Our chronological reading of God’s Word brings us to Paul’s first letter to the saints in Corinth. In the prior devotional (Acts 18), we were introduced to the city of Corinth, the capital of Achaia, a Roman province. Corinth was a seaport city on the Mediterranean Sea, and by Paul’s day had eclipsed ancient Athens in commerce, culture, and wickedness. Paul’s 18-month-long ministry in Corinth had been fruitful (Acts 18:11), and many Jews and Greeks had come to believe and accept Christ as Savior (Acts 18:4).
Nevertheless, there were some who “opposed themselves and blasphemed,” and Paul declared, “Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles” (Acts 18:6). Soon after, Paul departed from Corinth. For today’s devotional, consider a simple outline of the first chapter of “The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians.”
A Loving Acknowledgement: Salutation (1:1-3)
As has been his style in other epistles, Paul introduced himself as the author in the first verses (1:1). He then names his co-laborer, “Sosthenes our brother,” who was a man familiar to the people of Corinth.
Who was Sosthenes, and why was the mention of his name noteworthy? The answer to the question is found in Acts 18:9-17 where he was first mentioned, not as a friend, but an adversary of Paul (Acts 18:17). The Hellenistic Jews in Corinth (being of Greek origin), had been stirred and “made insurrection with one accord against Paul (Acts 18:12). They “brought [Paul] to the judgment seat” where Gallio, the deputy and Roman procurator of Achaia sat in judgment. Gallio demonstrated his prejudice toward the Jews, and refused to become involved in their religious squabble with Paul (Acts 18:13-15).
Humiliated by their dismissal (Acts 18:16), the Greek-speaking Jews turned on Sosthenes, the leader of their insurrection, “and beat him before the judgment seat. And Gallio cared for none of those things” (Acts 18:17). It was this Sosthenes, the leader of the insurrection, who became a believer and follower of Christ. His salvation had so transformed his life that he became a peer of Paul in the Gospel ministry! (1 Corinthians 1:1).
A Loving Affirmation and Appeal (1:4-10)
You will notice the “grace of God” is the theme of this passage (1:4-10), as it is a continuing theme throughout the whole of Scripture. (Grace being God’s blessing of protection and continuing life.) Paul identified we are saved by grace, given us “by Jesus Christ” (1:4). Everything we need as believers is supplied by God’s grace: “5That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge” (1:5-7a), so that we will not be found wanting in the Day of Judgment. We are also sustained by God’s grace (1:7b-9).
With God’s grace and favor being our commonality in Jesus Christ (1:10a), Paul appealed to believers in Corinth to live in perfect harmony. He urged, that “there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1:10b). The members of the church in Corinth were far from perfect, having been saved out of a culture that was morally wicked. Idolatry and immorality was a perpetual presence in Corinth, and there were egregious moral failures in the congregation.
A Loving Admonition (1:11-31)
Admonitions concerning conflicts and divisions in the congregation at Corinth concludes the balance of the first chapter. To some degree, petty in nature (as most conflicts are in churches), nevertheless, disagreements and infighting had caused factions in the church (1:11-16). There were warring factions as some identified with, and said, “I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ” (11:11-12). Paul challenged the contentious believers, and asked, “13Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” (1:13) Some boasted who had baptized them, and Paul had made a point of declaring he had baptized the members of only one family, “the household of Stephanas” (1:16).
The apostle declared, the foremost message of the church is the Gospel, Christ crucified (1:17-23). He acknowledged men mock and reject Christ crucified (1:18); however, to the believer, the Gospel “is the power of God” (1:18). What the world calls foolish (1:18), is the means of salvation, for “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1:21). The Jews sought for “a sign,” and the Greeks loved wisdom and to debate their philosophies (1:22), but Paul declared, “we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness” (1:23).
The world decries the preaching of Christ crucified for sin as foolishness, but to believers it is “the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1:24). Yet, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1:25). God does not call the “wise” by the world’s standard; indeed, in the world’s estimation, He has “chosen the foolish things of the world to confound [shame and confuse] the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28And base things [lowly; insignificant] of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are” (1:27-28).
Closing thoughts (1:29-31) – We who are saved have no grounds to boast or glory (1:29). Godly wisdom, righteousness (justification in the sight of God), sanctification (called and set apart to be holy), and redemption (set free from the bondage of sin) is from the Lord “in Christ Jesus” (1:30). Let us glory and boast only in this…”in the Lord” (1:31).
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Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith
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