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New Testament Survey
Lesson Eight

I Corinthians

Corinth was an important commercial centre of about 600,000 people. It was a Grecian city noted as a sports centre, (1 Cor. 9:24-27).  The place was filled with immorality, and there was a large temple erected in honour of Aphrodite the goddess of beauty. In connection with this temple there were about 1,000 prostitutes.  The Corinthians were greatly tempted to be lax in their morals, (1 Cor.5:1-2).

Acts 18:1-8 records Paul's work at Corinth during his second missionary journey.  He spent about one and half years there, (Acts 18:1-18).  Many turned to the Lord during his time there.

1. First Corinthians contains 17 Chapters, with 437 verses.

2. Paul is recognized as the author of the book, this has never been seriously questioned.  

3. The generally accepted date for the writing of 1 Corinthians is A.D. 55.

4. The book was written during the latter part of Paul's three year ministry in Ephesus (Acts 20:31).  

5. Paul had first visited Corinth during his second missionary journey.  Many were converted.  He moved on to Ephesus, Jerusalem and Antioch.  An Alexandrian Jew named Apollos came to Corinth.  He was an eloquent speaker and the immature believers  were over-impressed with his eloquence.  They divided into parties on the basis of who was the greatest preacher among the apostles and preachers.   Each party had a loyalty to its chosen person.  Paul saw this as dangerous and wrote to bring correction in the matter.

6. There were disorders and immoral behaviour in the church.  Paul wrote to correct these and bring order into the church.  He also dealt with doctrinal issues, especially those about which they had written to him.


1 Corinthians deals with proper Christian conduct in the church and world.


Christ is seen as the great foundation of the church.  He is the Unifier, the great sacrifice, the resurrected One, and the Coming Lord.

Key Words

The key words of the book are Christ, Spirit and wisdom.

Key Verse

1 Cor.10:12-14 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.  (13) There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able: but will with the temptation  also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (14) Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee idolatry.


1. It was written to rebuke them for their party spirit and to establish the proper attitude toward those who minister the gospel.

2. Paul used the occasion to rebuke the church for their lack of discipline in the matter of incest.

3. Paul reprimanded them for going to law over matters.  These should have been settled within the fellowship of believers.

4. They had written to him regarding certain matters such as marriage and divorce, and the eating of food sacrificed to idols, so he instructs them in this Epistle.

5. He wrote to speak of proper decorum in the church, and give instruction regarding the public deportment of certain woman.

6. Spiritual gifts had been abused so he corrects this misuse.

7. He also wrote to correct their misunderstanding regarding the return of Christ and the resurrection.

8. They were reminded in this letter of their obligation and privilege to participate in the offering for the poor saints at Jerusalem.

9. Paul also wrote the letter to inform them of his future plans.

10. He used the opportunity to introduce and recommend certain of his fellow workers to them.


Events and Characters

1. There was disunity in the church as they divided over the various leaders and preachers they had come to love.  Paul rebukes them for their carnality.  They are reminded that it is not human wisdom, but the power of the Holy Spirit that makes the Word effective.  Strife and division is childish and carnal. It is Christ that is the foundation - the rest are servants.  All those in Christ are the temple of the Holy Spirit; therefore, we must be holy.

2. Faithfulness is required in those who serve Him.  Differences in ministry are to be respected because it is God who has enabled each one to fulfil his purpose.  The apostles may be spectacles to the world, but they are fathers to the believers.

3. The generally accepted date for the writing of 1 Corinthians is A.D. 55.

3. Sin must be dealt with when it is in the church.  God will judge the world, but the church is to judge those in it's ranks who persist in sin.  Even in the matter of going to law, the church should deal with these matters internally and not before unbelievers.  It is better to be defrauded then to expose the weakness of a brother to the world. Sexual sin, in particular, defiles the temple of God and since we are bought with a price, our bodies belong to God and are not for fornication.

4. Marriage is important, it is a factor in resisting fornication, which some because of their nature find that difficult to do.  Single people can better dedicate themselves to the service of the Lord, but marriage is good.  Even when married to an unbeliever, the Christian is expected to live with that one as long as they will accept their spouse.  On the matter of meats offered to idols we know the idol is nothing, but not everybody understands this.  Therefore, we must be careful not to offend a brother over non-essential issues.

5. As an apostle Paul is free to marry and to please himself.  He has even gone to war at his own expense which is something that is not generally done.  It is the responsibility of the church members to be generous with those who minister the Word to them so the ministers are not hindered in their work.  One who preaches the gospel should live of the gospel, although Paul acknowledges he has not done this. He feels a constraint to preach.  He keeps his body in subjection that he may win the eternal prize.

6. The things that happened to Old Testament Israel are examples to us.  They had every opportunity, but they fell into various gross sins.  They serve as warnings to us. We may be tempted but God gives us the ability to bear up under it.  We come into covering through God's order.  The eating of the Lord's supper is not to be a wanton feast, but is to be done recognizing the importance of what is happening.  He has given to each person spiritual gifts so that the body can function in unity and each can be ministered to according to his need and minister according to his ability.   The basis of all ministry is love.  Without love there is emptiness and hypocrisy. The misuse of the gifts brings confusion, but used properly even the ungodly will recognize the Spirit of God is among His people.  Therefore, there must be restriction and guidelines for the proper use of gifts.

7. The essence of the gospel is that Christ died, was buried and rose again. He died for our sins. His resurrection was witnessed by many. Therefore those who deny the resurrection of the dead make the Christian faith vain for if there is no resurrection Christ did not rise from the dead so Christians are without hope.  Christ did rise from the dead so when He comes again we will be raised in immortality.  It will be quick - in a moment - and we will be given a new body.  A body that will bear the image of the heavenly.  This breaks the sting and victory of death over the Christian.  The Epistle winds up with instructions on their responsibility to relieve the poverty of fellow Christians in worse condition than they are.

Lessons to Remember

1. Division over personalities is childish and carnal, even if we make our claim to Christ a point of division.

2. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and we should treat them as such.

3. One who is called to minister is a steward with a great responsibility and therefore must be faithful.

4. The church must take action to purge sin from it's ranks.

5. Using the law courts for matters that should be settled within the church fellowship brings disrepute to the name of Christ.

6. Marriage is proper and important but one can serve God, even more effectively when they are single.

7. We should take care that in disputable matters of conduct we do not offend a weaker brother.

8. There is to be proper decorum in the house of God, which gives due respect to the Lord.

9. Spiritual gifts are to be used in love and to build up the body, and be an influence to the ungodly.

10. We have a great hope in the coming of Christ and the resurrection, which sustains in the hour of sorrow.

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I  Salutation     1  -  1:9

II  Reply to Report from House of Chloe     1:10  -  6:20
    A.  Party Strife     1:10  -  3:23
    B.  Defence of Paul's Ministry     4:1  -  21
    C.  Criticism of Immorality     5:1  -  13
    D.  Criticism of Lawsuits     6:1  -  11
    E.  Reply to Libertinism     6:12  -  20

III  Reply to Question in Letter      7:1  -  16:9

    A.  Marriage     7:1  -  24
    B.  Virgins     7:25  -  40
    C.  Things Sacrificed to Idols     8:1  -  11:1
        1. Evaluated by the Idol     8:1  -  13
        2. Evaluated by Freedom     9:1  -  27
        3. Evaluated by Relation to God     10:1  -  22
        4. Evaluated by Relation to Others    10:23 - 11:1
    D. Problems of Worship    11:2  -  34
        1. The Covering of the Head    11:2  -  16
        2. The Lord's Table    11:17  -  34
    E. Spiritual Gifts    12:1  -  14:40
    F. The Resurrection of the Body    15:1  -  58
    G.  The Collection    16:1  -  9

IV  Concluding Salutations    16:10  -  24  

Outline (Alternative)

I  Correction     1  -  6

    A.  Contention     1  -  4
    B.  Fornication     5
    C.  Litigation     6

II  Instruction     7  -  16

    A.  Marriage Problems     7
    B.  Meats Offered to Idols     8  -  10
    C.  Meetings - Proper Conduct    11
    D.  Manifold Gifts    12  -  14
    E.  Mystery - Of Resurrection and Change     15
    F.  Material Assistance For Needy in Judea     16

Feed Yourself Students:

Before the next lesson arrives do the following:

1.  Read through the Book Of 2 Corinthians two or three times.

2.  Discover and analyze what you think is the Key Verse of 2 Corinithians.

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