1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, 2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, 5 for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind -- 6 just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you -- 7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.

8 He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

10 Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. 12 What I mean is that each of you says, "I belong to Paul," or "I belong to Apollos," or "I belong to Cephas," or "I belong to Christ."

13 Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power.  Version: New Revised Standard Version.



  • Introductory matters
    • This letter is called 1 Corinthians, but it is at least Paul's second letter to Corinth (see 5:9).
    • The church was established in Acts 18. Paul ministered there for at least 18 months, beginning around 51 AD.
    • The co-author is Sosthenes. See Acts 18:17 if you are not sure who he is.
    • The letter was written from Ephesus (16:8), Paul's next stop on the Third Missionary Jourmey (Acts 19).
    • The epistle is a response to two information sources:
      • Some of the Corinthians had visited Paul and brought an oral report of the situation (1:11), many aspects of which were concerning. These matters are covered in chapters 1-6.
      • The church had also written a letter to Paul (7:1), bringing up a number of issues. These are covered in chapters 7-16.
  • Two important observations emerge on studying this letter:
    • The church had many problems. Thinking was distorted and much of their behavior was un-Chhristian.
      • The beliefs of many were unorthodox. (E.g., we see in chapter 15 that some were denying the physical resurrection of the body.)
      • There was a significant lack of unity, the first problem the apostle addresses.
    • Nevertheless, Paul considers them to be true Christians.
      • He nowhere suggests that some are false brothers or need to be baptized again. Nor is there any talk of "replanting" the church.
      • He is positive and warm towards these believers throughout the letter (1:2,4ff etc).
      • Yet he does make many strong appeals and challenge them to live a life worthy of their calling.
  • Paul begins with a warm greeting and expression of confidence that they will do the right thing (vv.1-9).
  • He then addresses the key problem: lack of unity (vv.10-17).
    • Being united in the same mind and purpose does not mean that there are no differences of opinion, even on significant issues. Beware those who mistake uniformity for unity!
    • The division in Corinth lay not in that some had different opinions, but that factions were being formed and potential splits threatened the church.
    • Since baptism is how we become part of the church, and some Corinthians were taking too much pride in who had baptized them, Paul downplays this element in conversion. After all, salvation is about the Cross, not about who baptizes you.


  • Corinth was an important city in the ancient world. It had two harbors, providing access to the Aegean and the Adriatic, and obviating any need to sail round the treacherous waters beneath southern Greece. The east-west trade route brought significant income to Corinth, and attracted many residents. One of its theaters sat 20,000 persons -- implying an urban population of over 200,000.
  • For suggestions on how to read the Corinthian correspondence, click here and go to Tip 24.
  • Their "enrichment" in speech and knowledge (v.5) seems to refer to the miraculous spiritual gifts they received from Paul. These strengthened ("confirmed") them in their faith. In contrast, see Romans 1:11; Paul had not yet visited the Romans, as a result of which they lacked quite a few of the miraculous gifts. For more on this, see my book The Spirit.
  • Cephas (v.12) is Aramaic for the Greek Petros, "rock."
  • Verse 17 in no way deprecates baptism.
    • On the contrary, it implicitly contains a high view of baptism as a participation in the crucifixion of Christ.
    • Preaching the gospel is what we are called to do; baptism is only the response to which our listeners are called. We plant and water the seed (see 3:6); God alone brings people to salvation.
    • Because of the Cross (as we will discuss tomorrow) we are unified in Christ.
  • For more on how Christians stayed connected in N.T. times without an ecclesial superstructure, see my Unity in Three Levels.

Thought questions:

  • How accepting am I of other Christians, even when their views and actions do not seem to correspond with the teachings of the Bible? Do I have vision for people to change, and am I patient and willing to give people time and space to grow in their faith?
  • Is my concept of unity a biblical one? (Is it too diffuse, or at the other end of the spectrum, overdefined?)