1 Corinthians 1:1-2 Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God . . . To the church of God in Corinth.
Paul wrote to believers in Corinth around AD 55, while he was staying in Ephesus. Corinth was an important city in Greece that was flourishing commercially, politically and intellectually. It was also a religious city with numerous temples to various gods. The culture was so immoral that to Corinthianize later meant, to practice sexual immorality.
While he was in Ephesus, Paul received reports that the church in Corinth was struggling with problems of division, immorality, false teaching and other issues. He wrote to provide correction, but also to encourage the church, which was only a few years old. Paul had spent a year and a half in Corinth, and deeply loved the believers there.
1 Corinthians 1:8 He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The problems Paul wrote to correct show that the believers in Corinth were neither firm in their faith, nor blameless in their conduct. In fact, they appear to be the most sinful church Paul ever started. Because they were Christians, however, their status before God was blameless, and God would keep them firm to the end.
When we consider our sinful nature, the enticements of the world, and the relentless work of Satan, it is amazing that anyone remains a Christian very long. But God is the one who saves, and also the one who keeps. [H]e who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6), wrote Paul. We can neither save ourselves, nor keep ourselves saved. Salvation is the work of God.
Several years ago, my niece came to faith in Jesus Christ. She was right out of high school, without Christian friends, and with little knowledge of the Bible. She bounced around from church to church, and eventually moved out of state. Once in a while, our paths would cross, and I was always surprised to see that she was keeping the faith. She eventually found a wonderful church, and over many years, became a strong, mature and godly woman. God is the one who begins the work, and carries it on to completion.
1 Corinthians 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.
The Corinthian church had some good and godly leaders, but many had their favorites, and this was dividing the church. The leaders were not divided among themselves, but the people were dividing over their leaders. To this Paul said, agree with one another.
Agreeability is a virtue to be taught, learned and practiced by the church. Some people are so contrary by nature that if you say right, they will say left; if you say up, they will say down; and if you say east, they will say west.
Being agreeable does not mean having no opinion, but hearing people in the best possible way. Even if they say something with which you disagree, you can try to understand their point of view, and agree wherever you can. Divide and conquer is one of Satan’s favorite strategies. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand (Mark 3:25), said Jesus.
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.
A woman from an atheist state was brought to trial for believing in Jesus Christ. Instead of sending her to prison, the judge put her in a mental hospital, because he thought she must be insane. After all, what could be more delusional than thinking a crucified Jew is the only way to God?
I have heard Christians describe other religions as foolish, and maybe they are. But humanly speaking, Christianity is foolish, and the Bible frankly admits this. Being misunderstood is the price of seeing what others cannot see.
1 Corinthians 1:18b . . . but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
The gospel appears to be foolish at first, but it powerfully brings salvation to those who believe. Paul was radically changed by Jesus Christ (Acts 9), and when he told others about Christ, many of them were changed as well.
Missionaries were visiting homes in India when they saw a woman’s body hanging from the rafters. They kicked open the door, got her down, and discovered she was alive. Later they learned that her husband was an alcoholic who beat her.
Through the witness of the missionaries, the woman and her husband came to Christ. Their lives were dramatically changed, and they began to hold prayer meetings in their home. Others saw the change, and also became believers. The gospel is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16), wrote Paul.
1 Corinthians 1:26-29 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.
When the believers in Corinth looked around their church, it was clear that they were not from the upper levels of society. There were a few exceptions, but most of them were not remarkable in any way. God took those who were weak, lowly and despised, and made them part of his glorious kingdom. This, in fact, is how God likes to work.
Before he was Israel’s king, David was an outcast who lived in caves. Then he was joined by others who were also struggling (1 Samuel 22:2). Soon, David was made king, and they became part of his glorious kingdom.
Likewise, Jesus takes people at the bottom and brings them to the top. He takes people the world rejects, and makes them his own (Matthew 25:34). The kingdom of God does not depend on the greatness of its people, but on the greatness of their king.
Reflection and Review
Why should we try to be agreeable?
Why is the gospel hard to believe?
Why does the gospel change people?