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Appeal to Unity

Paul, called as an apostle (special messenger, personally chosen representative) of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and our brother [a]Sosthenes,

To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified (set apart, made holy) in Christ Jesus, who are selected and called as saints (God’s people), together with all those who in every place call on and honor the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:

Grace to you and peace [inner calm and spiritual well-being] from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank my God always for you because of the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, so that in everything you were [exceedingly] enriched in Him, in all speech [empowered by the spiritual gifts] and in all knowledge [with insight into the faith]. In this way our testimony about Christ was confirmed and established in you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift [which comes from the Holy Spirit], as you eagerly wait [with confident trust] for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ [when He returns]. And He will also confirm you to the end [keeping you strong and free of any accusation, so that you will be] blameless and beyond reproach in the day [of the return] of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful [He is reliable, trustworthy and ever true to His promise—He can be depended on], and through Him you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

10 But I urge you, believers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in full agreement in what you say, and that there be no divisions or factions among you, but that you be perfectly united in your way of thinking and in your judgment [about matters of the faith]. 11 For I have been informed about you, my brothers and sisters, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are quarrels and factions among you. 12 Now I mean this, that each one of you says, “I am [a disciple] of Paul,” or “I am [a disciple] of Apollos,” or “I am [a disciple] of Cephas (Peter),” or “I am [a disciple] of Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided [into different parts]? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized into the name of Paul? [Certainly not!] 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius,(A) 15 so that no one would say that you were baptized into my name. 16 Now I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know if I baptized anyone else. 17 For Christ did not send me [as an apostle] to baptize, but [commissioned and empowered me] to preach the good news [of salvation]—not with clever and eloquent speech [as an orator], so that the cross of Christ would not be [b]made ineffective [deprived of its saving power].

The Wisdom of God

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness [absurd and illogical] to those who are perishing and spiritually dead [because they reject it], but to us who are being saved [by God’s grace] it is [the manifestation of] the power of God. 19 For it is written and forever remains written,

I will destroy the wisdom of the wise [the philosophy of the philosophers],
And the cleverness of the clever [who do not know Me] I will nullify.”(B)

20 Where is the wise man (philosopher)? Where is the scribe (scholar)? Where is the debater (logician, orator) of this age? Has God not exposed the foolishness of this world’s wisdom? 21 For since the world through all its [earthly] wisdom failed to recognize God, God in His wisdom was well-pleased through the [c]foolishness of the message preached [regarding salvation] to save those who believe [in Christ and welcome Him as Savior]. 22 For Jews demand signs (attesting miracles), and Greeks pursue [worldly] wisdom and philosophy, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, [a message which is] to Jews a stumbling block [that provokes their opposition], and to Gentiles foolishness [just utter nonsense], 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks (Gentiles), Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.(C) 25 [This is] because the foolishness of God [is not foolishness at all and] is wiser than men [far beyond human comprehension], and the weakness of God is stronger than men [far beyond the limits of human effort].

26 Just look at your own calling, believers; not many [of you were considered] wise according to human standards, not many powerful or influential, not many of high and noble birth. 27 But God has selected [for His purpose] the foolish things of the world to shame the wise [revealing their ignorance], and God has selected [for His purpose] the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong [revealing their frailty]. 28 God has selected [for His purpose] the insignificant (base) things of the world, and the things that are despised and treated with contempt, [even] the things that are nothing, so that He might reduce to nothing the things that are, 29 so that no one may [be able to] boast in the presence of God. 30 But it is from Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God [revealing His plan of salvation], and righteousness [making us acceptable to God], and sanctification [making us holy and setting us apart for God], and redemption [providing our ransom from the penalty for sin], 31 so then, as it is written [in Scripture], “He who boasts and glories, let him boast and glory in the Lord.”(D)

Paul’s Reliance upon the Spirit

And when I came to you, brothers and sisters, proclaiming to you the [d]testimony of God [concerning salvation through Christ], I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom [no lofty words of eloquence or of philosophy as a Greek orator might do]; for I made the decision to [e]know nothing [that is, to forego philosophical or theological discussions regarding inconsequential things and opinions while] among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified [and the meaning of His redemptive, substitutionary death and His resurrection]. I came to you in [a state of] weakness and fear and great trembling. And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom [using clever rhetoric], but [they were delivered] in demonstration of the [Holy] Spirit [operating through me] and of [His] power [stirring the minds of the listeners and persuading them], so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom and rhetoric of men, but on the power of God.

Yet we do speak wisdom among those spiritually mature [believers who have teachable hearts and a greater understanding]; but [it is a higher] wisdom not [the wisdom] of this present age nor of the rulers and leaders of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the wisdom once hidden [from man, but now revealed to us by God, that wisdom] which God predestined before the ages to our glory [to lift us into the glory of His presence]. None of the rulers of this age recognized and understood this wisdom; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written [in Scripture],

Things which the eye has not seen and the ear has not heard,
And which have not entered the heart of man,
All that God has prepared for those who love Him [who hold Him in affectionate reverence, who obey Him, and who gratefully recognize the benefits that He has bestowed].”(E)

10 For God has unveiled them and revealed them to us through the [Holy] Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things [diligently], even [sounding and measuring] the [profound] depths of God [the divine counsels and things far beyond human understanding]. 11 For what person knows the thoughts and motives of a man except the man’s spirit within him? So also no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the [Holy] Spirit who is from God, so that we may know and understand the [wonderful] things freely given to us by God. 13 We also speak of these things, not in words taught or supplied by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining and interpreting spiritual thoughts with spiritual words [for those being guided by the Holy Spirit].

14 But the natural [unbelieving] man does not accept the things [the teachings and revelations] of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness [absurd and illogical] to him; and he is incapable of understanding them, because they are spiritually discerned and appreciated, [and he is unqualified to judge spiritual matters]. 15 But the spiritual man [the spiritually mature Christian] judges all things [questions, examines and applies what the Holy Spirit reveals], yet is himself judged by no one [the unbeliever cannot judge and understand the believer’s spiritual nature]. 16 For who has known the mind and purposes of the Lord, so as to instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ [to be guided by His thoughts and purposes].(F)

Foundations for Living

However, brothers and sisters, I could not talk to you as to spiritual people, but [only] as to [f]worldly people [dominated by human nature], mere infants [in the new life] in Christ! I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Even now you are still not ready. You are still [g]worldly [controlled by ordinary impulses, the sinful capacity]. For as long as there is jealousy and strife and discord among you, are you not [h]unspiritual, and are you not walking like ordinary men [unchanged by faith]? For when one of you says, “I am [a disciple] of Paul,” and another, “I am [a disciple] of Apollos,” are you not [proving yourselves unchanged, just] ordinary people?

What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Just servants through whom you believed [in Christ], even as the Lord appointed to each his task. I planted, Apollos watered, but God [all the while] was causing the growth. So neither is the one who plants nor the one who waters anything, but [only] God who causes the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one [in importance and esteem, working toward the same purpose]; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers [His servants working together]; you are God’s cultivated field [His garden, His vineyard], God’s building.(G)

10 According to the [remarkable] grace of God which was given to me [to prepare me for my task], like a skillful master builder I laid a foundation, and now another is building on it. But each one must be careful how he builds on it, 11 for no one can lay a foundation other than the one which is [already] laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 But if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will be clearly shown [for what it is]; for the day [of judgment] will disclose it, because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality and character and worth of each person’s work.(H) 14 If any person’s work which he has built [on this foundation, that is, any outcome of his effort] remains [and survives this test], he will receive a reward. 15 But if any person’s work is burned up [by the test], he will suffer the loss [of his reward]; yet he himself will be saved, but only as [one who has barely escaped] through fire.(I)

16 [i]Do you not know and understand that you [the church] are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells [permanently] in you [collectively and individually]? 17 If anyone destroys the temple of God [corrupting it with false doctrine], God will destroy the destroyer; for the temple of God is holy (sacred), and that is what you are.

18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool [discarding his worldly pretensions and acknowledging his lack of wisdom], so that he may become [truly] wise.(J) 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness (absurdity, stupidity) before God; for it is written [in Scripture], “[He is] The one who catches the wise and clever in their craftiness;”(K) 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the [humanly] wise, that they are useless.”(L) 21 So let no one boast in men [about their wisdom, or of having this or that one as a leader]. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas (Peter) or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things are yours, 23 and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.

Servants of Christ

So then, let us [who minister] be regarded as servants of Christ and stewards (trustees, administrators) of the mysteries of God [that He chooses to reveal]. In this case, moreover, it is required [as essential and demanded] of stewards that one be found faithful and trustworthy. But [as for me personally] it matters very little to me that I may be judged by you or any human court [on this point]; in fact, I do not even judge myself. I am aware of nothing against myself and I feel blameless, but I am not by this acquitted [before God]. It is the Lord who judges me. So do not go on passing judgment before the appointed time, but wait until the Lord comes, for He will both bring to light the [secret] things that are hidden in darkness and disclose the motives of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.

Now I have applied these things [that is, the analogies about factions] to myself and Apollos for your benefit, believers, so that you may learn from us not to go beyond what is written [in Scripture], so that none of you will become arrogant and boast in favor of one [minister or teacher] against the other. For who regards you as superior or what sets you apart as special? What do you have that you did not receive [from another]? And if in fact you received it [from God or someone else], why do you boast as if you had not received it [but had gained it by yourself]?

[You behave as if] you are already filled [with spiritual wisdom and in need of nothing more]. Already you have become rich [in spiritual gifts]! You [in your conceit] have ascended your thrones and become kings without us; and how I wish [that it were true and] that you did reign as kings, so that we might reign with you. For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles at the end of the line, like men sentenced to death [and paraded as prisoners in a procession], because we have become a spectacle to the world [a show in the world’s amphitheater], both to angels and to men. 10 We are [regarded as] fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are highly esteemed, but we are dishonored. 11 To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty; we are continually poorly dressed, and we are roughly treated, and wander homeless. 12 We work [for our living], working hard with our own hands. When we are reviled and verbally abused, we bless. When we are persecuted, we take it patiently and endure. 13 When we are slandered, we try to be conciliatory and answer softly. We have become like the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.

14 I do not write these things to shame you, but to warn and advise you as my beloved children. 15 For even if you were to have ten thousand teachers [to guide you] in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers [who led you to Christ and assumed responsibility for you], for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the good news [of salvation]. 16 So I urge you, be imitators of me [just as a child imitates his father]. 17 For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my way of life in Christ [my conduct and my precepts for godly living], just as I teach everywhere in every church. 18 Now some of you have become arrogant and pretentious, as though I were not coming to see you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord is willing, and I will find out not just the talk of these arrogant people, but [evaluate] their [spiritual] power [whether they live up to their own claims]. 20 For the kingdom of God is not based on talk but on power. 21 Which do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod [of discipline and correction], or with love and a gentle spirit?

Footnotes

  1. 1 Corinthians 1:1 This man may have served as secretary to Paul to record his dictation, and may be the synagogue leader mentioned in Acts 18:17.
  2. 1 Corinthians 1:17 Paul may be referring to the danger that convincing people to become Christians by the use of clever rhetoric would result in false conversions (cf 2:5).
  3. 1 Corinthians 1:21 The straightforward message of salvation seemed foolish to unbelievers.
  4. 1 Corinthians 2:1 One early ms reads mystery.
  5. 1 Corinthians 2:2 In reality, Paul was a highly-trained student of the Old Testament writings, Jewish law, and of logic and rhetoric; and evidently he was conversant in Roman law as well. When preaching the gospel, however, he focused on the message itself and the power of God, and not on rhetorical techniques of persuasion (see vv 4, 5; cf 1:17).
  6. 1 Corinthians 3:1 Lit fleshly.
  7. 1 Corinthians 3:3 Lit fleshly.
  8. 1 Corinthians 3:3 Lit fleshly.
  9. 1 Corinthians 3:16 Paul repeats “Do you not know” nine more times, each time followed by an important truth (cf 5:6; 6:2, 3, 9, 15, 16, 19; 9:13, 24).

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