OVERVIEW:  An appeal for unity (chapter 1); the wisdom of God vs. the wisdom of this world (chapter 2); eternal building vs. temporary building (chapter 3); understanding our stewardship (chapter 4); dealing with unrepentant sin (chapter 5); dealing with conflict in the body (chapter 6).



The city of Corinth was located on one of the most important east-west trade and travel routes in the Roman Empire.  It was a financial center especially noted for commerce, culture, and absolute perverted corruption.  Corinth was also the headquarters for the worship of Venus and for some of the mystery cults from Egypt and Asia.  It was the fourth largest city in the Roman Empire.


The founding of the church at Corinth is detailed in Acts 18:1-17.  The apostle Paul and his missionary team established this church and Paul actually spent a year and half teaching and preaching in this church.  Yet, by the time Paul writes this letter, the church was totally operating in the flesh.  In fact, Paul finds absolutely nothing whatsoever in the entire letter for which to commend them! 


There is NOTHING this church was doing that should be used as a model.  They are messed up on their relationships with each other, their attitude about sin, their teaching about marriage, their liberty in Christ, exercising their spiritual gifts and the resurrection, of all things!  In spite of that fact, there is a whole movement – the Charismatic movement – that bases many of their beliefs and practices on things the Corinthian church had espoused.  We will see that God’s simple and clear instructions to this church are not followed by those proposing to be “filled with the Spirit”.  However, there are bigger problems with this church than their abuse of spiritual gifts.  In fact, God chose to not even address their abuse of spiritual gifts until the end of the Book.  This should raise a red flag when we think about problems in the body of Christ.  I’d rather partner for the cause of Christ with a genuine brother who mistakenly believes tongues are still for today, than to!

 try and partner with a brother that has his “dispensations” right, but his “disposition” wrong, as Vance Havner used to say.


One of the most amazing things to note about this letter, is that as Paul writes under the inspiration of the Spirit of God to address such an incredibly problematic church is how many times God clears off a spot to speak directly to the pastors or elders of the church at Corinth.  We all certainly know that everything rises or falls on leadership, right?  Surely it would be a quick fix to their problems to get the pastors to do what’s right, so the rest of the church could simply follow their lead, wouldn’t it? But do you know how many times Paul actually speaks to the pastors in this letter? ZERO!  Does that mean that pastors do not have a key responsibility in the leadership of the church?  Absolutely not!  It simply reveals that we are all in this thing together.  Make no mistake, a pastor will most certainly give an account to God for how he led God’s people and how he provided oversight of the church (Heb. 13:17).  However, each person will give an account for himself !

at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Rom. 14:12). 


We’re not going to be able pull out the “if my pastor would have just led/taught/preached/visited/prayed or whatever(!) better I would have been different” card.  The lesson of I Corinthians is that a church that is operating in the flesh or in the Spirit, is operating that way because of the members of the body, not just a select few.  We each need to examine and judge our own lives and what we are contributing or not contributing to the body.


The Corinthians had sent some questions to Paul they needed answered.  However, before Paul begins to answer those questions beginning in chapter 7, there were other issues that the Spirit of God knew needed to be dealt with first.  When you think about all the problems this church had, it is interesting that the first four chapters deal with one primary issue – division in the body.  Many things are addressed in these first four chapters, but they ultimately come back to the principle of a united body versus a divided body.  Chapter 1 and verse 10 is the clear statement of God’s will for this church.  It also tells us how this can be accomplished in a local body – “but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”  How do you have the same mind and same judgment?  Note four principles from I Corinthians 1-4:


1. Be a fool for Christ (1:18, 25; 4:9-10)

We’re going to be a fool for something or somebody!  The Corinthians were consumed with not looking foolish to the world and in so doing, became fools.  Are you concerned about what your unsaved friends and family think of you, or are you consumed with knowing      Christ?


2. Trust the wisdom of God (Chapter 2)

The Word of God (that which is spiritual) must be the basis for our decisions and choices in life.


3. Build with eternal materials (Chapter 3)

Are you building your life with things that will withstand the fire of God and last for eternity,   or are you consumed with things that will vanish away?


4. Be a faithful steward (Chapter 4)

The responsibility of a steward is to use the resources he’s been given for the purpose of the owner.  Our Owner has told us to “lay up treasure in heaven” and “not to lay up treasure upon earth”.  Our Owner has put us in trust with a message to proclaim to those who haven’t believed.   Are you being a faithful steward?


Do you see how simple God’s plan is?  If all of us in the local body of believers are consumed with Christ, it’s easy to be of the “same mind and same judgment”.  But when we become concerned about our reputation, our position, our way and everyone else in the body is doing the same, we’re heading for big trouble!  It’s almost as simple as “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh”!


In chapter 5, God deals with this church regarding their lack of dealing with a sinning brother.  Verse 1 reveals that there is a man in the church living in sin, and obviously allowing that sin to rule his life.  In verse 2 God rebukes these believers for not dealing with this issue of sin.  Notice that God’s rebuke is first and foremost, that they did not mourn this sin.  What is our reaction when we see a brother or sister allowing sin to rule their lives?  Do we care?  Do we sense some sort of satisfaction because we kind of thought they were like that?  Do we think “I would never do that”? Or do we have the response God is looking for – mourning (5:2)?  In verses 3-5, God instructs them to remove this man from the fellowship of their church.  The reason for such seemingly harsh treatment however, is so he will be removed from the protection afforded him in the body of Christ, so he will see the importance of repenting, so that God can and will be glorified in his life. !

 In fact, verse 5 says that the flesh may be destroyed, but the spirit will be saved.  In verse 8, God mentions two types of leaven – malice and wickedness.  One is an evil life, and one is an evil attitude.  These are areas in which we must judge ourselves in daily.  God also gives the remedy: sincerity and truth.  You must have both.  Sincerity without truth will do you no good.  Many sincere people live a defeated life.  However, truth without sincerity is not any better.  The Pharisees had truth, but they didn’t have sincerity.  In verses 9-11, God clearly teaches that we are not to separate ourselves physically from this lost world.  We should expect them to live in sin because they are lost, and we must reach them with the gospel!  However, we are not to associate ourselves with believers whose lives are being lived according to the flesh.


Notice also the type of sin God talks about in 5:9-11.  He talks about the ones in which we would easily agree– fornication, drunkenness, idolatry – but He also lists covetousness, extortion, and railing.  God is showing that we may have our list of “bad sins” and “acceptable sins”, but He most certainly does not!  Someone living in the flesh that never does anything immoral but is always talking negatively about people (railing), is just as overtaken in sin as the person in verse 1!  Verses 12-13 teach us that God will judge the lost world, but our responsibility is to reach them. 


One of the most obvious ways to see the division in the body was the way the Corinthian believers took each other to court.  The key principle of chapter 6 is that believers should not take each other to court over civil matters.  If someone believes they have been wronged, they need to allow the church to handle the matter.  Sometimes this may take great faith.  It also may not result in what one party regards as fair.  The larger issue in all these problems is, are we seeking God’s solution or simply relying on our own standard?  May we seek to yield to the Spirit each day, and allow Him to control our thoughts and actions.