The Epistles Analyzed: 1 Corinthians

The Author

Paul wrote this epistle from Ephesus (Acts 19) during his missionary journey there (1Cor 16:8). This would have been about 2-3 years after the formation of the assembly. Paul came to Corinth during his second missionary journey and stayed there for 18 months (Acts 18:1-18). While there, Priscilla and Aquila came to Corinth from Rome. Read Acts 18 to get a flavor of the atmosphere then present.

The Audience

Corinth was rebuilt by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. after its destruction years earlier. Corinthians, citizens of Achaia, were known at one time for their evil and immoral ways. Corinth was an important Roman colony and the capital of Achaia. It was known for its materialism and prosperity, being a key city and commercial center. Immorality linked with the idols’ temple was renown.

The assembly was comprised of both Jews and Gentiles, although the latter may have been in the greater number (see expressions such as “carried away unto these dumb idols” 1 Cor 12:2).

The society in which they were found was:

Morally – decadent

Socially – likely among the poor (ch 1:26-29)

Religiously – idolaters

Politically – Roman citizens

The Aim of the Epistle

It has rightly been called the Charter of the Church. We learn church order from the many things which Paul corrected at Corinth. In this manner, God overruled the error of the assembly to give us teaching concerning proper assembly order.

It is the epistle of four reports and four replies. There were questions which the church addressed to Paul. In answering, he took the opportunity to also take up reports which had reached him concerning the assembly.

Reports he addressed:

Report of Division (ch 1)

Report of Defilement (ch 5)

Report of Disputation (ch 6)

Report of Disorder (ch 11)

Replies to their questions (Now concerning … )

ch 7 – Marriage ch 12 – Ministry

ch 8 – Meats ch 16 – Money

An Accent on Words – Trace the recurrence of words and phrases

“Know ye not” 10x – A rebuke to a people who were puffed up with knowledge. The stress is on their lack of consistency in light of the knowledge they professed.

“Among you” 11x – Trace this to find all the issues with which Paul was concerned

“Shame” (different words in original) 6x

“Judge” (with its cognate forms) 40x

“Boast” (translated “glory” at times)


“Submission” and “Subjection”

“Love” 16x

“The churches of God” 5x

Arrangement of the Epistle

ch 1:1-10 Divine Blueprint – Introduction

ch 1:10-ch 4 Division and its Inconsistency

ch 5 Defilement through Immorality

ch 6 Disputation and its Impropriety

ch 7-9 Devotion and Individual Decisions

ch 10-14 Disorders and their Incomparability

ch 15 Doctrine and its Implications

ch 16 Duty and its Implementation

Outline ascribed to Wm. Rodgers:

ch 1-6 Things that were wrong which need to be made right

ch 7-9 Things that were neither right nor wrong

ch 10-16 Right things being done in a wrong manner

Approach to Study – Here are themes which can be traced:

Paul as a pattern

The Lord’s coming

The Cross and its influence on their behavior and disorder

Linking the epistle with Exodus: a Redeemed people; a Passover Lamb; God dwelling in the midst

Figures of the local assembly which can be found in the epistle

Look for boundaries which were either being crossed or not maintained (ch 5, 6, 10, 11)

Suggested Study Books

Letters to the Corinthians; J. M. Davies

1 Corinthians; Jack Hunter in What the Bible Teaches

The Charter of the Church; J. R. Caldwell

Notes on 1 Corinthians; Wm. Rodgers

1 Corinthians; W. E. Vine