1 Corinthians: Chapter 1 (verses 4-16)

February 27, 2024

by Peter Amsterdam

Having opened his letter to the Corinthians by presenting his credentials—that he was an apostle of Christ Jesus through God’s will—and complimenting the Corinthian believers as being called to be saints alongside all those who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Paul then extends thanksgiving to God for the Corinthian believers.

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus.1

From his long introduction (verses 1–3), Paul moves on to thanking God for those to whom he is writing. His use of always reminds the readers that Paul has an ongoing concern for the Corinthian church. He is likely trying to make it clear that he prays for them every time he prays. Elsewhere in his writings Paul also expresses the depths of his prayers for the churches.2 Because Paul is writing to members of God’s church, it is God who is thanked for the grace He has shown to them. Paul stresses that their gifts come from God and Christ, who are to be thanked for such riches.

because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge.3

These clauses give two reasons for Paul’s thanksgiving. The first is expressed as because of the grace; the second (5a) begins with the word “that,” which can also mean “because.”

God is thanked because this grace was given “in Christ Jesus.” This grace was received as the Corinthian believers were identified with Christ and came to find themselves represented by Him, as part of His community.

Verse 5 further explains the content of the grace. God’s grace meant that they were made rich in every way “in him,” meaning in Christ.

The phrasing “you were enriched” suggests that it happened at a time prior to Paul's letter. It didn’t mean that they were no longer rich, but it may have been a reminder to the Corinthians that the gifts they had did not come to them recently, nor did they come and go depending on their spiritual maturity. Paul speaks of God’s grace as “riches” and “treasure” in various places, and he always expresses thankfulness and amazement at what God does for His people and provides for them “in Christ.” As the Corinthians were tempted to boast about their gifts, Paul pointed them to their source—God—and noted that these gifts are riches of His grace.

This passage also amplifies the nature of the riches Paul was drawing attention to: they were enriched “in all speech” and “in all knowledge.” It’s likely that he was referring to the gifts of “speech” and “knowledge,” spiritual gifts which he mentions later in a positive light (verses 12:8, 14:2–19). These two gifts were prominent in the church and were therefore singled out for mention. Paul’s drawing attention to them at this point in his letter and thanking God for them will remind the Corinthians later that Paul’s problem with their “knowledge” has to do with the way they use the gift and let it function in their community, rather than with the gift itself.

…even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you.4

Paul is speaking to the whole community of believers in Corinth. It was in the confirming of the gospel, the testimony of Christ, that God poured out the riches of His gifts upon them.

so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.5

As part of Paul’s thanksgiving, he is reminding the believers that they were made rich in Christ, which resulted in their not lacking in any “grace-gift.” Paul further qualifies this with a reminder of the age in which Christians live. It’s a time of waiting for Christ’s glorious coming, the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. The gifts were given to help the church live rightly until the time they will see Him “face to face.” Paul wants to remind Christians of the goal ahead of them, and that God guarantees their arrival.

who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.6

God’s grace, which Paul gives thanks for, is that the Corinthians have been called by God, given great riches in Christ, and God will ensure that they will be found “not guilty” on the day of the Lord. At that time, the Corinthian Christians will be guiltless. By God’s grace, through Christ, they will be free of any charge when Christ returns to judge.

The term day of our Lord is drawn from the Old Testament. The prophets spoke about the day of the Lord with apprehension.

“Son of man, prophesy, and say, Thus says the Lord GOD: Wail, ‘Alas for the day!’ For the day is near, the day of the LORD is near; it will be a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations.”7

Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming; it is near, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains a great and powerful people; their like has never been before, nor will be again after them through the years of all generations.8

In this portion of Paul’s letter, he has focused on God’s grace in Christ for the Corinthian Christians. Though they have their faults, Paul thanks God that He has been giving them grace for the present age.

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.9

This final verse of Paul’s thanksgiving section of the letter provides both a summary of his greeting to the Corinthians and a connection to what is to follow. Paul begins by affirming God’s faithfulness. The faithfulness of God is expressed throughout the Old Testament. Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.10 The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.11 We also find the phrase the Holy One of Israel is faithful” in Isaiah 49:7.

God’s people are “called” or “chosen” by Him, and He promises to be faithful to them. Through His prophets, God warns His people of the dangers of sin, but He always does so in faithfulness to His promises.

Paul ends this section by referring to Jesus with a longer title, “Jesus Christ our Lord.” When He returns, judgment will take place, but those who are His will not be found guilty. Christ is the source of grace, and those who are in His covenant community will be recipients of His riches, now and in the future.

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.12

Paul now addresses his first concern. He does so with the authority of an apostle. He expects to be listened to and followed by the Corinthians. However, he also addresses them lovingly, calling them brothers and sisters. Later in the text he asks them to consider him and other leaders as “servants of Christ” (4:1). He appeals to them as my beloved children (4:14) and as their father in Christ (4:15). Even though the matters he addresses are serious ones, we can see his appeal is rooted in his deep love for his “family” in God.

Paul appeals for them to agree, so that there will be no divisions among them. The Corinthians had been quarreling and were divided, which had become a serious matter. However, though they were divided, they were still together as a church. Paul was urging them to agree with one another and to restore fellowship. He wanted there to be harmony and agreement among them. He wanted them to have the same “mind,” the same outlook on things. Having Christ’s mind and following His attention and purpose is what brings true unity.

For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers.13

Paul had spoken of their problems, and here he explains where his knowledge of the quarreling came from. Chloe was probably a believer who lived either in Corinth or Ephesus. We don’t know anything more about her, as this is the only mention of her. However, we can assume that she was a woman of some wealth who had servants she was able to send between Corinth and Ephesus. She may have hosted and cared for a church based in her home. So she likely would have been concerned about matters within the church and therefore covered the expense of sending a delegation to Paul to ask for his advice and assistance. The news that Paul received from Chloe’s people was serious and resulted in his letter to the Corinthians.

What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”14

Paul addresses the issue that the believers are supporting individual church leaders and claiming that they have a relationship with, or support, a particular leader. It seems that groups are identifying themselves by the leader’s name: “of Paul, of Apollos…

Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?15

Normally the response to the question “Is Christ divided?” would be no, but in this instance, the answer would be yes.

Paul continues to focus on the absurdity of these splits. The next two questions, Was Paul crucified for you? and Were you baptized in the name of Paul? both expect the answer “no.” Of course Paul was not crucified for the sins of believers. Of course they were not baptized into Paul’s name. He reminds the Corinthians that the defining event for Christians, and for the existence of the church, was the death of Christ. Throughout his writings Paul elaborates upon the death of Christ “for us.” As Jesus died on the cross, He represented all His people, and in the sacrifice of His life for the sins of His people, He took upon Himself the judgment they deserved. As He was crucified, He alone is the redeemer, the sacrifice, and the head of the church.

Paul clearly states that neither he nor any other church leaders matter. Baptism shows that there is one Lord to follow and indicates to whom Christians belong. Christ alone is king, and all others are His servants. Faith does not rest in human leaders and their wisdom, but in God’s power.

I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius.16

Paul briefly looks back over his time in Corinth as he continues to make the point that human leaders and personalities aren’t what counts. If they were, he might have spent more time focusing on baptizing as many as possible. However, he only baptized a few, including Crispus and Gaius. It’s likely that Crispus is the one mentioned in Acts 18:8 who was a “ruler of the synagogue” and who came to faith with his household. Gaius may be the one mentioned in Romans 16:23, since Paul probably wrote that letter from Corinth. If so, Gaius seems to have been a person of some wealth, as he hosted Paul and the church.

so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name.17

The reason Paul hadn’t baptized anyone other than Crispus and Gaius is likely because from an early time, the apostles and evangelists delegated baptism to the local overseers or leaders in churches. A few verses later, Paul states that his calling is to preach the gospel.

(I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.)18

Paul then remembers that he did baptize the household of Stephanas, but doesn’t remember baptizing others. It may be that the person Paul was dictating the letter to reminded him that he had baptized Stephanas and his household. Later in this letter Paul refers to Stephanas’s household as the “firstfruits of Achaia,” which implies that he and his people or family were among the first converts in the area.

(To be continued.)


Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

1 1 Corinthians 1:4.

2 Philippians 1:4, 9; Colossians 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:11.

3 1 Corinthians 1:4b–5.

4 1 Corinthians 1:6.

5 1 Corinthians 1:7.

6 1 Corinthians 1:8.

7 Ezekiel 30:2–3.

8 Joel 2:1–2.

9 1 Corinthians 1:9.

10 Deuteronomy 7:9.

11 Deuteronomy 32:4. See also Exodus 34:6; Psalm 31:5, 57:3, 69:13, 71:22, 86:15, 89:8, 98:3, 145:13; Zechariah 8:8.

12 1 Corinthians 1:10.

13 1 Corinthians 1:11.

14 1 Corinthians 1:12.

15 1 Corinthians 1:13.

16 1 Corinthians 1:14.

17 1 Corinthians 1:15.

18 1 Corinthians 1:16.