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Summary of Paul's First Letter to the Church at Corinth

By H. A. "Buster" Dobbs

I.  Introduction.
    A.  The object of the letter was to cure the divisions in the
        Corinthian church by confronting problems among the
        disciples and correcting them, and by answering questions
        that troubled these believers.
    B.  Greetings (1:1-9).
        1.  Paul, in association with Sosthenes, is the writer (1:1).
        2.  Written to the church of God at Corinth and to all who
            call on the name of the Lord (1:2-3).
        3.  Paul is thankful for the saints at Corinth and remembers
            their acceptance of the gospel and growth in character.
    C.  Paul touches the central theme of the letter when he begs
        and commands the brethren to be free of divisions and be
        perfected in the same mind and judgment (1:10).
    D.  Paul had been informed by some in the family of Chloe that
        the Corinthians were separating themselves into factions
        and giving allegiance to men (1:11-17).
        1.  Division is sinful because it rends Christ (1:13).
            a.  Paul is thankful he baptized only a few of them for
                fear that some might think Paul baptized in his own
                name (1:14-15).
            b.  Paul was not sent to personally baptize, though he 
                taught that baptism is necessary to salvation. The 
                person who does the baptizing is not important
    E.  The nature of the revealed word (1:18-31).
        1.  The haughty reject the humbling influence of the gospel,
            but the poor in spirit gladly receive it as the wisdom and
            power of God, the preaching of which brings salvation
        2.  The wise accept the salvation the gospel produces and
            glory in the Lord (1:26-31).
II.  Problems and Questions.
     A.  Paul first lays a foundation by affirming the authority of 
         the revealed word, rebuking the fleshly attitude of many of 
         the Corinthians, pointing to Jesus as the solution of every
         human problem, and asserting the authoritative position of 
         the apostles in the scheme of redemption (2:1-4:21).
         1.  Paul did not preach the arrogance of human philosophy
         2.  Paul preached a heavenly wisdom revealed to him (2:6-
             a.  Paul's information came from the Holy Spirit (2:13).
             b.  Those who took pride in earthly wisdom rejected
                 the gospel and did not understand it; those who  
                 accepted the superior wisdom from above lived by
                 eternal truth (2:14-16).
         3.  Many of the Corinthians were carnal and therefore
             could not be instructed in right things (3:1-8).
             a.  They followed human philosophy instead of divine
             b.  Their allegiance to men instead of to Jesus
                 demonstrated and proved Paul's point (3:4-5).
             c.  Men are nothing. Christ is all (3:6-8).
         4.  Paul laid a foundation of truth and built upon it by
             converting sinner to Christ (3:10-23).
             a.  Other teachers (Apollos, Cephas, and others) came
                 later and built on Paul's foundation (3:10).
             b.  Christ is the only right foundation (3:11).
             c.  The final test of a teacher's fruit is how it stands
                 the last judgment (3:13).
             d.  If a teacher's converts are burned (lost), the
                 teacher will feel a sense of regret, but will not
                 necessarily be lost himself (3:15). If a teacher's 
                 converts remain faithful, it will please and honor    
                 the teacher (3:14).
         5.  The place of the apostles (4:1-13).
             a.  The apostles were revealers, teachers and keepers of
                 saving truth (4:1-2).
             b.  Some in Corinth condemned Paul, but the apostle
                 was unmoved by their judgment of him (4:3).
             c.  They were attempting to judge things about which 
                 they had no knowledge--hidden and secret things--
                 and Paul observes that all such matters will come to
                 light when Jesus returns and judges the world (4:4-
             d.  Some Corinthian saints were acting as if they were
                 in heaven (4:6-8).
             e.  Paul calls attention to the suffering of the apostles
         6.  Paul makes a passionate plea (4:14-20).
             a.  Paul reminds them they had first heard the gospel
                 from him (4:14-15).
             b.  Paul sent Timothy to teach them (4:17).
             c.  He informs them of his intent to come to Corinth
                 and says he will use whatever power is necessary
                 when he arrives to correct and instruct them (4:17-
     B.  The incestuous offender (5:1-13).
         1.  Fornication among the Corinthians (5:1-2).
         2.  Discipline of the offender (5:3-5).
         3.  Tolerating ungodliness brings total corruption and final 
             destruction (5:6-8).
         4.  The saved are in the world but not of the world (5:7-
     C.  The sin of brothers in the church going to law over matters
         of religious doctrine and morals (6:1-20).
         1.  Saints are to judge the world and angels (6:1-3).
             a.  The judgment of the saints is in the area of Bible
                 teaching. Saints do not judge contracts, and other
                 questions of civil dispute. They are not qualified to
                 do so. On the other hand, the civil magistrate is not
                 competent to judge the teaching and morals of the
                 church because he has no knowledge of Bible
             b.  Saints judge the world and angels by their agreement
                 with what God has revealed in his word and his
                 eventual enforcement of his rules and regulations for
                 spiritual conduct.
         2.  Wise men of spiritual maturity should decide matters of 
             right conduct, worship and teaching within the church
         3.  The decision of spiritual leaders must be accepted
         4.  Paul gives a list of what he has in mind when he speaks
             of brother going to law with brother (6:9-12).
         5.  The human body must be controlled and used to glorify
             God (6:12-20).
             a.  Fornication dishonors God and defames the sinner.
             b.  The physical body of the saint is a temple of the
             c.  The spirit lives in the body of the saint by means of
                 the word of truth, which is to control the conduct of
                 the saved person (6:19-20).
    D.  Paul answers questions about marriage (7:1-40).
        1.  The right and advantage of marriage and the advisability
            of choosing to remain unmarried (7:1-9).
        2.  The marriage agreement is to be honored (7:10-11).
            a.  The wife is not to leave her husband.
            b.  Should her situation become intolerable and she
                must leave to protect herself and her children, she is
                not to remarry.
            c.  She may be reconciled to her husband.
            d.  The husband is not to leave his wife.
        3.  Treatment of unbelieving husband or wife (7:12-20).
            a.  The marriage rule of God applies to both believer
                and unbeliever (7:14).
            b.  The saved person is not to change lawful 
                relationships that existed before salvation (7:18-24).
        4.  Concerning virgins and the question of marriage versus
            not being married (7:25-39)
            a.  It is better in view of persecution not to marry.
            b.  If a person who has a right to marry decides to get
                married, it is not sin.
            c.  If a person who has a right to marry decides not to
                marry, it is better.
        5.  Concerning widows (7:39-40).
            a.  Christian widows have the right to marry provided 
                they marry "only in the Lord,".
    E.  Concerning things sacrificed to idols (8:1-13).
        1.  Some Corinthian disciples were saying that since the
            idols was not being worshipped it is proper to go into
            the idol temple and enjoy the food (8:1-6).
        2.  All disciples do not make this distinction and the
            innocent may misunderstand and think you are
            worshipping the idol (8:7).
        3.  Do not destroy for the sake of a good meal a brother
            for whom Jesus died (8:8-13).
            a.  When Paul says "if eating meat is causing my brother
                to stumble, I will eat no meat while the world
                stands," he is not talking about meat on the dinner
                table, but meat served in idol temples.
    F.  Paul's apostleship (9:1-27).
        1.  Paul's right to receive support from the church (9:1-14).
        2.  Paul's right to refuse support from the church (9:15-17).
            a.  It is God's appointment that "they that proclaim the
                gospel shall live of the gospel" (9:14).
            b.  Using or not using this right is the teacher's choice.
        3.  Paul's reward for all his labor in the church was the
            knowledge of the good being done (9:18-27).
            a.  He elected to sacrifice certain things to which he had
                a right in order to help others (9:20-23).
            b.  He did not do unlawful things in order to please 
                men, nor did he make pleasing men his principle aim
                (Gal. 1:10).
            c.  Paul did control his body and carefully live according
                to the right principles of the gospel (9:27).
    G.  Warnings against idolatry (10:1-33).
        1.  Example of Israel crossing the Red Sea, in the
            wilderness, and entering Canaan (10:1-13).
            a.  Yielding to temptation is wrong (10:10-12).
            b.  God will not allow you to be tempted supernaturally,
                and you therefore by your natural powers can reject
                all temptations that come to you (10:13).
        2.  Idolatry and the table of the Lord (10:14-33).
            a.  Participation in an activity can mean acceptance and
                approval (10:14-22).
            b.  The saint must be careful not to approve evil either
                directly or indirectly.
        3.  The difference between eating meat that had been
            sacrificed to an idol in the idol's temple and in eating the
            same meat in a private home (10:23-33).
            a.  Even if it is granted that eating meat in an idol's
                temple is not wrong within itself, it still may be 
                wrong because it is not expedient (10:23).
            b.  Give no occasion of stumbling (10:32).
    H.  Rules and advice concerning public worship (11:1-14:40).
        1.  Relationship between Jehovah, Jesus, men and women
            a.  Jehovah is the head of Jesus (11:3).
            b.  Man is the head of the woman (11:3).
        2.  It is wrong to bring shame and dishonor to your head
            a.  A woman unveiled in public brings shame upon her
            b.  Her immodesty is so bad that as punishment she
                should be treated like a harlot and have the hair of 
                her head shorn or shaved (11:6).
        3.  Abuses and misuses of the Lord Supper (11:17-34).
            a.  Some Corinthian sisters were disrobing, the
                communion service was turned into a common meal
                and made a festival instead of a time of solemn 
                celebration and self examination.
            b.  They were spiritually sick and dead (11:30).
        4.  Instructions about spiritual gifts (12:1-14:40).
            a.  Spiritual gifts can be understood (12:1).
            b.  False spiritual gifts and idolatry (12:2).
            c.  We can know the deity of Jesus on the basis of what
                the Spirit of God reveals to us (12:3).
            d.  Nine spiritual gifts named (12:4-11).
            e.  The church compared to a body that has many parts,
                but is one body (12:12-26).
            f.  Those possessing spiritual gifts must work together
                for the purpose of the gifts to be realized. All do not
                have spiritual gifts (12:27-31).
            g.  All may show love, which is defined (13:1-8).
            h.  Spiritual gifts will cease when the perfect (complete)
                will of God is revealed (13:9-13).
            i.  Instructions concerning the use and abuse of 
                spiritual gifts (14:1-40). The purpose of the gifts
                was to edify the church (14:1-19). Rules for using
                the spiritual gifts (14:20-33). In the public teaching
                program of the church women are to be silent
                (14:34-36). All things in public worship are
                to be done decently and in order (14:37-40).
        5.  The resurrection of Jesus from the dead (15:1-58).
            a.  Jesus' resurrection proves he is the son of God, and is
                himself God (15:1-11).
            b.  Testimony concerning the resurrection by the
                apostles of Jesus and other first century saints
            c.  The need for resurrection and how it is connected
                with final salvation and the Lordship of Jesus
            d.  Urgent appeal to accept the revelation made through
                apostles and prophets (15:30-34).
            e.  A discussion of how the dead are raised (15:35-58).
III.  Messages, greetings and final blessing (16:1-24).
      A.  Exhortation to give money to the church upon the first
          day of every week (16:1-2).
          1.  In the case of Corinth, some of the money would be
              carried to Judea to relieve the poor (16:3-8).
      B.  Instructions and advise (16:4-14).
      C.  Greetings and salutation (16:15-24).

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