The introduction to the book (1:1–9)
(Paul’s introduction to First Corinthians, in common with his introduction to many other of his epistles, deals with four things: (1) The writer; (2) the readers; (3) the wish; and (4) the thanksgiving.)
A. HIS IDENTITY—Paul (also called by his Hebrew name, Saul), the apostle to the Gentiles and the author of twelve other New Testament books, is the author of First Corinthians.
B. HIS OFFICE—Paul was one of the thirteen early-church apostles, men chosen, commissioned, empowered, and sent forth by Jesus Christ to found, establish, and extend the church of Jesus Christ here on the earth.
Indirectly, Paul was an apostle because God willed that he be an apostle. Directly, he was an apostle because Christ called him to be an apostle. He was not an apostle because of man’s will or because of man’s calling.
Paul mentions his apostleship to remind the Corinthians that he writes with the full authority of Christ and that his words must be heeded or else dire consequences will result. The many disorders in the Corinthian church called for this assertion of his apostleship.
C. HIS ASSOCIATE—Paul and his associate, “Sosthenes, the brother,” had discussed the subject that Paul is about to write upon and Sosthenes is in full agreement with all that Paul plans to write.
Sosthenes was probably the scribe of Paul who actually wrote First Corinthians.
A. THEY ARE GOD’S CHURCH AT CORINTH—The readers are God’s “ecclesia,” “God’s called-out-from-the-world ones, God’s assembly of professed believers at Corinth.
B. THEY ARE SANCTIFIED IN CHRIST JESUS—They, in their by-faith connection with Jesus Christ, are positionally sanctified, once for all set apart from the world unto God. They are full of faults, yet they are sanctified, positionally sanctified.
C. THEY ARE CALLED TO BE SAINTS—God called them with His effective call to be saints. The moment they accepted this call, they became saints, set-aside-from-the-world-unto-God ones. All Christians, baby Christians, carnal Christians, and spiritual Christians, are saints.
D. THEY ARE NOT ALL OF THEM LIVING IN THE CITY OF CORINTH—Some of them were saints scattered throughout the Province of Achaia. See 2 Cor. 1:2.
Paul writes the first three of the above four things to remind his readers that their state should measure up to their standing.
Paul wishes that sanctifying grace (Greek, “charis”) and experiential peace (Greek, “eirene”) will be given to the readers from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Note: (1) that grace precedes peace (peace is the fruit of grace); (2) that grace and peace come from the Father and the Son (through the Spirit); and (3) that grace and peace are the wish of Paul in all of his epistles (he adds the word “mercy” to grace and peace in “the three Pastoral Epistles,” for pastors are in special need of mercy).
(Paul does not thank God for what the Corinthians have done for God but for what God has done for the Corinthians)
A. PAUL THANKS GOD FOR THE CORINTHIANS’ PAST GIFTS (1:4, 5)
1. God had bestowed the gifts of His grace upon the Corinthians—At the time of the Corinthians’ conversion and during the six years that had passed since their conversion, God had bestowed the gifts of His grace upon the Corinthians, these gifts consisting of the gifts of the Spirit (made up of natural gifts consecrated to God at the time of their conversion and of charismatic gifts bestowed upon them at or after their conversion). These gifts of grace were given “in [not “by,” K.J.V.] Jesus Christ,” that is, in virtue of the Corinthians’ by-faith union with Jesus Christ. As a consequence of the bestowal of these gifts of grace, the formerly impoverished Corinthians had been made to be tremendously rich.
2. God had bestowed two special gifts of His grace upon the Corinthians—He had made them rich “in all utterance and in all knowledge.” God had richly blessed the Corinthians with gifted men, such as Paul and Apollos, who possessed and had communicated the gospel’s truths to the Corinthians, with the result that the Corinthians were rich in their knowledge of God’s word.
B. PAUL THANKS GOD FOR THE CORINTHIANS’ PRESENT STATE (1:6, 7)
1. They are confirmed in “the testimony of Christ”—They are, through the knowledge given to them through the utterances of their gifted leaders, firmly grounded in the gospel, “the testimony of [concerning] Christ.”
2. They fall behind in no gift—In regard to gifted leaders and all the other gifts of grace, they fall short in no respect. They are complete and full.
3. They await the revelation (the coming) of Jesus Christ—The Corinthians, fully equipped and supplied to do Christ’s will in this life, 2 Peter 1:3, awaited Christ’s coming to bring them full salvation and richness of reward.
C. PAUL THANKS GOD FOR THE CORINTHIANS’ FUTURE PROSPECTS (1:8, 9)
1. The Lord Jesus Christ will confirm them unto the end (1:8)—He will keep them in the faith and will maintain their justification until His coming, that they may be blameless (uncondemned) in that day.
2. The faithful God may be trusted to complete His work in them (1:9)—He called the Corinthians into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ. He is trustworthy and reliable and so may be depended upon the finish the work begun in the Corinthians. He justifies and glorifies all those whom He calls, Rom. 8:30.