Andrew Worley
Dr. Bandy

Corinthians IRR

Introductory Issues
The authorship of 1 Corinthians has never been disputed. Generally, everyone agrees that
Paul was the one who wrote this letter to the church at Corinth.1
In the salutation of the letter of 1
Corinthians, the Apostle Paul clearly states that he is the one writing. The letter itself shows all
the historical and literary evidence that would suggest that Paul wrote it, and even the most
critical modern scholars consistently accept this letter to be genuinely written by Paul.2 Paul’s
authorship of 1 Corinthians is attested by Clement of Rome, who, in the mid-90s, wrote 1
Clement to the Corinthians. 1 Clement 37:5; 47:1-3; 49:5, gives documentation to the fact that
Paul was the author of 1 Corinthians.3

The dating of the letter of 1 Corinthians is fairly uncertain, with scholars ranging the date
from A.D. 52 to A.D. 57. It is known that 1 Corinthians was written when Paul was at Ephesus,
so based on that we get a good timeframe of when it was written; although, there are more
factors that one can look at try to better date the letter. These factors being: the dating of the edict
of Claudius which testifies to Paul’s visit to Corinth and also dates the proconsulship of Gallio;
the time of Paul’ departure from Corinth and travel to Ephesus; and the length of time that Paul

1 Hawthorne, Gerald F., Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid. Dictionary of Paul and His Letters A Compendium of
Contemporary Biblical Scholarship. S.l.: InterVarsity, 2015. Print., p.175
Ibid., p.175
3 Utley, Bob. Paul’s Letters To A Troubled Church: 1 & 2 Corinthians. 2nd ed. Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons
International, 2002. Web. 6 Apr. 2017., p.2
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stayed in Ephesus.4 The variance of the dating comes from trying place and judge when and how
long these events take place. Based off Acts 18:12-17, which talks about Gallio in office, we can
place Paul’s arrival in Corinth at about A.D. 49-50.5 Paul left Corinth around A.D. 51-52 and
then traveled to Ephesus, where he ministered for two or three years based off Acts 19:10;
20:31.6 Since Paul wrote it during his time at Ephesus, the dating most generally agreed on is
sometime between A.D. 52 and A.D. 55.
The occasion or purpose Paul wrote 1 Corinthians was to respond to questions and issues
that came from the church at Corinth. Some passages that highlight the issues that Paul addresses
are 1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:22; 9:2-5.7
1 Corinthians 1:12 and 3:22 identify the issue of the
Corinthians being divided by whose leadership to follow, like Paul, Apollos, or Peter. 1
Corinthians 9:2-5 identifies the issue of the Corinthians were doubting his apostleship. Most of
the problems and questions that Paul answers can be traced back to the Hellenistic culture that
was prevalent in Corinth, and the key question was over what it meant to be “spiritual”.8 There
are three sources that tell of the problems and issues at Corinth. These sources being: a report
from Chloe’s household (1 Cor 1:11); a personal visit and report from three Corinthian men (1
Cor 16:17); and a letter from church at Corinth that asked questions (1 Cor 7:1, 25; 8:1; 12:1;
16:1, 12). Responses to each of these sources are respective found in 1 Corinthians 1-4, 1
Corinthians 5-6, and 1 Corinthians 7-16.9
The recipients of Paul’s letter were addresses as “the church of God in Corinth” (1 Cor
1:2). This church was founded by Paul on his second missionary journey when he visited Corinth

Ibid., p.2
Ibid., p.2
Ibid., p.2
7 Hawthorne, Dictionary of Paul and His Letters., p.177
Ibid., p.174
9 Utley, Paul’s Letters To A Troubled Church., p3
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around A.D. 50. The church itself was made up of mostly Gentiles, and it is to be noted that the
population of Corinth was very racially and culturally mixed. The letter seems to point out a
couple of different types of people in the church: Greeks who very proud of philosophical
traditions; elite Romans; Gentiles who had been attending the synagogue; and converted slaves.10
The church at Corinthians had received their gospel from Paul, but conflict and questions
concerning the gospel soon arose after Paul left. These conflicts and problems came about
mostly because of the Hellenistic culture of Corinth that had pervaded the minds of the
Christians at there.
Interpretive Summary
Paul’s letter to the Corinthians can be split up into five different sections: his introduction
(1 Cor 1:1-9); conditions reported to Paul and his response (1 Cor 1:10-4:21); questions asked of
Paul and his response (1 Cor 7:1-16:12); and his conclusion (1 Cor 16:13-24).11 The structure of
his letter is very similar to the rest of his letters. The main theme throughout Corinthians is what
it means to be and live unified in the Spirit. The word for spirit is used fourteen times in this
letter, compared to only being used four other times in his other letters.12 The reason Paul
stresses this idea of being unified in the Spirit is because of all the division and ambiguous
beliefs that Hellenistic thinking caused.
1 Corinthians starts off with Paul’s salutation to the church at Corinth. This type
salutation is typical of ancient letters, and it identifies who is writing and who the recipients are,
along with a short greeting.13 In 1 Corinthians 1:1-3, he first introduces himself and a fellow

10 Ibid., p.3
11 Constable, Thomas. Notes On 1 Corinthians. 2nd ed. Sonic Light, 2017. Web. 7 Apr. 2017., p.6
12 Hawthorne, Dictionary of Paul and His Letters., p.174
13 Ibid., p.164
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brother, and then identifies that he is writing to the church at Corinth. In the rest of the
introduction, 1 Corinthians 1:4-9, Paul gives his thanksgiving for the Corinthians as he normally
does in his epistles.
At his point in the letter, Paul starts to address conditions and issues that were hurting and
dividing the church at Corinth. Paul does this from 1 Corinthians 1:10 to 6:20. After the
introduction, Paul leads into a strong exhortation to the unity among believers. The first major
problem that Paul addresses is the division in the church of Corinth, which were causing it to be
fragmented. 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 is where Paul presents the problem of following different
Christian leaders as if one was better than another one. The Corinthians could not see that
Hellenistic thinking had crept into their minds, and they failed to realize the important issues of
ministry that they traded for superficial matters.14 In 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5, Paul points out that
the gospel is not simply human wisdom, but it is the message of Christ, which does not appeal to
human wisdom. He also says that the world would think that anyone who follows this gospel is
foolish. He even says that his own preaching was not very impressive, but yet it is powerful. He
says all this to tell the Corinthians that elegant speech does not exactly mean someone wise. Paul
goes on in 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 to talk about the Holy Spirit and its ministry of revealing the
wisdom of God. He does this to help the Corinthians understand that their way of thinking needs
to change. Instead of pursuing wisdom, they should let the Holy Spirit enlighten them to God’s
wisdom.15 In Corinthians 3:1-4, Paul tells them they had not being looking at life through a
spiritual lens, and Paul calls them to change that. 1 Corinthians 3:5-17 explains the role of
leaders, like Paul himself, and how the Corinthians should view him and his fellow servants of

14 Constable, Notes On 1 Corinthians., p.22
15 Ibid., p.33
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Christ correctly.
In 1 Corinthians 3:18-25, Paul starts to combine his arguments together. If the
Corinthians kept looking at different leaders through a Hellenistic lens, then Paul would call
them “fools” (1 Cor 3:18). Rather than boasting about belonging to human leaders, Paul stresses
that they should boast about belonging to Christ. 1 Corinthians 4 deals with; Christians judging
and being judged (1 Cor 4:1-5); a contrast of boasting Corinthians and apostles (1 Cor 4:6-13);
Paul’s authority and plans with regards to his opponents’ charges (1 Cor 4:14-21).17 Paul
continues to address the reports brought to him in 1 Corinthians 5-6, in this case the lack of
discipline in the church. In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul is dealing with incest in the church. It is clear
that the crisis of authority in the church resulted in lack of discipline in the church.18 Paul goes
on in 1 Corinthians 6:1-11 to talk about lawsuits in the church. He states that they should not go
to a judge outside the church to solve the issue, but that they should be disciplined enough to
resolve it themselves. The last issue that was reported to Paul is addressed in 1 Corinthians 6:12-
20, which is the issue of sexual immorality in the church.
Paul then shifts his epistle to address the matters that the Corinthians send to him in a
letter. These questions are answered by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:1-16:12, which is basically the
remainder of his epistle except for his conclusion. The first thing addressed was that of marriage
and other related matter in 1 Corinthians 7, and the theme Paul lays out is this idea of “stay as
you are”.
19 Paul gives advice to the married or previously married in 1 Corinthians 7:1-16. He
then lays out some basic principles and reasons for them to continue to live as they are in regards
to their marital status. The last but of the chapter, 1 Corinthians 7:25-40, Paul give advice
concerning the unmarried.

16 Ibid., p.42
17 Utley, Paul’s Letters To A Troubled Church., p.67
18 Constable, Notes On 1 Corinthians., p.61
19 Utley, Paul’s Letters To A Troubled Church., p.101
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Paul then goes to address food sacrificed to idols in 1 Corinthians 8:1-11:1. In all of 1
Corinthians 8, Paul is trying to persuade them that acting in love is more important than acting in
knowledge in of Christian conduct. He has the knowledge that eating meat sacrificed to idols is
not wrong, but instead of eating it, he does not out of love to prevent others from sinning. In
continuation with the discussion of eating sacrificed food, Paul goes on makes a defense of his
apostleship in 1 Corinthians 9. He does this as an illustration to show the proper attitude toward
another’s freedom in Christ.20 Paul continues in 1 Corinthians 10:1-22 and addresses the
sinfulness of idolatry, and he warns against participating in pagan rituals. 1 Corinthians 10:23-
11:1 continues with the same issue, but specifically addresses food that had been sacrificed to
idols being sold in the marketplace. He once again affirms that eating this food is not sinful, but
that they should stray from eating it if their conscience or another’s conscience is troubled by
Then Paul goes on to address the Corinthians’ questions concerning propriety in worship
which he talks about in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. He addresses the issue of covering one’s head in
church is these verses, and he argues about this in three different ways: a argument from culture
(1 Cor 11:2-6); a argument from creation (1 Cor 11:7-12); a argument from propriety (1 Cor
11:13-16).22 The next question is about the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. Paul
identifies how the Corinthians had been abusing the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:17-26,
and in 1 Corinthians 11:27-34, he gives corrections to the Corinthians.
In 1 Corinthians 12-14, Paul shifts the focus from outward worship to talk about inward
issues of spiritual gifts in the church. This issue gets the most attention by Paul in regards to

20 Constable, Notes On 1 Corinthians., p.114
21 Ibid., p.131
22 Ibid., p.5
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amount of writing he did on it.23 From 1 Corinthians 12:1 to 12:31, Paul writes about the
spiritual gifts and the need for all varieties of spiritual gifts to fulfil the work of Christ. Paul then
gets into this discussion on love in 1 Corinthians 13, and he tells them that having love surpasses
all spiritual gifts. Paul tells that without love all works mean nothing (1 Cor 13:3). 1 Corinthians
14:1-25 tells for the need for intelligibility in worship. Paul argues that speaking in tongues
means nothing unless someone can interpret it, if not, then there is no use for it in the church. In
the rest of the chapter, 1 Corinthians 14:26-40, Paul gives some structure and advice on the order
in worship at the Church at Corinth.
Paul goes on in 1 Corinthians 15 to give understanding to the resurrection of Christ, in
order to help mature the Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, Paul shows them that the gospel
is based on Christ’s resurrection. He goes on in 1 Corinthians 15:12-34 to give some basic
doctrine that the resurrection of believers is same as the resurrection of Christ.24 Then Paul
answers questions about the resurrected body in 1 Corinthians 15:35-49. Lastly, Paul gives
assurance of victory over death to the believers at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 15:50-58, which is
essentially the climax of his discussion of the resurrection.
The last chapter, 1 Corinthians 16, is basically two parts. The first part is Paul addressing
the Corinthians about the collection for the Jerusalem believers in 1 Corinthians 16:1-12. He
talks about the arrangement for the collection in 1 Corinthians 16:1-4. Then, in 1 Corinthians
16:5-12, Paul talks of his travel plans and other apostles’ to possibly return to Corinth. The
second part, 1 Corinthians 16:13-24, is Paul’s conclusion. In 1 Corinthians 13-18, Paul gives his
final exhortations to the church at Corinth, which stands as a summary exhortation for the whole

23 Ibid., pp.157-158
24 Utley, Paul’s Letters To A Troubled Church., p.207
25 Constable, Notes On 1 Corinthians., p.222
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letter.26 Lastly, in 1 Corinthians 16:19-24, Paul gives his final greetings and benediction, in
which he calls them to love the Lord, to end his epistle.
Sample Exegesis
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is in the section of Paul’s letter addressing the use of spiritual gifts.
Paul is making his case that without love works and spiritual gifts are basically worthless. In
these verses Paul points of the qualities of love that make it so important.27 Paul starts in 1
Corinthians 13:4 his description of love. He calls it “patient” and “kind”. Like, love, these are
aspects of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22).28 Patience is a passive characteristic of love, and
kindness implies an active characteristic. Both characterize “God, Christ, and true Christian
behavior”.29 These traits of love are being contrasted with the Corinthians use of spiritual gifts in
1 Corinthians 13:1-3, and they reveal that the Corinthians were “impatient, discontented,
envious, inflated, selfish, indecorous, unmindful of the feelings or interests of others., suspicious,
resentful, censorious” in their use of spiritual gifts.30 After giving two positive aspects of love,
Paul lists of seven different aspect that love is not.31 This list includes how love: does not envy;
does not boast; is not proud; does not dishonor others; is not self-seeking; is not easily angered;
and keeps no record of wrongs (1 Cor 13:4-5). All of these aspects of what love is not were being
demonstrated by the Corinthians, so it is clear that Paul is directly confronting them in these
verses. From 1 Corinthians 14:4-5, we can tell that: love does not plan or devise evil; love can do

26 Ibid., p.230
27 Ibid., p.177
28 Ibid., p.178
29 Ibid., p.178
30 Hodge, Charles. An Exposition Of 1 Corinthians. 1st ed. Albany, OR: AGES Software, 2017. Web. 7 Apr. 2017.,
31 Constable, Notes On 1 Corinthians., p.178
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no evil; and love is not resentful but forgiving.32 Paul goes on in 1 Corinthians 13:6 to describe
two more aspects of love. He writes that love takes no delight in evil, but that it takes delight in
what is good and true. “Love rejoices together with the truth” seems to be the theme Paul is
going for here, trying to sympathize love with the gospel and spiritual gifts.33 Christian love does
not hide the truth of the gospel, but rather it boldly shares it even in the face of opposition.34 The
last verse, 1 Corinthians 13:7, lists out four more things that love is and does. He states that love
always protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres. Love puts up with everything and does not shame
those who have messed up. Love trusts and believes others, giving them the benefit of the doubt.
Love is hopeful in others that they have a chance and not just subject to failure. Love endures all
things and is not overwhelmed, but it perseveres through difficult times.35 Paul gives the
Corinthians this description of love to make his point that love should rule over their actions. We
see these characteristics of love most clearly in God and Christ, and they should be the example
that the Corinthians and all Christians follow.
Concluding Thoughts
Paul’s letter to the Corinthians reminded me just how important it is to live in unity with
fellow believers. The disunity in the church of Corinthian concerned Paul greatly as you can tell
in 1 Corinthians 1-4. He also hinted at the reasons why they were not unified, and it was partly
the leaders’ at the church in Corinth fault. Since I am planning on being a leader in the church
one day, I know that I must try to help unify the church that I am in. This letter challenges me to
try to live more surrendered to the Spirit, which unifies believers. I also am challenged to love

32 Hodge, An Exposition Of 1 Corinthians., p.292
33 Ibid., p.293
34 Constable, Notes On 1 Corinthians., p.179
35 Ibid., pp.179-180
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more. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13:1-7, shares that acts without love do not mean anything. I also
enjoyed being reminded in 1 Corinthians 12:14-31 that different people have different spiritual
gifts, but that we are all needed to carry out the work of Christ. Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians
7 for keeping the same marital status was somewhat interesting. However, I do realize that this
probably more of a pastoral prescription for the Corinthians’ issues rather something that all
Christians should follow. Overall, I generally enjoyed working through 1 Corinthians, and I was
reminded of some good things and noticed other things that I previously skipped over.


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