals cannot always check where their money is going. But a church can send delegates to vet potential charitable groups regarding their authenticity, transparency, and effectiveness.

How could these Christians close their hearts to the plight of the poor in Jerusalem? (Prov. 21:13; 29:7)

(16:2) “On the first day of every week…” Leon Morris writes, “Paul does not mention worship, but it is probably in mind.”[265] This is a very questionable inference from an otherwise very solid exegete. Paul doesn’t mention anything about singing, worship, or music. This probably says more about the influence of contemporary church culture, than it does about Paul’s statement here.

(16:2) Do we have to meet on Sunday for church?

“…each one of you…” Financial giving is for all believers—not just the wealthy.

“…put aside and save… so that no collections be made when I come.” This could refer to saving at home,[266] or it could refer to bringing their money together “in the church treasury.”[267] Paul’s language of “on the first day of the week” implies that this refers to them gathering together to collect the money. Paul’s point seems to be that he doesn’t want to wait for several weeks, so the believers in Corinth could get their “paychecks” or their “bonuses” from their employers. Instead, they should deliberately put money aside to be ready to give a large chunk.

“…as he may prosper…” Note that Paul doesn’t mention how much believers are “supposed” to give. That being said, if the Law commanded a 10% tithe, then how much should grace teach us to give? If God has blessed you, then you should use that to bless others (“to the extent that God has blessed you” NET). Western Christians have been blessed (“prosper”) to an extraordinary degree. If we take this passage seriously, that means we should be extraordinary financial givers. Americans give more than any nation on Earth, but sadly, they give far less according to the percentage of their income. Elsewhere, Paul writes, “Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have” (2 Cor. 8:12 NLT).

Disciplined giving versus “impulse giving”

While it’s fine to give impulsively to organizations, the Bible doesn’t promote “impulse giving” like this. Paul isn’t instructing the Corinthians to give based on their feelings. Instead, he is calling on them to make a discipline of setting aside money each week to give to the cause of Christ in the world. “Impulse giving” has many disadvantages:

(1) We don’t give as much. Nothing can beat a determined and disciplined lifestyle of giving regularly and in a committed fashion.

(2) We give based off of our feelings—not truth. Like most other aspects of the Christian life (e.g. prayer, Bible reading, serving, love, etc.), we are supposed to give because of the needs around us—not simply based on how we feel.

(3) We only give to glamorous causes—not key needs. No one is itching to pay for the electric bill, but what if we didn’t have electricity?

(16:3-4) “When I arrive, whomever you may approve, I will send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem, 4 and if it is fitting for me to go also, they will go with me.” The Corinthians were supposed to choose good men to carry this gift. Note that it is a group of people carrying the money (“I will send them…”). This was for the purpose of accountability (2 Cor. 8:21) and likely protection of this massive amount of money. Acts records that many men escorted this money, and these men all came from different local churches across the Roman world (Acts 20:4-5).

Opportunities

(16:5) “But I will come to you after I go through Macedonia, for I am going through Macedonia.” Paul already alluded to the fact that he would come to Corinth (1 Cor. 4:18-19). Now, he makes this very clear. He knows that he’ll come, but he just doesn’t know when this will happen.

(16:6) “And perhaps I will stay with you, or even spend the winter…” When Paul comes to Corinth, he won’t stay forever. Later, Paul’s enemies used this “fickleness” against him (2 Cor. 1:15ff).

“…so that you may send me on my way wherever I may go…” This likely implies financial aid.[268]

(16:7) “For I do not wish to see you now just in passing; for I hope to remain with you for some time, if the Lord permits.” Paul wanted to spend a considerable amount of time to help out this group he planted. But he viewed his travel plans underneath God’s guiding will. God could change his plans whenever He wanted to (“If the Lord permits…”).

(16:8-9) “But I will remain in Ephesus until Pentecost; 9 for a wide door for effective service has opened to me…” Paul made this decision based on what was more impactful for the gospel (Col. 4:3). He viewed both the spiritual fruit and the presence of enemies as a reason for staying in Ephesus.

“…and there are many adversaries.” Paul already told them that his life was in danger in Ephesus (1 Cor. 15:32), but he didn’t want to leave the Ephesian church in the midst of a persecution. Notice that Paul believed that the enemies factored (positively!) into Paul’s decision to stay.

Timothy

Paul now spends considerable time talking about the great people in this church. Warren Wiersbe writes, “Money and opportunities are valueless without people. The church’s greatest asset is people, and yet too often the church takes people for granted. Jesus did not give His disciples money, but He did invest three years training them for service so they might seize the opportunities He would present them.”[269]

(16:10) “Now if Timothy comes, see that he is with you without cause to be afraid, for he is doing the Lord’s work, as I also am.” Timothy was Paul’s best guy, but he likely struggled with fear and timidity (cf. 2 Tim. 1:7). Notice how Paul acknowledges Timothy’s weaknesses, but he also supports him, speaks well of him, and stands behind him.

Timothy was still a young leader years later (cf. 1 Tim. 4:12), so he must have been much younger during this time (AD 55). Paul also mentioned his own fear and timidity when coming to Corinth (1 Cor. 2:3).

 (16:11) “So let no one despise him. But send him on his way in peace, so that he may come to me; for I expect him with the brethren.” Paul says, “Yeah, he’s fearful, but don’t you dare look down on him. I better hear that you’ve taken good care of this guy, because he’s a good man.”

“Send him on his way…” This could imply financial help (see v.6).

Apollos

(16:12) “But concerning Apollos our brother, I encouraged him greatly to come to you with the brethren; and it was not at all his desire to come now, but he will come when he has opportunity.” The Corinthians may have thought that Paul was keeping Apollos from coming. But Paul refutes this idea. Apollos probably wanted things to calm down before he came. Note as well that Paul didn’t boss Apollos around. Apollos didn’t agree, and Paul deferred to Apollos’ decision.

Throughout the letter, Paul has talked about Apollos’ ministry to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 1:12; 3:4-6, 22; 4:6). Paul was never against Apollos—only against the Corinthians’ poor view of leadership. Apollos wasn’t eager to come to Corinth (apparently, he didn’t like their man-worship of him!). But Paul says he’ll come when he’s ready.

 (16:13-14) “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.” You could make an entire teaching on these imperatives!

Be on the alert. This is more than just not sleeping. It implies a mental awareness and eagerness to watch out. (1 Thess. 5:6; Mk. 13:33, 37) Like taking a long road trip and nodding asleep. Be a reader. A lot of leadership is thinking and being thoughtful.

Stand firm in the faith. This can we understood as being “in the faith” or “in faith.”[270]

Act like men. They are not supposed to act like men, rather than like women. Instead, they are to act like men, rather than like not boys (cf. 1 Cor. 3:1; 13:11). Paul is telling the men and women to grow up and be strong.

Be strong. This could be taken in the passive: “Be made strong.”[271] (cf. Eph. 6:10; Ps. 27:14; 31:24)

Let all that you do be done in love. Remember chapter 13. Morris writes, “In manliness Paul is not looking for aggressiveness or self-assertion, but the strength that shows itself in love.”[272]

(16:15) “Now I urge you, brethren (you know the household of Stephanas, that they were the first fruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves for ministry to the saints).” Paul had baptized these people (1 Cor. 1:16). They were godly servants, who committed to building up the church.

How can he say that these people were the “first” converts? Paul had converts in Achaia before he came to Corinth (Acts 17:34). This can be resolved in a number of ways: (1) Paul had met them before going to Athens, (2) Paul is referring to the first “household,” rather than individual people, or (3) Paul is using the name Achaia as synonymous with Corinth, rather than the larger region, as he does elsewhere (Rom. 15:26-27).[273]

(16:16) “that you also be in subjection to such men and to everyone who helps in the work and labors.” Morris writes, “It may not be an accident that his verb (hypotassō) is a compound of the verb he has just used of the household of Stephanas setting themselves (tassō) to lowly service.”[274] These men had the recognition of leadership because of their hard labor of servant leadership. NRSV captures this wordplay: “They have devoted themselves to the service of the saints; I urge you to put yourselves at the service of such people, and of everyone who works and toils with them.” Paul is saying, “These men served you, so you should serve under them.”

Imagine if a number of dogs pulling an ice sled all pulling in different directions. It would rip the sled apart! Similarly, God has installed leaders to guide people, and they should be respected when it comes to spiritual things.

(16:17) “I rejoice over the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have supplied what was lacking on your part.” Is this a rebuke on the Corinthian church? Or is it an encouragement for these men? Or both?

These guys must have brought the concerns of the things addressed in this letter.

(16:18) “For they have refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore acknowledge such men.” The word for “refreshed” (anapauo) is used in Matthew 11:28.

“Acknowledge such men…” is a forceful Greek imperative.[275] Paul had a high view of human leadership.

Aquila and Priscilla

(16:19) “The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Prisca greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.” These people had a church in their house in Rome too (Rom. 16:5). They were always opening up their home for the Lord’s work. Banks writes, “The entertaining room in a moderately well-to-do household could hold around thirty people comfortably.”[276]

(16:20) “All the brethren greet you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.” Blomberg states that this was generally done between men and men (or women and women). But it wasn’t often practiced between men and women.[277]

(16:20) Should we greet each other with a holy kiss?

(16:21) “The greeting is in my own hand—Paul.” Paul usually wrote through a scribe (an amanuensis). But here, he picks up the pen himself.

(16:22) “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed.”

(16:22) Is it wrong to curse people?

“Maranatha.” Morris writes, “Being Aramaic, the expression cannot have originated among the Greeks, but must go back to the early days of the church in Palestine.”[278] While there is dispute on how to translate this, it mostly likely translates as “Our Lord, come!” (rather than “The Lord has come”).[279] This is the same idea—though written in Greek—in Revelation 22:20.

(16:23-24) “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. 24 My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.” Paul started and finished his letter by writing about the grace of Jesus Christ. Morris writes, “Notice the all. He had some doughty opponents at Corinth, and there were some whom he had had to rebuke sharply. But he bears no malice. He sends his love to all of them, a love in Christ Jesus. Paul’s last word to the Corinthians is Jesus.”[280]

[1] Cited in W. Harold Mare, 1 Corinthians: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans through Galatians (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), 179.

[2] Archibald Robertson and Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the First Epistle of St Paul to the Corinthians (T. & T. Clark, 1929; International Critical Commentary), xvi. Cited in Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 32). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[3] D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament. Second ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), 419.

[4] Hans Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians: a commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, Hermeneia—A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Philadelphia: Fortress Press. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975), 2.

[5] See for example, Hans Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians: a commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, Hermeneia—A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Philadelphia: Fortress Press. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975), 13. Leon Morris, 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 35. W. Harold Mare, 1 Corinthians: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans through Galatians (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), 177.

[6] Craig Blomberg, From Pentecost to Patmos: an Introduction to Acts through Revelation (Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2006), 164. W. Harold Mare, 1 Corinthians: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans through Galatians (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), 180.

[7] Leon Morris, 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 35.

[8] Pindar Nem VI. 40. Cited in W. Harold Mare, 1 Corinthians: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans through Galatians (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), 175.

[9] Craig Blomberg, From Pentecost to Patmos: an Introduction to Acts through Revelation (Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2006), 163.

[10] W. Harold Mare, 1 Corinthians: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans through Galatians (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), 175.

[11] Leon Morris, 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), footnote.

[12] Philo, Legatio ad Gajum, 281f. Cited in Conzelmann, H. (1975). 1 Corinthians: a commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

[13] Strabo, Geographia, 8.361, 381.

[14] Strabo, Geographia, 8.381; Pausanias, Descriptio Graecae, 2.1.2; Dio C., Historia Romae. 43.50. Cited in Conzelmann, H. (1975). 1 Corinthians: a commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 11). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

[15] W. Harold Mare, 1 Corinthians: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans through Galatians (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), 176.

[16] Strabo, Geographia, 8.6.22. W. Harold Mare, 1 Corinthians: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans through Galatians (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), 176.

[17] Craig Blomberg, From Pentecost to Patmos: an Introduction to Acts through Revelation (Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2006), 163.

[18] Strabo, Geographia, (8.6.20). Cited in W. Harold Mare, 1 Corinthians: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans through Galatians (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), 176. Though Conzelmann argues that this is a “fable” from Strabo that actually refers to Corinth’s “ancient golden period.” See Hans Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians: a commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, Hermeneia—A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Philadelphia: Fortress Press. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975), 12. Though we would disagree with his conclusion based on the historical data cited above.

[19] Athenaeus, 12.554c. Cited in Leon Morris, 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), footnote.

[20] Athenaeus, 13.559a. Cited in Leon Morris, 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), footnote.

[21] Athenaeus, 13.573c. Cited in Leon Morris, 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), footnote.

[22] Discourses, 8.5. Cited in Leon Morris, 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), footnote.

[23] Leon Morris, 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), footnote.

[24] Craig Blomberg, From Pentecost to Patmos: an Introduction to Acts through Revelation (Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2006), 163.

[25] Aristophanes (Fragmenta 354). Cited in W. Harold Mare, 1 Corinthians: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans through Galatians (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), 176.

[26] D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament. Second ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), 420.

[27] Strabo, Geographia, 8.378. Cited in Hans Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians: a commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, Hermeneia—A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Philadelphia: Fortress Press. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975), 2.

[28] D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament. Second ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), 426.

[29] D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament. Second ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), 427.

[30] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 71). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[31] Pindar. Olym. 13.4.; Herodotus 3.52). Cited in W. Harold Mare, 1 Corinthians: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans through Galatians (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), 175.

[32] Thucydides, Historia. 1.13.5. W. Harold Mare, 1 Corinthians: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans through Galatians (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), 175.

[33] Strabo, Geographia, 8.6.23. Cited in W. Harold Mare, 1 Corinthians: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans through Galatians (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), 175.

[34] Homer, Iliad, 2.570. Cited in W. Harold Mare, 1 Corinthians: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans through Galatians (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), 175.

[35] Ovid [43 B.C.-17 A.D.] Metamorphoses, 6:416). Cited in W. Harold Mare, 1 Corinthians: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans through Galatians (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), 176.

[36] Alciphron, Epistle, 3.60. Cited in Conzelmann, H. (1975). 1 Corinthians: a commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

[37] Craig Blomberg, From Pentecost to Patmos: an Introduction to Acts through Revelation (Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2006), 163.

[38] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 32). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[39] Schönweiss, H. (1986). Firm, Foundation, Certainty, Confirm. L. Coenen, E. Beyreuther, & H. Bietenhard (Eds.), New international dictionary of New Testament theology (Vol. 1, p. 658). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[40] Schönweiss, H. (1986). Firm, Foundation, Certainty, Confirm. L. Coenen, E. Beyreuther, & H. Bietenhard (Eds.), New international dictionary of New Testament theology (Vol. 1, p. 658). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[41] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 70). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[42] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 90). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[43] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 55). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[44] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 56). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[45] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 94). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[46] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 94). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[47] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 57). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[48] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 58). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[49] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 102). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[50] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 105). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[51] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 105). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[52] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 60). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[53] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 60). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[54] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 62). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[55] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 112). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[56] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 118). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[57] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 123). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[58] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 65). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[59] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 68). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[60] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 134). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[61] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 68). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[62] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 147). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[63] N. Hillyer, ‘1 and 2 Corinthians’ in the New Bible Commentary, Third Edition (IVP, 1970). Cited in Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 73). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[64] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 153). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[65] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 154). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[66] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 75). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[67] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 76). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[68] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 169). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[69] Leon Morris, 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 80.

[70] W. Harold Mare, 1 Corinthians: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans through Galatians (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), 213.

[71] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 81). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[72] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 81). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[73] Packer, J. I. (1986). Dirt, Filth, Refuse. L. Coenen, E. Beyreuther, & H. Bietenhard (Eds.), New international dictionary of New Testament theology (Vol. 1, p. 479). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[74] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 192). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[75] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 86). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[76] Johnson, A. F. (2004). 1 Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 88). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[77] See Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 200). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Johnson, A. F. (2004). 1 Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 87). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 87). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[78] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 200). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[79] Soards, M. L. (2011). 1 Corinthians (p. 114). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[80] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 91). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[81] Bruce Winter, “I Corinthians,” in The New Bible Dictionary, ed. D.A. Carson et all. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1994), 1169.

[82] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 93). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[83] W. Harold Mare, 1 Corinthians: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans through Galatians (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), 221.

[84] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 93). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[85] Cited in Ken Sande, The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1997), 46.

[86] Arsēn means “male” or “man.” Brown’s New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology states, “Arsēn… means male as opposed to female, thēlys.” Brown, Colin. ἄρσην. In L. Coenen, E. Beyreuther & H. Bietenhard (Eds.), . Vol. 2: New international dictionary of New Testament theology (L. Coenen, E. Beyreuther & H. Bietenhard, Ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. 1986. 562.

[87] This term is only used four times in the NT. It is translated as bed (Lk. 11:7), marriage bed (Heb. 13:4), pregnancy (Rom. 9:10), and sexual promiscuity (Rom. 13:13). Koitē means “bed” or “marriage bed.” Brown’s New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology states, “In secular Greek koitē, besides its common meaning bed, connotes the marriage bed (Aeschylus, Sophocles)… In the LXX koitē stands for a number of Hebrew words, most frequently forms of the verb šāḵah, lie down.” McComiskey, T. κοίτη. In L. Coenen, E. Beyreuther & H. Bietenhard (Eds.), . Vol. 2: New international dictionary of New Testament theology (L. Coenen, E. Beyreuther & H. Bietenhard, Ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. 1986. 586.

[88] Hays, Richard. ‘First Corinthians’, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching & Preaching, 1997. 97.

[89] White, James. Jeffrey Niell. The Same-Sex Controversy. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 2002. Kindle loc. 1542-1550.

[90] Copan, Paul. When God Goes to Starbucks: A Guide to Everyday Apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2008. 89.

[91] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 98). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[92] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 98). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 251). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[93] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 252). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[94] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 257). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[95] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 262). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[96] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 262). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[97] Ferrett Steinmetz “Dear Daughter: I Hope You Have Awesome Sex.” August 12, 2013.

[98] David Popenoe and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead “A Comprehensive Review of Recent Research.”

[99] Robert H. DuRant et.al., “Exposure to Violence and Victimization and Depression, Hopelessness, and Purpose in Life Among Adolescents Living in and Around Public Housing,” Development and Behavioral Pediatrics, Vol. 16, (1995) p. 233-237.

[100] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 105). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[101] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 279). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[102] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 279). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[103] Cited in Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 107). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[104] J. B. Lightfoot, Notes on Epistles of St. Paul (Macmillan, 1904). Cited in Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 117). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[105] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 110). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[106] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 302). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[107] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 318). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[108] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, pp. 117–118). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[109] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 118). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[110] Morris writes that Plato wrote of a woman being at her peak around 20 years old, Republic, V. 460.E). Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 118). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[111] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 121). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[112] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 121). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[113] Archaeological evidence supports temples or sanctuaries dedicated to Aphrodite (two varieties, Isis and Serapis), Artemis, Dionysus, Poseidon, Apollo, Helius, Pelagrina (mother of the gods), Necessity, Fates, Demeter, Maid, Zeus, Asklepius, Hermes, Athena and Hera Bunaea. See Johnson, A. F. (2004). 1 Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 132). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[114] Cited in footnote. Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (pp. 367–368). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[115] Alan Johnson explains, “Most of the meat that was not taken by the priests became available for dinners in the temple restaurants or special rooms where the family and invited friends of the one who offered the sacrifice might enjoy a meal marking a birthday, marriage, special healing or another milestone. Some of the meat might also be sold in the marketplace.” Johnson, A. F. (2004). 1 Corinthians (Vol. 7, pp. 132–133). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. See also Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 128.

[116] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 361). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[117] David Garland, 1 Corinthians: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 350.

[118] David Garland writes, “Sacrifices were part of the Isthmian games.” David Garland, 1 Corinthians: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 348.

[119] David Garland, 1 Corinthians: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 357.

[120] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 124). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[121] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 379). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[122] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 385). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[123] Contra Fee who contends that the believers with “knowledge” were urging others to eat the meat as well. Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 386). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[124] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 130). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[125] Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 136.

[126] Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 133.

[127] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 391, 392). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[128] David Garland, 1 Corinthians: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 384.

[129] David Garland, 1 Corinthians: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 379.

[130] David Garland, 1 Corinthians: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 385.

[131] David Garland, 1 Corinthians: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 387.

[132] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 394). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[133] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 396). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[134] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 131). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[135] Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 142.

[136] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (pp. 396–397). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[137] Johnson, A. F. (2004). 1 Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 146). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 134). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. Prior, D. (1985). The message of 1 Corinthians: life in the local church (p. 155). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[138] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 412). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Conzelmann, H. (1975). 1 Corinthians: a commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 157). Philadelphia: Fortress Press. Mare, W. H. (1976). 1 Corinthians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans through Galatians (Vol. 10, p. 244). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[139] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 392). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[140] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 135). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[141] Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 143.

[142] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 418). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[143] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 418). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[144] Johnson, A. F. (2004). 1 Corinthians (Vol. 7, pp. 146–147). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[145] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 421). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[146] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 137). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[147] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 436). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[148] Johnson, A. F. (2004). 1 Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 150). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[149] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 138). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[150] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 138). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[151] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 438). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[152] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 138). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[153] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 439). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[154] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 138). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[155] Mare, W. H. (1976). 1 Corinthians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans through Galatians (Vol. 10, p. 246). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[156] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 440). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[157] Dominque Morisano (et al.) “Setting, Elaborating, and Reflecting on Personal Goals Improves Academic Performance” Journal of Applied Psychology 2010 March, 95(2):255-64.

[158] Sven Asmus, “The Impact of Goal-setting on Worker Performance – Empirical Evidence from a Real-effort Production Experiment” Procedia CIRP. Volume 26, 2015, Pages 127-132.

[159] Po Bronson, NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2009), 12.

[160] Po Bronson, NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2009), 14.

[161] Po Bronson, NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2009), 14-15.

[162] Po Bronson, NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2009), 15.

[163] Po Bronson, NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2009), 17-18.

[164] Po Bronson, NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2009), 18-19.

[165] Po Bronson, NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2009), 19.

[166] Po Bronson, NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2009), 20.

[167] Po Bronson, NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2009), 21.

[168] Po Bronson, NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2009), 21.

[169] Po Bronson, NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2009), 22-23.

[170] C. Albanesius “‘Call of Duty: Black Ops’ Gamers Log 600M Hours of Play Time.” PC Mag, 2014.

[171] Frances E. Jensen and Amy Ellis Nutt, The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults (New York: Harper Collins, 2015), 213.

[172] Philip Zimbardo and Nikita Coulombe, Man, Interrupted: Why Young Men are Struggling & What We Can Do About It (Red Wheel Weiser, 2016), 20.

[173] Philip Zimbardo and Nikita Coulombe, Man, Interrupted: Why Young Men are Struggling & What We Can Do About It (Red Wheel Weiser, 2016), 55.

[174] Frances E. Jensen and Amy Ellis Nutt, The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults (New York: Harper Collins, 2015), 207-210.

[175] Frances E. Jensen and Amy Ellis Nutt, The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults (New York: Harper Collins, 2015), 211-212.

[176] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 443). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[177] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 140). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 442). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[178] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 449). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[179] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 454). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[180] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 141). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[181] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 457). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[182] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 462). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[183] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 144). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[184] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, pp. 145–146). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[185] Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 171.

[186] See Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 150). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. Johnson, A. F. (2004). 1 Corinthians (Vol. 7, pp. 190–191). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 506). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[187] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 528). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[188] Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 195.

[189] Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 196.

[190] Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 196.

[191] Cited in Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 542). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[192] Cited in Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 542). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[193] Johnson, A. F. (2004). 1 Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 202). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[194] See Johnson citing Gill. Johnson, A. F. (2004). 1 Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 206). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[195] Johnson, A. F. (2004). 1 Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 206). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[196] David Garland, 1 Corinthians: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 551.

[197] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 157). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[198] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 157). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[199] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 159). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[200] Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 199.

[201] Johnson, A. F. (2004). 1 Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 212). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[202] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 562). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[203] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 565). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[204] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 566). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[205] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (pp. 566–567). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[206] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 568). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[207] Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 211.

[208] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, pp. 164–165). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[209] See footnote. Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 602). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[210] Johnson, A. F. (2004). 1 Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 230). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[211] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 604). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[212] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 611). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[213] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 613). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[214] Johnson, A. F. (2004). 1 Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 233). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[215] Johnson, A. F. (2004). 1 Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 235). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[216] Julia Duin, Quitting Church: Why the Faithful are Fleeing and What to Do about It (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2008) 50.

[217] Morris cites Margaret Thrall with this insight. Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 175). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[218] Johnson, A. F. (2004). 1 Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 245). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[219] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 176). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[220] Johnson, A. F. (2004). 1 Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 245). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[221] Johnson, A. F. (2004). 1 Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 247). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[222] Brown, C. Vol. 2: New international dictionary of New Testament theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. 1986. 764.

[223] Brown, C. Vol. 2: New international dictionary of New Testament theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. 1986. 105.

[224] Johnson, A. F. (2004). 1 Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 249). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[225] Johnson, A. F. (2004). 1 Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 251). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[226] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 179). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[227] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 180). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[228] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 183). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[229] Johnson, A. F. (2004). 1 Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 263). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[230] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 189). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[231] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 190). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[232] Johnson, A. F. (2004). 1 Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 277). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[233] Johnson, A. F. (2004). 1 Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 277). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[234] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 194). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[235] Johnson, A. F. (2004). 1 Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 278). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[236] Mare writes, “Some have understood the words translated ‘of first importance’ in the temporal sense of ‘at the first.’ But that seems redundant because at all times Paul’s preaching identified the death and resurrection of Christ with the gospel. The stress is on the centrality of these doctrines to the gospel message.” W. Harold Mare, 1 Corinthians: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans through Galatians (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), 282.

[237] Some commentators point to Hosea 6:2 or Jonah 1:17, but these passages are lacking.

[238] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 199). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[239] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 200). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[240] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 200). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[241] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 205). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[242] Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 2000. 987.

[243] Historical Premillennialist George Ladd notes, “An unidentified interval falls between Christ’s resurrection and his Parousia [Second Coming], and a second unidentified interval falls between the Parousia and the telos [the end], when Christ completes the subjugation of his enemies.” Clouse, Robert G., George Eldon Ladd, Herman Arthur Hoyt, Loraine Boettner, and Anthony A. Hoekema. The Meaning of the Millennium: Four Views. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1977. 39.

[244] Johnson, A. F. (2004). 1 Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 293). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[245] Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 266.

[246] Johnson, A. F. (2004). 1 Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 294). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[247] Johnson, A. F. (2004). 1 Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 297). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[248] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 211). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[249] Johnson, A. F. (2004). 1 Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 298). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[250] Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 267.

[251] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 211). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[252] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 211). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[253] Johnson, A. F. (2004). 1 Corinthians (Vol. 7, pp. 298–299). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[254] Johnson, A. F. (2004). 1 Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 299). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[255] Johnson, A. F. (2004). 1 Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 300). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[256] Johnson, A. F. (2004). 1 Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 300). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[257] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 212). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[258] Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 283.

[259] Johnson, A. F. (2004). 1 Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 304). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[260] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 215). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[261] Cited in Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 219). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[262] Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 2000. 149.

[263] Hitchcock, Mark. The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2012. 129.

[264] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 621). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[265] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 227). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[266] Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 292.

[267] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 228). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[268] Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 300.

[269] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, pp. 623–624). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[270] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 232). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[271] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 232). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[272] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, pp. 232–233). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[273] Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 305.

[274] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 234). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[275] Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 292.

[276] R. Banks, Paul’s Idea of Community [Anzea, 1979], pp. 49f. Cited in Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 235). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[277] Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 307.

[278] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 237). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[279] Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 307.

[280] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 238). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.