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1 Corinthains-Detailed Outline
A. Introduction
1 Corinthians 1:1-3 Greetings from Paul: Paul’s initial greetings are very cordial
1 Corinthians 1:4-9 Paul gives thanks for God’s work in their lives. They have been enriched in every way; they lack no spiritual gifts.
B. Reproof Concerning Divisions
1 Corinthians 1:10-17 Divisions in the church. Paul appeals to them for harmony. There are social implications of the four groups, Paul, Peter, Apollos, and Christ. Paul…God fearers, gentiles (including women, slaves). Peter…Jewish Christians. Apollos…well educated, prosperous members. Christ…Perhaps those claiming a special relationship to Christ
1 Corinthians 1:18-4:21 – Treatise on Wisdom, Factions in the Church
1 Corinthians 1:18-2:16 God’s Wisdom, Not Conventional Wisdom
1 Corinthians 1:18-25 The foolishness of the cross/saving power of God. Salvation is through Christ not the wisdom of men. “The weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength”.
1 Corinthians 1:26-31 God chose the “nothings” to shame the “wise”. Social implications – “nothings” would be the lowest end of social strata. Shames the wise – the wise see how temporary, insignificant are their personal achievements. Without God, the “powerful” can do nothing. With God, the powerless can do everything.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5 Paul’s preaching is not eloquent. His words were a demonstration of Spirit’s power (Perhaps the well educated were embarrassed by its simplicity).
1 Corinthians 2:6-16 God’s plan of salvation has been revealed to Paul through the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit reveals God’s wisdom and power to those willing to hear. All have the “mind of Christ”.
1 Corinthians 3-4 Factions in the Church
1 Corinthians 3:1-4 Paul rebukes their spiritual immaturity. They think they’re mature, but they are all infants.
1 Corinthians 3:5-9 Apollos and Paul are not competitors. He uses imagery of gardeners. They plant and water, but God makes it grow. They are both God’s fellow workers.
1 Corinthians 3:10-17 Paul uses metaphor of a builder. The foundation has been laid, which is Jesus Christ. Workers can only build on that foundation. Those who deviate will be judged by God’s fire on the Day of the Lord. Christian work will withstand the test of fire and be rewarded. All are God’s temple, and the Spirit works through them.
1 Corinthians 3:18-23 People are completely dependent on God. Those who think they are wise by human standards should become foolish in order to become wise by God’s standards. People cannot put their trust in anything human. Things of God are not evaluated according to the rules of the world. “You are of Christ, and Christ is of God.”
1 Corinthians 4:1-5 True servants of Christ and the work of God: Paul cares little whether they approve of him or not. He is secure in God’s judgment of him; he is accountable only to God
1 Corinthians 4:6-21 Paul and Apollos are examples of humble servants. The Corinthians claim to be spiritually rich, but are filled with pride in their own achievements. Paul lists some of his hardships, writes this as a warning to them. He uses the analogy of role of father vs. “uncaring instructor”. Instructor is only interested in outcomes. Father is interested in edification. Paul plans to visit them soon – will he come with love or with a stick? He begs them to reform before he arrives.
C. Correction Concerning Inconsistencies
1 Corinthians 5:1-13 Problem of immorality in the church. One member has relations with his stepmother. Paul abhors their attitude of tolerance. “A little yeast works through the whole batch”. He urges them to forego the old leaven of malice and wickedness. He adds to this multiple sins that are problematic. Church should get rid of such offenders, not associate with them (Rules apply only to fellow church members, not society as a whole).
1 Corinthians 6:1-11 Problems relating to legal matters. Some are in disputes with other members, taking them to court (Only applies to men – women, slaves did not have access to courts). Paul does not want them to take their problems to human courts. Paul states the “nothings” should be appointed as judges (Social implications of this are enormous – imagine a slave telling a wealthy member what to do! [Remember this society is based on patron/client relationships] Paul is saying it’s a new world inside church doors.). Implications would be just as dramatic for “nothings” who had never had that sense of importance before. Lawsuits, in principle, show their spiritual failures. Those who do such wickedness will not inherit the kingdom of God.
1 Corinthians 6:12-20 Problem with prostitution. God has prepared their bodies to be united with Christ – not prostitutes (Again, can only be addressed to men; women did not go to prostitutes). Paul writes that “everything is permissible” but that “not everything is beneficial”…including visiting prostitutes. Their bodies are the Lord’s temple. They should honor God with their bodies.
D. Instruction, Answers to Problems
1 Corinthians 7:1-16 Concerning the State of Marriage
1 Corinthians 7:1-6 “Paul states both men and women have equal rights and equal obligations. Only by mutual agreement and for a short time should they forego sex to devote themselves to prayer. He wishes they could all be “like” him (celibate), but knows that each has his/her own gifts from God.
1 Corinthians 7:8-9 Words to unmarried and widowed. Be in control of yourselves or get married. “Burning with passion,” (consumed with inward desire) means they cannot wholeheartedly serve God.
1 Corinthians 7:10-16 Divorce and separation. This is Paul’s own opinion and not from God. Women should not separate from husbands; husbands should not divorce (Only men could initiate divorce). If in a mixed marriage, they should stay if at all possible. The union might bring blessings to their husband as well as the children. But if an unbelieving spouse leaves, they should let him/her go. “No one is required to live in bondage; God has called us to live in peace”.
1 Corinthians 7:17-7:24 Regarding Circumcision and Slavery
Obligations in life: People should remain in the place in life to which the Lord has called them. They are to live contentedly in whatever state they’re in (Circumcised/uncircumcised; slave/free).
1 Corinthians 7:25-7:40 Regarding Virgins and Marriage
Paul has words of wisdom regarding virgins (not the Lord’s command). They, too, should stay the way they are. Time is short; the world in its present form is passing away. Unmarried people are freer from the world’s concerns. It is better to be undivided in service for the Lord (Has nothing to do with being a more holy state). People who wish to get married should certainly feel free to do so. What’s important is the solidarity of the community. “Whether one is married or remains single, one must live in a way that is pleasing to God and builds up the community of God’s people.”
1 Corinthians 8-11:1 Regarding Meat Offered to Idols
1 Corinthians 8:1-16 Eating meat sacrificed to idols. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up”. An idol is nothing; there is only one God. Some have a greater understanding in knowing the nothingness of idols. Those who are strong must care for those who are weak (“Strong” and “weak” could be social categories – only “strong,” i.e. wealthy, would have access to meat outside of temple festivals). Even though the strong might have a clear conscience in exercising their “rights”, they should not do so if it harms another.
1 Corinthians 9:1-18 Paul uses himself as an example as one who has given up his “rights” As an apostle he could expect others to care for him (his apostolic privilege). Yet Paul earned his own living. Biblically speaking, Paul uses metaphors from military, agriculture, and OT to show God’s servants have the “right,” the expectation of providing for their needs from the fruits of their labors. Yet he chose not to use this right. He does not want to do anything that might hinder the gospel.
1 Corinthians 9:19-27 He has no master, but has made himself a slave to all. He uses an example of running a race. Though there is only one winner, all must train for the prize. The whole point is that everyone must keep his or her eyes on the goal at the end.
1 Corinthians 10:1-13 A warning for the Corinthians. Paul uses Israel’s history to make his point. God chose the Israelites and brought them out of Egypt. They were baptized, ate the same spiritual food and drink. Yet, they all died in the desert. Christians should be different. History of Israelites stands as lessons for others. People cannot become arrogant. Privileges bring responsibilities; they do not guarantee moral or religious security.
1 Corinthians 10:14-22 Those who attend pagan sacrifices have fellowship with idolatry. One cannot participate in the Lord’s Supper as well as a sacrificial meal in a pagan temple. One cannot flirt with demons and then sit at the Lord’s Table. One must make a clean break; God will not be mocked. Christians cannot play fast and loose with loyalties to God.
1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1 Only real freedom is to glorify God. Those who boast they are totally free are in danger of enslaving themselves to the practices they are free to do. If someone invites them to a meal and they do not know the source, they are free to eat; but if they are told it was sacrificed meat, they should refrain (Only wealthy people would ever be in this situation). Whatever they do should be for the glory of God. Their only job is to build up the church, promote the good of others
1 Corinthians 11:2-16 Regarding Sisters in the Church
The issue of head coverings (addressed to both men and women). Men’s heads should be uncovered; women’s heads are to be covered. Both men and women prophesy and pray. Typically, important men covered their heads during worship. Paul’s decree, then, is meant to be a social leveler. Typically, women’s behavior reflected upon their husbands. Women with uncovered heads brought shame to their husbands. Paul is trying to promote unity, to remove class distinctions and to preserve the distinction between males and female. Neither men nor women are independent of each other. Woman came from man and man is born of woman. Both come from God. Each gender needs to fulfill its current roles in society. The church was to permeate society, not rebel against it.
1 Corinthians 11:17-34 Regarding the Lord’s Supper
Problems with the Lord’s Supper: Divisions are apparent when they come together for the Lord’s Supper. The wealthy probably brought better food for themselves. Oftentimes they were done eating before the others (slaves) arrived. They are making a mockery out of the notion they are “sharing” a common meal. Paul says they’d be better off if they didn’t get together at all. Paul reminds them he passed on to them that which he had received. They are to remember what they are commemorating, namely, Jesus’ last meal with his disciples. The words and symbols proclaim Jesus’ death and anticipate the glorious banquet of the kingdom to come. Each one should examine himself before he eats and drinks. If they don’t, they only bring judgment upon themselves. Each is responsible to all. They are to remember that this meal is not about being “hungry” (Though it is possible that for the slaves it would have been their only meal of the day. That made it all the more heinous if the wealthy had eaten all the food before the slaves even arrived.) Decency and orderliness were to prevail
1 Corinthians 12-14 Regarding Spiritual Gifts
1 Corinthians 12:1-11 The source of spiritual gifts. All spiritual gifts are of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives each gift for the common good. People cannot rank God’s gifts in order of their presumed importance. All gifts are needed; diversity is a sign of God’s inspiration.
1 Corinthians 12:12-26 Analogy of the body in the diversity of gifts. The same Spirit baptized all; all were given the one Spirit to drink. There is unity in diversity. All aspects of the body are necessary. In fact, the “weaker” parts are the more indispensable. The parts that are less honorable are given the most honor (Again, there are social implications re: the “weaker” and “strong.” It’s akin to saying that God “prefers” and gives special “honor” to the “weak.”), so it is with the body of Christ. All parts should have equal concern and consideration for each other. If one part suffers, they all suffer; if one part rejoices, they all rejoice.
1 Corinthians 12:27-30 One body of Christ and offices in the church. Each Christian has his/her own function within the church body. It is God who imparts the offices and gifts. Paul lists various offices…apostles, prophets; teachers are first on the list. Those speaking in tongues are last on the list
Gift is not as important as how it is used…for the edification of all
1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13 Position of love in the ministry of the church. Hymned masterpiece that is central to. Christian living. This is the essential nature of love, positioned in the middle of his discussion. This hymn speaks to the superiority and necessity love. All spiritual gifts are meaningless without accompanying love. A description is made of love, both positively and negatively. Love is patient, kind, without envy or boasting or pride. Love rejoices in truth, protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres. A description is given of the enduring, permanent nature of love. It will outlast prophecies, tongues, or knowledge. A Child’s thoughts and speech are inadequate compared to mature adult. It is an analogy for what we have now versus what we will have later. Of “faith, hope and love…. The greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 14:1-25 A commentary on the ranking of gifts mentioned earlier. Members highly valued speaking in tongues. They thought it indicated close communion with God. Paul highly valued prophecy. It represented strengthening, encouragement, and comfort for community. Speaking in tongues edified the individual; prophesy edified community. Paul tells them if there is no interpreter, they should forego tongue speaking. If they want to excel in spiritual gifts, they should excel in those that edify the church. Paul would rather speak five intelligible words than 10,000 in tongues. He invites them to stop acting like children and to think like adults. If guests stop by and only see tongue speaking, they will be confused. If they hear prophesying, the secrets of their hearts will be laid bare. There is no inherent value in the gifts unless the whole community can participate and benefit from them.
1 Corinthians 14:26-40 Orderly behavior during worship: All activities must be done for the strengthening of the community. If there is no interpreter, the tongue speakers should stay quiet. Only two or three prophets should speak. They should all prophesy in turn. God is not a God of disorder but of peace. Women should not speak in church. Possibly another quote from the letter (We already know that women are praying and prophesying from 11:3. It could be that women are asking too many questions; men are being shamed by their behavior. Everything should be done for the edification of others. If behavior is shameful or embarrassing or harmful against anyone, it should stop.) Everything should be done in an orderly and fitting way.
1 Corinthians 15 Regarding the Resurrection
1 Corinthians 15:1-11 The resurrection of Christ. Paul reminds them of the history of Jesus Christ – his death and resurrection. He lists the people to whom Jesus appeared -- more than 500 in all. Paul was the least of all the apostles, but he too was given God’s grace. He has preached what he was given.
1 Corinthians 15:12-19 The reality of resurrection. Some say there is no resurrection of the dead. This would obviate entirety of Christian message. If there were no Christianity, they would all still be living in sin. Those who have “fallen asleep” would be lost. Therefore, Christians would have nothing to hold on to in this life.
1 Corinthians 15:20-28 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead. Christ is the first fruits of them who sleep. In the end, he will hand over the kingdom to the Father. The last enemy to be destroyed will be death. God has put everything under his feet.
1 Corinthians 15:29-34 Implications of denying Christ’s resurrection. If there was no resurrection, all is naught. But Christ was raised; people should be baptized. They should live with courage and. avoid bad company. They should stop sinning and return to their senses.
1 Corinthians 15:35-44 Paul describes the nature of the resurrected body. He uses an analogy from nature. The seed that is planted is different from the fruit that grows. All flesh is not the same, nor are the heavenly bodies the same. So it will be with the body…sown as perishable; raised as imperishable. There is continuity between what is sown and what is raised. However, that which is raised will be better.
1 Corinthians 15:45-49 The distinction between the natural and the spiritual bodies. Spiritual bodies are from Christ; natural bodies are from Adam. Just as we have borne the likeness of the natural man, we shall bear the likeness of the spiritual man.
1 Corinthians 15:50-58 Resurrection will be accompanied by transformation. All may not die, but all will be transformed. Our earthly bodies cannot experience the heavenly. Our mortal natures must take on immortality. Ultimately, death will be swallowed up in victory. “Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?” God gives the victory through Christ. The final triumph will be over sin and death. Always give yourselves over to the work of the Lord; you will not work in vain.
E. General Matters
1 Corinthians 16:1-4 Mention of the collection. They should appoint someone to accompany Paul in delivering it to Jerusalem.
1 Corinthians 16:5-18 Paul’s personal travel plans and requests. He might visit them again. But for now he will stay on at Ephesus. It is a place of great opportunity and great opposition. Timothy might come to them; he sends recommendation. They are to treat him well. Apollos may also visit them soon. Whatever they do, they should do in love. Greets several people by name.
1 Corinthians 16:19-24 Final greetings: Churches of the province and Priscilla and Aquilla greet them. Paul claims to have written at least this greeting with his own hand (Most likely he dictated the actual letter to his scribe). He ends with a curse and a blessing. “If anyone does not love the Lord, he will be cursed.” “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love to you all in Christ Jesus.”

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