Problems of the Church of Corinth


Paul mentioned as the first problem in the Church of Corinth, “there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.” (1:11-12) Paul’s response to their division is: “that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” (1:10)

Why do they have divisions? The answer is that the Corinthians boast man’s wisdom and take pride in their own divisions in the church. Paul used a great deal of coverage (1:13-2:13) to talk about the wisdom of God and the wisdom of man.

God’s wisdom

What is God’s wisdom? God’s wisdom is manifested in the cross of Christ. That’s why Paul claims he only preaches “the cross of Christ” (1:17) and “him crucified” (2:2). This is the gospel that God uses to “save them that believe.” (1:21) Although it is considered foolish that men are saved by believing the gospel, God is pleased to use this “foolish” method to grant eternal life. God’s wisdom is displayed in the gospel. It also fulfills what God has pronounced, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”  (1:19) Throughout the Bible, it reveals the truth that God dislikes the proud and the arrogant since they boast of man’s wisdom.

God’s power

The gospel not only reveals God’s wisdom, it also reveals God’s power. Paul says, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (1:18) Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the demonstration of God’s power (2:4) and mighty act. Therefore, to the believers, “Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” (1:24) Ironically, “God hath chosen foolish things of the world to confound (NRSV, 'shame') the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” (1:27) Why? God prefers to choose “things which are despised” (1:28) to bring the proud and the mighty to shame. The end purpose is for the humble to glorify God. “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” (1:31)

The Gospel Manifests the Presence of the Holy Spirit

Paul said that when he preached the gospel to the Corinthians, he was “declaring unto you the testimony of God.” (2:1) His preaching of the gospel was not only a demonstration of God’s power, but also a demonstration of the presence of the Holy Spirit. (2:4) Why? The gospel is the “hidden” wisdom, “the wisdom of God in a mystery”
“which God ordained before the world” (2:7). And this mystery is something that “God hath prepared for them that love him.” (2:9) How do we know the mystery? Paul continued, “God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit.”  (2:10) Only the Spirit searches and knows “the deep things of God” (2:10-11). After “we have received” “the spirit which is of God”, “we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” (2:12) When Paul speaks of the gospel, he is speaking of God’s wisdom, “not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth.” (2:13)

Who is foolish?

Those that reject the gospel are foolish. Their end result is “perish” (1:18). Their wisdom will be destroyed by God (1:19). Their wisdom is made foolish by God (1:20) as they have no way of knowing God and salvation (1:21). They take the wrong way of seeking after God (1:22). They are confounded (brought to shame) (1:27) and brought to nothing (1:28, 2:6). To God, they are foolish. (2:14, 3:19)

How about the Corinthians, wise or foolish?

They are considered carnal, not spiritual. (“Carnal” is mentioned 4 times in 3:1-4.) They are at most “babes in Christ” (3:1).

Who is more superior: Apollos, Cephas, Paul, Christ?

Paul compares the church to the plant. The apostles are God’s servants, doing the planting and watering. It is God who makes the plant grow. (3:7)

Paul also compares the church to a building. The apostles are the builders. Christ is the foundation. (3:11)

Paul further defines the church as “the temple of God,” in which the Holy Spirit dwells (3:16). He warns the so-called “wise” to be foolish before God (3:18) and do not boast or glory in men or any of the apostles (3:21-22) but glory in Christ only (3:23).

What is the status of Paul and the apostles in the church?

They are “stewards” of the “mysteries” of God. (4:1) Their obligation is to be “faithful” (4:2). On the other hand, they are not to be judged by the church. (4:3,5) Their work is to be judged by the Lord. (4:4-5)

Paul’s warning for the Corinthians

Paul called the Corinthians “not to think of men above that which is written” (take pride in any apostle) and not to be “puffed up for one against another”. (4:6) (“Puffed up” is mentioned 3 times—4:6,18,19). By so doing, they are setting themselves even above the apostles. Paul admits “God hath set forth us the apostles last” (4:9). They (the apostles) become the “fools for Christ’s sake.” (4:10)

Though the Corinthians claim themselves full, rich and wise (4:8,10), they should confess the fact that everything they possess is given by God (4:7). They should be “followers” of Paul and learn from Timothy. (4:16-17) Paul will be coming “with a rod” or in “meekness”. (4:21)