1 Corinthians chapter 1 - Welcome to Corinth - JS Gillespie 

What do we hope to achieve with our studies in 1 Corinthians? 

Sometimes we go away from a message and wonder what was the preacher trying to communicate? 

What was the bottom line? 

What was the actual MESSAGE? 

Come to that was there an actual message? 

I wanted to think about where we were trying to go before we set off! 

Fresh – That is a fresh word from the Lord, something more than just a history lesson, something beyond the facts of the past but just to here a fresh voice of God in the present! 

Faithful – That is faithful to the Word of God, expounding the truth of each chapter and at least some of the verses 

Fire of the Spirit – That is to be touched with, to be breathed upon by some of that fresh breathing of the same gracious Holy Spirit of God in the days of Paul at Corinth; to be changed by His power and for us to go away touched, transformed and changed by His Spirit. 

Filled with Christ – to be filled with Christ in our preaching and in our Christian life 

What is fascinating and interesting is this - 

That as Paul comes to Corinth, so such an unpromising field for evangelism, a place of: 

What do we know about Corinth: 

Background and history on Corinth and the church of 1 Corinthians: 

Cosmopolitan – clear from 1 Corinthians and Acts chp 18 that there was a mixture of Jews and Gentiles in the church at Corinth. Acts 18 records the presence of the Jewish Aquila and Priscilla and the conversion of Crispus the chief ruler of the synagogue and Pauls preaching amongst the Gentiles (Acts 18:6). 1 Corinthians contains a number of Greek and Roman names. Many of the issues which arise concern the consequences of idolatry (chp 8) and the background of many of the converts would be more typical of Greek rather than Jewish practices (1Co6:9ff); homosexuality and idolatry. We get a sense of that Cosmopolitan culture even in the first chapter of 1 Corinthians without knowing anything else about Corinth; Crispus (1:14) was a Jew (cf. Acts 18); Gaius (1:14) was a Latin name and Stephanas (1:16) was a Greek name. 

Commercial – at the time of writing Corinth was one of the great trading cities of the Roman Empire, by the 2nd century it would become one of the wealthiest cities in the Roman Empire. Corinth controlled the isthmus of Corinth – a canal connecting the Gulf of Corinth to the Saronic Gulf. A stone track had been built; 'Diolkos' – across which the boats were dragged over. Money it would transpire lay at the root of many of the problems at Corinth: 1 Co6:6ff; 9:7ff – poor support for Paul; 11:20ff. 

Cultured – a city of temples, one Greek writer (Pausanias) recorded the presence of 26 different places of religious worship in the city.  Every taste catered for; Poseidon, Athena, Apollo, the cult of Augustas; Aphrodite. The Jews also had a synagogue at Corinth (Acts 18), and there was a temple to Aesclepius, temple of Aphrodite and the fortifications of Acrocorinth and still today that the remains of Corinth are regarded by Greek archaeologists as amongst their most important cultural sites. 

Corrupt – 'korinthiazo' – verb – to act like a Corinthian, meaning to live an illicit life style. The temple to Asclepius with its votive offerings points to an incredibly immoral life style and a problem with STDs. The temple of Aphrodite on Acrocorinth housed 1000 prostitutes. 

One American commentator suggests that the Corinth we are reading about was a combination of: 

New York – a commercial centre 
San Francisco – a cosmopolitan centre 
Las Vegas – with its moral corruption 

Often we have the privilege of meeting Christians who have triumphed over great ADVERSITY in their lives; through disease, discouragement, disability; Christians racked with pain and disability. 

Often I have seen Christians who have triumphed over ADVERSITY but rarely believers who have triumphed over PROSPERITY. 

Corinth is a case in point. 

When we come to 1 Corinthians, we are not now thinking at believers under PERSECUTION but now we are looking at the scenario of Christians under PROSPERITY and it would appear the outcome is less favourable! 

Prosperity can only give us one thing – more of the world 

Of great encouragement to us that in this kind of a society: 

morally compromised 

That God was able to build His church! 

God called into Corinth and the mighty columns of Corinth began to crumble! What made Corinthian columns crumble? 

It is of great encouragement to us today that we see that in the midst of the decadence of a place like Corinth God can and does do a work! 

A place that was cosmopolitan, cultured, commercial and corrupt is not beyond the power of God to work! 

It was not simply that we had a group of people in Corinth who were fed up with the decadence and itching for something, for anything different. 

It is clear from chapters 5 to 10 that many of them struggled to leave those old sinful practices: idolatry, sexual immorality, adultery and greed. 

Yet God reached in and plucked them out of all of that, in spite of the attractiveness of it! 

The Power of God was seen amongst them (1:6; 2:4-5; 10:20). 

What was that Power like? 

How did Paul make such an impact on Corinth? 

He brought a message that was FRESH 

cf 1 Co 14:23-25 
Supernatural revelation by God of our own personal condition before Him! 
An apostle could stand up and identify the spiritual condition of a man or woman; cf. Acts 8:9 – Simon the sorcerer at Samaria! Acts 8:23 “for I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” This may seem a pretty forthright and offensive and bold comment to make, but if it is actually the condition of our heart before God, known only to us and God when everyone else looking on thinks everything is wonderful between us and the Lord, how unnerving that must have been. 
Cf Ananias and Saphira in Acts 5 
That same power which was exercised by the Lord Himself in His ministry (cf. John chp 4) - “thou hast had 5 husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband.” 

He brought a message that was FAITHFUL to the Word of God 

The Word of God objectively expounded (Acts 18:4) 

Sound, 'reasoned', systematic, consistent (Sabbath by Sabbath), persuasive, exposition of the Word of God 

“And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks” (1Co18:4) 

Reasoned - “and he reasoned” 
Consistent - “every Sabbath” 
Persuasive - “persuaded” 

Acts 18:28 – systematic exposition of the Word of God 

Despite the apostolic gifts and signs Paul does not by-pass / neglect the advice which he gives to Timothy; he takes that advice himself; 

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15) 

Burning with the Fire of the Spirits Power and Presence 

Wisdom (1 Co 12:8) 
word of knowledge (12:8) 
Healing (12:9) 
Prophecy (12:10) 
Tongues (12:10) 

Supernatural healings (2Co 12:12; Acts 8:7) 

Filled with Christ (1 Co 1:23,30,2:2) 

Preaching filled with Christ 

cf. Chp 1:1-10 

v1 – 'apostle of Jesus Christ' 
v2 – 'sanctified in Christ Jesus' 
v2 – 'call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord' 
v3 – 'the Lord Jesus Christ' 
v4 – 'by Jesus Christ' 
v6 – 'the testimony of Christ' 
v7 – 'Lord Jesus Christ' 
v8 – 'Lord Jesus Christ' 
v9 – 'Jesus Christ our Lord' 
v10 – 'our Lord Jesus Christ' 

Guess what he preached on? 

10 X in 10 verses the Person of Christ is presented 

In particular – The Lordship of Christ is emphasised 

6 out of those 10 references refer to the Lordship of Christ 

If any ministry was needed at Corinth this was needed 

Not only the person of Jesus Christ but the Person of Christ applied to my life – The Lordship of Christ 

His Lordship winning over all other: 


His Lordship winning over all other: 

calls – upon me 
commandments – to me 
commitments – for me 

To have Christ not only as RESIDENT 

To have Christ also as PRESIDENT 

If He is not Lord of All 

He is not Lord at All 

What do we mean by Lordship? 

We mean Christ as sovereign and supreme in 4 key areas of my life: 

“But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Co1:30) 

Christ in control of our: 

wisdom – chps 1 to 4 
righteousness – chps 5 to 6 
sanctification – chps 7 to 10 
redemption – chps 10 to 16 

Some see 1 Corinthians as a Church Epistle, full of church truth. 

I am going to try and disuade you of that idea 

1 Corinthians is not primarily a church epistle 

There is undoubtedly much in it that has been very helpful over the years for the church 

The Church section however does not really begin until chapter 10 

The first 9 chapters deal with problems of a far more fundamental nature 

Someone has come in through the front door and walked up the stairs with their muddy wellies on and left dirty foot prints right up the middle of the beige carpet! 

The problem doesn't lie with the carpet however 

The problem lies with the muddy boots! 

Dirt and mud dragged in from Corinth which ought to have been left at the front door. 


Notes from a sermon preached  as part of our systematic bible study series on 1 Corinthians.  

Free audio, mp3 downloads  available above, of these messages as we expound verse by verse through the first epistle of Paul to the Corinthians. 

Yours by Grace in Christ 

Dr J Stewart Gillespie