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We often sign off letters ‘With love’, but what messages do we actually convey in our communications? Paul always starts with something much deeper than pleasantries.

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Bible passage 1 Corinthians 1:1-9

1 Corinthians 1

 1Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,

 2To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours:

 3Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 4I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5For in him you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge— 6because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. 7Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Audio Bible passage

The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).

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Pleasant intro…
Paul’s capacity for seeing the best in people is impressive. He calls the Christians in Corinth ‘saints’, ‘called’ (v 2) and comments on their grace (v 4). He admires their gifts (vs 5,7) and affirms their prospective future (v 8). Notice how he emphasises their call to be holy (v 2).

How on earth can he do this, knowing what he does of them and what he is about to write to them in the rest of this letter?

…tough message
This was certainly a troublesome church – plagued with sexual irregularity, litigiousness, spiritual abuse and division. Was it just to soften them up for what he was about to go on to say? Was he blind? Or given to wishful thinking?

I suspect it was none of these things, but rather that he was able to see Christ, by his Spirit, already at work in their lives – changing their sinful natures and revealing huge potential in their discipleship. Such a positive and God-focused approach to other Christians is a great lesson for us.


How do you think of your Christian friends or the people in your own church? Try looking at them through the lens of what God is already doing in their lives. Then pray for them as you think God sees them.

Robert Willoughby

Introduction to 1 Corinthians 1–7

Corinth in the first century was at once the New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas of the ancient world. The city stood on an isthmus, between two great sea ports. It was full of the types of problems that all sea ports experience and was known for its sexual liberty and immorality. As the mixing bowl of eastern religious ideas and the worship of the Roman-Greek pantheon, vice and religion flourished side by side. So immoral was the old city of Corinth that even by the fourth century BC Aristophanes had coined the term ‘to corinthianise’, meaning to act like a Corinthian and commit fornication1.

In this melting pot of ideas and sin, the Corinthian church was born from Paul’s own ministry (Acts 18). After he left, the pressures of the surrounding culture, together with the insidious words and actions of itinerant false teachers, began to corrupt the developing congregation. Imagine how Paul must have felt!

Some years ago, my family and I arrived in a developing-world town, to find chaos among the group of churches we were coming to serve. A period of war in the nation had left the institutional work in tatters and a number of leaders, missionaries and their children dead. Division and disunity plagued the churches. Yet I saw God moving in wonderful ways among the faithful remnant who were still believing and behaving as Christians should. Paul shows tremendous respect for the people to whom he is writing. Before he exercised the spiritual surgeon’s scalpel, he spoke kindly and warmly to them all. Pray for that ability to see Christ in people and situations to the extent that he did and yet be able to exercise a disciplinary and directive ministry such as he revealed in this amazing letter.

John Stott, The Living Church, IVP, 2007, a masterly book and a compelling vision of church life as it should be
Paul Tripp, Dangerous Calling, IVP, 2012, a book for leaders


1 Gordon D Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, Eerdmans, 1987, p3

Deeper Bible study

‘Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged – take it to the Lord in prayer.’1

Paul greets the Corinthians in a manner built firmly on the Lord Jesus Christ (vs 1–3). His apostleship is in Christ Jesus; his readers are sanctified in Christ; and Christians everywhere are those who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. He knows that the many concerns and issues that will be addressed later in the letter will find an answer only in Christ, so he starts where he intends to go on. When we are carrying weighty concerns about our church or family, we would do well to bring them to Jesus in prayer and obtain from him sufficient grace and peace to go on.

Look at the way Paul addresses those in Corinth whom he knew to be at odds with each other and with him. Some of them despised him, mocking his claim to apostleship. Yet here he sees them in the light of all that they are in Christ, thanking God for them and looking for signs of his gracious working in them, despite their many failings. Knowing what we do now about the world they lived in and knowing that they needed correction and rebuke, we can learn much from Paul’s approach. We may find it hard to deal with those who dislike us or our way of doing things, but with a good dose of God’s grace, we must try to see them as they are in the Lord. Paul can even imagine them and us as ‘blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (v 8). He begins his letter with an insight into the ultimate future of his readers and their current privileged position as those who are in fellowship with God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Paul greets them with warmth, an assurance of Christ’s grace and Paul’s own love2. What a start!

Eric Gaudion


1 Joseph M Scriven, 1855; Copyright in public domain
2 Gordon D Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, Eerdmans, 1987, p840

1 Corinthians overview

The city
Corinth was a major city in ancient Greece. Strategically situated at the end of the narrow strip of land between the Aegean Sea and the Gulf of Corinth, it controlled the shipping routes east and west.

It flourished in classical Greece as a centre of trade, manufacturing, artistic creativity, healing and religion. It had been razed to the ground by the Roman army in 146 BC and lay in ruins for a century until Julius Caesar ordered that it be rebuilt as a Roman colony.

The people
The population at Paul's time would have been a mixture of Roman veterans, other immigrants from Rome, and some Greeks who had stayed. A large number of these would have been slaves or freedmen (slaves who had earned their liberty). Paul states in 1 Corinthians 1:26 that not many members of the church were influential in society, but this implies that at least some of the church were.

An interesting archaeological discovery has been an inscription that reads: ‘Erastus laid this pavement at his own expense.’ Interesting, because Romans 16:23 refers to Erastus as Corinth's director of public works. This is one of many inscriptions in Corinth commemorating those who contributed to the building programme. Civic pride was strong.

Paul’s connection
Paul had spent over a year at Corinth, preaching and teaching, and supporting himself by tent making (see Acts 18:1–17). Eventually he left for Ephesus and Jerusalem. In his absence, Apollos continued his work (see Acts 18:18–28).

At the time of writing 1 Corinthians, word had reached Paul of fighting and divisions in the church. Some were calling themselves followers of Apollos, some of Paul, some of Peter, and some (perhaps regarding themselves as more spiritual?), followers of Christ. The first three chapters of the letter address this problem.

Paul’s message
Paul states forcefully the message of the cross, where God's power comes from human weakness, leaving no room for human pride. There is no place in the Church for gathering around a particular leader. We are all, leaders included, sinners who need to fall before Christ on the same basis: for forgiveness and cleansing.

The Corinthian Christians were proud people. They seemed especially proud of their spirituality, their gifts, and their wisdom. Paul contrasts their proud, competitive, human ‘wisdom’ with true spirituality.

Chapter 3 uses the metaphor of building a temple. As we use our gifts in the Church we are building God's temple, where God's Spirit dwells. We will finally be called to account for the quality of our work. It matters.

Paul’s message is as relevant today as it was then.

Annabel Robinson

Bible in a year

Read the Bible in a year.

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Revelation 3


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  • Rachael Hampton | Sunday, 03 December 2017

    v8 Amp. God is faithful (reliable, trustworthy, and therefore ever true to His promise and therefore He can be depended on); by Him you were called into participation and companionship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Truth to rejoice in. Lord help me to remember this is true for all of us, especially when I see others behaving in ways I don't agree with. Joining in prayer for Carly and baby, husband Dale and yourself Cath.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Monday, 04 December 2017

    v8 'so that you will be blameless....' There is a difference between being blameless and being sinless. None of us Christians will ever reach a place where we don’t sin, but we can reach a place where we are blameless. That happens when we are walking in all the light that we have (1 John 1:7) and confessing any sin that we are aware of (1 John 1:9).

  • Angela Munday | Monday, 04 December 2017

    "All for Christ and Christ for all"; what unity there is when God's spirit is given to those who believe and life is lived in union with God......"You were called to be God's holy people with all people everywhere who pray in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ - their Lord and ours".

  • Cath Howliston | Monday, 04 December 2017

    Thank you all so much for your prayers yesterday. I'm thrilled to announce that finally Carly had a little girl at 9.58 last night, delivered by c section. Mum and baby doing well and poor dad rather shell shocked! She was 6lb 15oz and is beautiful but not decided on a name as yet1

  • Lynda Spencer | Monday, 04 December 2017

    Wonderful news, CATH! I was just praying for CARLY as your post came in. Thanks be to God for this amazing gift of new life. My husband and I were thrilled to be present, yesterday, at our new grandson's dedication service, so we understand a little of how you must be feeling right now. May the Lord bless you all as you love and care for this new special little girl!

  • Jack Russell | Monday, 04 December 2017

    It would be a standard kind of greeting of letters in that time that Paul was using in his introduction. Not unlike MP's address each other as "the honourable member" whether or not their intention is or portray them as being honourable. All the rest is conjecture as to what Paul's intention was in his greeting. No doubt there were issues in the church at Corinth, the wealthy being favoured, knowledge esteemed over love, divorces, sleeping with prostitutes, lawsuits among believers etc. And amidst this, in contract the beautiful chapter 13 about love. Paul faced some difficult, troubling and painful pastoral issues and needed to be the exemplar of love if his rebuking and talk about love was to be done with integrity. It also had to be done truthfully and powerfully if it was to have any transformative influence on the church. Congratulations on the birth Cath. At this time of the year the song "When a child is born" comes to my mind following your comment. Perhaps the song is not dissimilar in it's message to the love Paul convers.

  • Eileen Smith | Monday, 04 December 2017

    So pleased CATH -- thanks be to God. What a joyful occasion for you & your husband LYNDA

  • Ruth Lewis | Monday, 04 December 2017

    I join in with the rest of the WordLive Family in rejoicing to answered prayer, for the safe delivery of Carly's baby girl. Congratulations!!!

  • Rebecca Huie | Monday, 04 December 2017

    Celebrating with you, Cath and Carly and family on your new baby girl! And with you, Lynda, on your grandson’s dedication! There is nothing sweeter than new life at Christmas time. Great joy!

  • Jill Britton | Monday, 04 December 2017

    Praise God Cath for your beautiful granddaughter, how wonderful, we too recently thanked God for answered prayer when our daughter gave birth to her first daughter after seven heart rending IVF years, I always felt convicted that she would have a child after a reading in church about Abraham and Sarah hit me like a thunderbolt. Enjoy your cuddles and hugs. So lovely to hear joyful news. Remembering too the support that Compassion UK provides to newborns and mums in very difficult circumstances. God bless the world wide, Word Live family.

  • Barbara Sabin | Monday, 04 December 2017

    How good to hear of the birth of CATH'S new Grandaughter and CARLY and husbands daughter. A new little lamb for Jesus. God bless you all.

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