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Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

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Introduction to Pauls First Letter to the Corinthians

These are notes from the Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians by Gregory J.

Theological Themes
Luther sees in 1 Corinthians Pauls promotion of unity in Christ-centered faith, a
faith that is active in love (cf. 1 Cor 13), as the great constructive purpose of this epistle.
Christ is what all earthly reason and wisdom stumbles over.
Paul states the epistles theme in 1:18: For the word of the cross is foolishness to
those who are being destroyed, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. In
support is the OT quote: For it has been written: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the understanding of the understanding I will reject. The theology of the cross is
the epistles foundation.
Some of the Corinthians had become puffed up and divided the congregation.
They believed they had achieved heaven on earth. While they had every spiritual gift,
they did not know that they had not yet received the fullness of the kingdom. Pauls
approach to the Corinthians is that of the Gospel. The Gospel is the basis of unity,
holiness, freedom, worship, and hope of the church.

The City of Corinth

Geography and History
Corinth was situated on a narrow isthmus between northern and southern Greece.
It was a rich and prosperous city. It was a center for the Roman culture. It was the capital
of the senitorial province of Achaia. The city was settled by ex-soldiers and freedmen
from Rome, an influx of people from neighboring areas, and numerous slaves.

Corinth was known for its sexual vice. The city had ties to the goddess Aphrodite. There
were three temples to this goddess.

Religious Pluralism

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

Corinth was known to be a very religious city. There were sanctuaries and statues for a
multitude of gods. Christianity made exclusive claims to be the one and only true living
God and therefore some Corinthians had trouble with these claims [just like in our

Stoicism and Epicureanism

Epicureanism encouraged the pursuit of pleasure and tranquility, and the avoidance of
pain, passions, and superstitious fears, especially the fear of death. The emphasis on
pleasure fostered immorality. The fear of death was overcome by the belief that death
simply meant nothingness [sounds familiar].
The Stoics believed in individualism. They encouraged rational, consistent work. But
their self-centered individualism was totally antithetical to the Christian emphasis on the
body of Christ, whose members build each other up in love. In a number of places in the
epistle Paul seems to affirm or counter Stoic philosophy.
Noteworthy is the idealistic and individualistic focus of these philosophies. The chief
concern of Stoics ancient and modern is to be the master of my fate the captain of my
soul. Many of the characteristics of these philosophical movements are found in modern
culture also. Therefore Pauls responses to them in 1 Corinthians are relevant for our own
cultural context.

The Sophistic Movement in Corinth

There were many in Corinth that were impressed by the wise oratory of the Sophists. The
Sophists were from societys upper echelons. They were wise, powerful, and well-born.
They were known for their boastfulness and fierce competitiveness. They would project
themselves in a positive way, play on the audiences emotions, and convince them with
their reasoning ability. By contrast, Pauls message was presented in a simple and
straightforward manner and consisted of the weak and foolishness of the cross (2:1-5).
Therefore it was easy for the Corinthians to choose the eloquent Apollos over Paul (4:1819). Paul also may have very well chose to not receive compensation from the
Corinthians to distance himself from the sophists who held a low view of manual work.

Broader Secular Influences

It is believed that some in the Corinthian congregation were from the elite of society and
were under secular influences for power and position. Status was important to them and
that may be why there were divisions based on which teacher one followed. One would
connect himself with the person who could bring him to a higher level in society. It may

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

be that the elite Christians were bringing litigation against fellow Christians (6:1-8) in
order to advance their own interests.
Both the sophist movement and secular leadership practices tempted Christians in
Corinth to make an ideal of status rather than service.

The Corinthians Quest for Spiritual Power

Whether through the manipulation of the gods, the pursuit of pleasure or self-sufficiency
through philosophy, or of personal acclaim through virtuoso rhetoric and secular status,
Corinthian society like ours was characterized by feverish quest for power. In Greek
society the gift of the spirit was seen as spiritual power. But in scripture the Spirit is
always tied to the weakness of Jesus who died on the cross. Thus the Spirit does not
endorse a self-centered focus on works, feelings, or empowerment. The Spirit orients the
Christian in faith toward Christ crucified and toward other people in love.

The Founding of the Church in Corinth

Toward the end of his second missionary journey Paul became the founding father of the
church in Corinth (see Acts 18:1-22). Silas and Timothy joined him and they were hosted
by Aquila and Priscilla, who had been expelled from Rome (AD 49-50). Paul, Priscilla,
and Aquila all practiced the same trade, the making and repairing of tents.
After Paul was expelled from the synagogue, he and his companions continued to preach
in the home of Titus Justus. The synagogue leader, Crispus, along with many other
Corinthians believed and were baptized. Paul received a vision and remained in Corinth
for eighteen months, teaching the Word of God (Acts 18:6-11).
The Jews rose up against Paul and brought him before the tribunal of the Roman
procurator, Gallio. Gallio viewed it as a Jewish religious matter and dismissed the case
(Acts 18:12-17). Because of this Christians received protection under the law because
they were treated as a sect of Judaism, an officially recognized religion in the Roman
The reference to Gallio (Acts 18:12-17) enables us to date Pauls ministry in Corinth with
some precision. Most likely it was in 52 that Paul left Corinth for Syria (Acts 18:18).
After a brief visit to Ephesus, Caesarea, Jerusalem, and Antioch (Acts 18:19-22), he set
out on his third missionary journey, of which the focal point was a three-year ministry in
Ephesus (Acts 18:23-20:38). Toward the end of this period (the period ca. 52-55) he
received word of the troubles in Corinth and wrote the first epistle in an attempt to calm
the waters. From 1 Cor. 16:8 we gather that he wrote some weeks before Pentecost. Thus
the letters most likely date is early 55.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

The Churchs Religious and Social Structure

Religious Composition
The makeup of the Corinthian congregation seems to have been mainly former pagans,
and in particular God-fearers who had attached themselves to the synagogue because of
their respect for Jewish monotheism and its high moral standards. The aberrations Paul
addresses (e.g., sexual immorality, litigiousness, frequenting heathen temples, denial of a
bodily resurrection) were typical of Gentile paganism. On the other hand, the
congregation must have contained a significant Jewish-Christian minority. [Paul of
course started in the synagogue which was his practice and] The synagogue leader
Crispus and his whole household joined the church (Acts 18:8).

Socioeconomic Status
Paul states in 1 Cor. 1:26, Not many [of you] were wise by human standards, not many
were powerful, not many were of noble birth. Some of the citys elite probably belonged
to the church but not many. Gaius and Erastus could probably be reckoned among this
small group (Rom. 16:23).

Communal Gatherings
Next door to the Jewish synagogue stood one of the more spacious homes, belonging to
one of the churchs founding members, Gaius (Acts 18:7). In the home of this man,
whom Paul describes as my host and the host of the whole church (Rom. 16:23), it was
possible for the whole church to come together (1 Cor. 11:20; 14:23).

The Occasion of the Epistle

Two developments in particular seem to have prompted Paul to write this epistle. First, he
had received reports from Chloes people about the rise of at least four factions (1 Cor.
10-12). Second, Paul needed to respond to several questions put to him in a letter from
the Corinthians (now about the things you wrote, 7:1).

The Epistles External Attestation and Integrity

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

Pauls authorship of the epistle is attested to by 1 Clement (ca. A.D. 95 or 96). There are
also citations and allusions to the epistle by many of the early church fathers.
Observing that at times the epistle seems disjointed, some have proposed that an editor
has pasted together various Pauline fragments. Even if this is true, it does not call into
question Pauls authorship of the various pieces.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

1:1-17 Epistolary Opening

1:1-3 Greetings
1:1 Called Apostle
Paul starts out by asserting his apostleship. Even though Paul saw himself as least of the
apostles (15:8-9), his apostleship was nevertheless beyond dispute. Paul had seen the
risen Lord (9:1)! This Lord had called him as his chosen vessel to be the apostle of the
Gentiles (Acts 9:15; Rom. 11:13).
But Paul knew that he was nothing in himself (2 Cor 12:11). His concern was to advance
name and cause of Christ. In the opening ten verses of this epistle, Christ occurs ten
Sosthenes was probably the same Sosthenes who had been serving as synagogue ruler
during Pauls first visit to Corinth (Acts 18:17). After being beaten by the Jews, it seems
that he left the city and made his home in Ephesus. Sosthenes probably wrote down the
letter at Pauls direction. But this was probably not pure dictation. The two men probably
talked over the letters contents and came to a consensus on what should be transmitted.
Yet it was clear that Paul was the primary human author. But the ultimate author was God
himself whose Spirit inspired the Scriptures (2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1:21).
1:2 Called Saints
Paul and Sosthenes address the church of God that is in Corinth (1:2). Later Paul calls
the Corinthians Gods field, Gods building (3:9; cf. 3:22-23). This is not a human
institution concerned with power plays. It is a divine institution. They, like Paul, have
been called by God. They are one manifestation of the one holy catholic and apostolic
church (Nicene Creed). So even though they lack no spiritual gift, have intellectual
attainments, and live in a unique cultural setting, they are not superior to other Christians.
Despite all their troubles the Corinthians are saints who have been sanctified in Christ
Jesus (1:2). Sanctification is not a self achievement, it is a gift from God in Christ. As
one commentator observes: Holiness is received and not achieved. The church receives
her holiness in Baptism where she is washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the
Lord Jesus Christ (6:11; see also 12:13). Having been sanctified, Paul constantly
throughout his gospel appeals to the Corinthians to: become what you are! Live like
saints! In Pauls letters the word saints always embraces all believers. And God calls
all saints out of darkness into His marvelous light; they are to be a holy nation (1 Pet
2:9; cf. Ex 19:5-6).

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

The Corinthian saints belong to a much larger group of saints, to all who call on the
name of our Lord Jesus Christ (1:2). This phrase evokes thoughts of Joel 3:5 where it
says, Everyone who calls on the name of Lord will be saved. This text probably had
great meaning for Paul, for he had heard similar words from Ananias at his baptism.
Ananias said to Paul, Rise, be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name
(Acts 22:16). Therefore, the one who calls on Jesus name is the one who puts their faith
in Him and is saved.
The phrase in every place [along with name] reminds one of Malachi where God
said, my name shall be great among the nations; and in every place incense shall be
offered to my name, and a pure offering, for my name shall be great among the nations
(Mal 1:11).
That Jesus is both their Lord and ours reminds the Corinthians that they are among
many who hold Jesus as their Lord.
1:3 Conferral of Gifts
This conferral of grace and peace are not merely wishes. Blessings convey what the
words say. Grace is Gods highest gift; it is his free favor and forgiveness to undeserving
people. From grace then comes peace, the state of being reconciled with God (Ro 5:1-11).
Gods grace and peace in turn inspire the Christian to live a life of love and peace with
his neighbor. The strife torn Corinthians certainly needed these gifts.
These gifts are conferred by both God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (1:3). Jesus
is accorded equal status with the Father. He bestows divine gifts and he is called Lord, an
inscription belonging only to God.

1:4-9 Thanksgiving
With the whole host of problems that the Corinthian congregation faced, one might
naturally expect Paul to begin with a note of complaint. Instead, he chooses to begin by
focusing on the abundant grace of God (cf. Ro 5:20) given in Jesus Christ (1:4). In Christ
they had been enriched in all speech and all knowledge (1:5). Speech included the
gift of tongues and its interpretation, prophecy and weighing of prophecy, teaching, and
composing hymns (12:10, 28-30; 14:26). This gift of speech flowed from the
knowledge that was in their hearts. Knowledge includes understanding the wisdom
of the cross, appreciation of all of Gods gifts, ability to exercise spiritual discernment,
and the specific gift of prophetic knowledge (2:6-16; 13:2; 14:6). These two gifts find an
echo in the two parts of Ro 10:9: If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and
believe in your heart that God raised him for the dead, you will be saved.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

Paul genuinely thanks God for his gifts to the Corinthians even though these gifts went to
their heads and caused them to be puffed up. In praising God for these gifts, Paul not only
gives God his due, but he also signals the Corinthians that these gifts are the main topics
of this letter. Everything in this letter Paul says to correct distortions and to develop a
correct understanding of Christian speech and knowledge.
That they have these gifts is testimony that the Holy Spirit has been at work creating faith
in the hearers (1:6).
This is the first time Paul uses gift of grace (1:7). The Corinthians seem to prefer
spiritual gifts (12:1). Paul wants to remind them that all of these gifts are by grace. Paul
tells them not to become so focused on these gifts, which are given to serve the church
until Christ comes again. They are in danger of becoming intoxicated with the gifts, no
longer eagerly anticipating the coming of the Lord. The Spirit and his gifts are a down
payment and guarantee of a much greater inheritance (2 Cor 1:22; 5:5; Eph 1:4).
For the Corinthians, who were preoccupied with the present day and its gifts, it was
essential to keep before them the Last Day. Our lives on this earth are brief and this world
is passing away (7:29-31). We live here as resident aliens, longing for our true home in
Blameless (1:8) does not mean morally perfect. All people are sinners. Paul means that
no one will be able to bring a charge against them (Ro 8:33) since Jesus has become their
righteousness ( 1 Cor 1:30). Paul can give this assurance because God is faithful (1:9);
God keeps his promises. As surely as God has called them and brought them into
communion with his Son (1:9) the Messiah and Lord, he will keep them to the end.
Communion with Christ is the basis for communion among Christians (Acts 2:42; 1 Jn
1:3). By drawing them into communion with his Son, God also draws them into
communion with each other. These two realities are inseparable. From the outset Paul is
reminding the Corinthians that this communion in Christ rules out all factionalism and
individualism (1:10-11). Paul would have no time for the modern attitude that my
Christianity [faith] is something between be and my God.

1:10-17 Paul Appeals for Unity in Christ

1:10-12 Be of One Mind
Paul now turns to the big issue of the epistle: the need to restore the churchs unity. This
is his chief concern for the first four chapters.
Brothers is a term of endearment and Paul uses it 39 times in the epistle.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

Paul urges them, based on their communion in Christ (1:9) and in the name of Christ
(1:10), the name in which they were baptized into (1:13), that they be unified in the faith.
The word translated as divisions or factions means a tear (same word used in Mk
2:21 for tear in a garment). Although Paul addresses them as one church, apparently they
are in danger of being torn apart. Paul wants to stop this; he wants them to agree or
say the same thing. Paul appeals that they be perfectly united in mind and thought or
restored to the same mind and the same conviction. The verb restore is used for the
mending of fishing nets (Mk 1:19). The Corinthians are to patch things up between
Rather than say, It has been reported to me or I have been informed (NIV) that, Paul
says that it has been made clear to me by Chloes people. What he has heard is not
an idle rumor but comes from a solid, respectable source. It is clear to him that quarreling
has become widespread in Corinth. And the groups that are quarreling are named by Paul
in the I belong to groups in 1:12. Paul disapproves of all of the groups, even the Paulgroup, because none of them are concerned for the truth of the Gospel. The Paul-group is
one that probably accorded Paul with a special place since his missionary work of one
and one-half years started the church. Apollos came after Paul. His good oratory skills
probably won over his following (although there is nothing that says he encouraged this).
It is hard to know about the Cephas-group. Did he stay there for a period of time while
traveling through? Or were there some Jews, maybe some Judiazers, who felt a close
kinship with him? We do not know. And finally there is the Christ-group. Little is known
about this group either. It seems as if they were reacting against the other three groups.
This group may have seen themselves as a more spiritual or gifted group, or there were
some who did not recognize apostolic authority.
1:13 Three Rhetorical Questions
The assumed answer to the questions is No. Christ is not divided and neither should his
body, the church. Paul uses the Paul-group as an example. The questions he poses focuses
them on Christ. Christ was crucified for them and it was into Christs name that they were
baptized. What Christ did on the cross has been made available by God. It can be
appropriated by believers through baptism. Salvation depends completely on Christ and
what he did. How absurd it was to idolize Paul as if their salvation depended on him.
1:14-16 Paul as Baptizer
Because of Gods providence, Paul baptized very few of the Corinthians. God probably
caused this to happen so that they would not come back later use it in their inflated
recognition of Paul.
Crispus and Gaius were baptized by Paul. Crispus was the synagogue official who was an
early convert in Corinth. He and his whole household believed in the Lord (Acts 18:8).
Gaius is probably the man described in Pauls letter to the Romans (written from Corinth)
as the one who was the host of Paul and the whole church (Ro 16:23). But being baptized
by someone and into someone are two different things. No one baptized by Paul could

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

claim to be baptized into Paul. All Christians are baptized into the name of Jesus,
which is a brief way of referring to Christian Baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity.
Finally, Paul recalls the family of Stephanas. How could Paul forget about them? He
was probably so preoccupied with trying to remember those he had baptized, it didnt
dawn on him to consider those who were with him in Ephesus.
Seeing Paul struggle with his memory reminds us that inspiration is not some mechanical
dictation. Inspiration comes from the Holy Spirit and passes through the brain before the
words were recorded. And yet, theses words are the Word of God.
1:17 Paul as Preacher of the Gospel/Word of the Cross
Pauls top priority was not to baptize. He was called to preach the Gospel. Others
appointed by the apostles followed up this preaching with baptism. Similarly today,
pastors are not primarily dispensers of the Sacraments. Their chief function is teaching
and preaching, which draws people to the Sacraments. Pauls job, which he was called by
God to do, was to spread the Gospel in areas where the name of Jesus was not known.
The job of the local pastors appointed by Paul then was not only to preach, but also to
administer the Sacraments.
Having spoken so highly of preaching, Paul immediately warns against trusting in ones
wisdom (human philosophy) or cleverness in preaching the Word. This would be trust in
the superficialness of the presentation rather than in the substance of it. Paul is rejecting
the traditional approach of Greek philosophers and sophists. The Gospel should be
preached in a straightforward manner. Even though it seems to be weak and foolish, its
power is in its weakness (cf. 2 Cor 12:9; 13:4).

1:18-4:21 The Word of the Cross Is the Basis for the

Churchs Unity
1:18-25 The Epistles Theme Enunciated: The Word of the Cross
Is Gods Power for Salvation.
1:18-19 The Word of the Cross
The worlds enthusiasm is for what is attractive and successful. It is oriented toward a
theology of glory. Against it Paul sets forth the word [the theology] of the cross (1:1825).
The Theology of Glory and The Theology of the Cross
Luther coined these expressions in his Heidelberg Disputation of 1518. He said in thesis
20: true theology and recognition of God are in the crucified Christ. He continued in
thesis 21: God can be found only in suffering and the cross. The power of God is
visible in creation (Ro 1:18-32), but the grace of God can only be found in Gods Word
and Sacraments, on the cross and in the Supper, which to the world appear weak and

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

foolish. To those who are being destroyed (1:18), the word of the cross will appear to
be foolishness. In short, to assert that God himself accepted death in the form of a
crucified Jewish manual worker from Galilee in order to break the power of death and
bring salvation to all men could only seem folly and madness to men of ancient times.
But those who do reject the Gospel are condemning themselves to eternal death; they are
being destroyed (1 Cor 1:18).
On the other hand, to those being saved, the word of the cross is the power of God (1
Cor 1:18). Notice that, despite all of the problems in Corinth, Paul includes the
Corinthians among those who are being saved. For Paul salvation is past (Eph 2:5, 8; cf.
Ro 8:24; Titus 3:5), present (1 Cor 1:18; 15:2; 2 Cor 2:15) and future (Ro 5:9; 11:26).
Our salvation is accomplished by the power of God effective in the word of the
cross. So, far from being foolish, the Gospel is powerful (Ro 1:16).
In quoting Is 29:14 it is likely Paul is recalling the entire context. Those who are wise,
but whose hearts are far from the God (Is 29:13), God will reject. Only those who believe
the word of the cross are truly wise.
1:20-21 The Worlds Folly
Isaiahs voice rings out in the questions Paul now poses. (Where is the wise man?) In Is
19:12 Isaiah mocked the wise counselors of Pharaoh for their failure to foresee the divine
judgments coming upon Egypt. (Where is the scribe?) In Is 33:18 Isaiahs target is
foreign scribes who tallied tribute levied on Israel. The third question is Pauls and it
targets anyone who argues against the knowledge of God revealed in Jesus Christ.
The target of the first question is probably against the wisdom of Greek culture. The
second is against the Jewish rabbi. And the third is against anyone who opposes true
knowledge of God. All three, the wise man, the scribe and the debater, are all of this
age (1 Cor 1:20). This age is temporary and is prone to evil.
The language Paul uses in 1:21 is similar to what he uses in Romans (Ro 1:21-22). Even
more, they echo Jesus words of thanksgiving to the Father in Mt 11:25-26 (wise and
understanding (see 1:19) and gracious will (see 1:21)). So Paul uses Isaiah and Jesus
to show how God rejects the worlds values and raises up what it despises.
1:22-25 The Foolish Preaching of Christ Crucified
When Paul speaks of preaching Christ crucified, he does not mean merely the act of
preaching; he has in mind its content, the cross of Christ. On the other hand, the nonbelieving world tries to determine the truth apart from Christ. Paul breaks them into two
groups, the Jews and Greeks. The Jews look for miraculous signs. The only sign Jesus
was willing to give them was his death and resurrection. The Greeks looked for wisdom.
But the term Greeks also refers to the Gentiles (1:23). The term Christ crucified is
paradoxical. Messiah denotes a royal person, but crucified denotes the opposite, an
executed criminal stripped of his dignity and status. To the Jews, anyone who was

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

crucified was under Gods curse. To the Jews the cross was the most shameful death
imaginable (Heb 12:2). Early Christian apologists had to go to considerable lengths to
explain why the Messiah had to be crucified. The Gentile culture was enamored with
power and success. To them it made no sense that the Savior of the world would be a
crucified criminal. Romans in particular thought that a crucified Messiah was ridiculous.
A third group of people, a new race, is called out from the Jews and Gentiles. This
group was called Christians and it included the Corinthians. To them the crucified Christ
was Gods power and Gods wisdom (1:24). Jesus is the sign that the Jews look for and
Jesus is the wisdom of God as revealed in the cross. The world would never think to look
for power and wisdom in the cross, but then again, God said, My thoughts are not your
thoughts, nor are your ways my ways. My thoughts are much higher than yours (Is 55:89).

1:26-2:5 The Theme Illustrated

1:26-31 Gods Election of Unsophisticated People

Paul gives two examples of how God uses the foolish and weak. First he tells the
Corinthians to take a look at their lack of status when they were called (1:26-35). Second
he will use his own weakness as a speaker as an example (2:1-5).
There were some who were well off like Stephanas (1:16; 16:17), Sosthenes, Crispus (1:1
14), Gaius, and Erastus (Ro 16:23). But the majority had humble origins. Many were
slaves or freed slaves (cf. 1 Cor 7:21-23) as is apparent by their names. The lowly origins
of some Christians were made fun of by second-century philosopher Celsus. Whether one
was a Christian or not was not dependent on ones social status, but upon realizing that
everything of which he may like to boast education, prestige, noble birth, moral
standing is worthless rubbish in comparison with knowing Jesus Christ (Phil 3:4-10).
Paul followed the pattern set by Jesus. Not many of Jesus followers were from the
privileged classes; rather they were the poor, tax collectors and sinners (Lk 15:1-2;
19:10). Indeed Jesus praised the Father for hiding the mysteries of the kingdom from the
wise and understanding. God continues to put down the mighty from their thrones and
exalt those of low degree (Lk 1:52). Paul describes those of low degree as foolish, weak,
lowly, and despised. Gods call of such people has turned the tables on the world and its
values. Those looked down on have become royal heirs of Gods kingdom (Acts 17:11; 1
Cor 2:6-16; 2 Cor 12:9-10).
Those of such low status have nothing to boast about (1:29). Their only boast is in the
Lord, for he is the source of their life and existence.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

All the treasures of divine wisdom and knowledge, so highly praised in the OT (e.g., Prov
8-9; Job 28) are bound up in Christ (Col 2:3). And since Christians are in Christ, the
divine wisdom of Christ is displayed in foolish and weak Christians. The wisdomtreasure that Paul speaks of is the righteousness and sanctification and redemption
(1:30) that comes from Christ. First, Jesus is the righteous Branch of David called the
Lord our righteousness (Jer 23:5-6; cf. Is 45:24). Because of the great exchange, we
have received Jesus righteousness, that in him we might become the righteousness of
God (2 Cor 5:18, 21; Phil 3:9). The second part of the gift is sanctification or holiness.
Again we receive from Christ; his holiness is conferred on us. Our sins are washed away
in Baptism. The third part of the gift is redemption. As Israel was redeemed by the
Passover lamb in the OT, so Christ has become our Passover Lamb. Sinners were bought
for a price (1 Cor 6:20; 7:23; 1 Pet 1:18-19). The Christian can then only boast on the
wisdom-treasure given him in Christ.
Paul clinches his argument by quoting Jer 9:23-24. Christ has become our wisdom so that
we might boast in the Lord (1:31).

2:1-5 Gods Election of an Unsophisticated Preacher

Paul now uses himself as an example of the weak and foolish nature of the Gospel.
When Paul came to Corinth and first spoke the Gospel, he did it in weakness, fear and
much trembling, thereby releasing the power of the cross. He was not an eloquent and
skilled debater. His goal was to present the mystery of the Gospel in a simple, sincere,
and straightforward manner. Paul wanted nothing to overshadow the Gospel. To proclaim
Christ is the churchs only essential task (Col 1:28). Christ crucified should be the center
of all preaching and teaching.
Paul came to Corinth in fear and much trembling (2:3). He had vivid memories of a
beating and imprisonment in Philippi, rioting and a nighttime escape in Thessalonica,
another hasty withdrawal from Berea, and cool indifference in Athens (Acts 16:1617:34). And so, Paul received assurance from the Lord in the form of a vision (Acts 18:910). He was told to speak the Word, and indeed he did. His plain teaching became a
demonstration of the Spirit and power (2:4).
Besides the lowly word of the cross, Christ worked mighty wonders through Paul. These
apostolic words and deeds directed the Corinthians to put their trust in the power of God
(2:5). That this speaks of Pauls message being supported by miraculous signs receives
strong support from the parallels in Ro 15:19; 2 Cor 12:12; and Heb 2:4. Cf. Also Acts

2:6-9 The Cross Is Gods Wisdom for Mature, Spiritual People

2:6 We Preach Gods Wisdom

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

Paul had warned of the worlds wisdom but now he speaks of real wisdom, Gods
wisdom. Gods wisdom is preached when Christ crucified is preached, and his wisdom
brings righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. This wisdom is spoken and
understood among the mature. In 3:1 Paul will tell them that he was not able to give the
Corinthians such solid food, rather he had to feed them milk because thats all they could
handle. Paul also makes clear that the wisdom he offers is not of this age nor of the rulers
of this age. Their wisdom and power is transitory; it is in the process of fading away.
2:7-9 Gods Wisdom Was Hidden in the Form of a Mystery
In contrast to the wisdom of this age is the apostolic message. It is not a human message
and cannot be evaluated by human criteria. It is Gods wisdom in [the form of] a
mystery (2:7), which is now being revealed. And this is what God ordained in eternity
past, that believers be illuminated ever brighter while the glory of unbelievers fades
away. The rulers of this age were not wise enough to recognize the Lord of glory and
instead they crucified him showing their ignorance. What a contrast there was between
the majesty of Christ and the shameful treatment he received.

The Crucifixion of the Lord of Glory

How is it possible that the Lord of glory, the Son of God, could die on a cross? It is
possible because he, the Lord of glory, took on a human form. The godly and the human
were united in Jesus. And he did indeed suffer and die and was buried.
The word of the cross is wisdom beyond all human understanding (2:9). Human wisdom
cannot recognize the Lord of glory in the weak, contradicted, and crucified Jesus. No
human could have ever conceived that God would bring salvation in this way, through a
suffering Servant.

2:10-16 God Has Revealed the Mystery to Us through the Spirit

2:10-13 Gods Spirit Teaches Spiritual Things to Spiritual People
To us is in the position of emphasis and refers to lowly Christians. Those with earthly
wisdom cannot discern Gods mysterious ways (2:9). To them it is a closed book, but to
Christians Gods plan of salvation has been made known.
This revelation was given through Gods Spirit (2:10), which was given us at our
baptism. The great mystery is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul illustrates the Spirits
revelation by using a human analogy. No one knows what is going on inside a person
except for the spirit of the person himself (2:11). Likewise, no one understands the mind
of God except for Gods Spirit (2:11).

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

The spirit of this world is totally blind and deaf to the things of the Spirit. It is puffed up
in its own cultural, philosophical, and religious accomplishments. It tries to conform the
church to its agenda. In contrast, the Spirit of God gives his children an appreciation for
Gods rich grace (all the spiritual blessings and hope in the Gospel) given in the word of
the cross (2:12). The Spirit keeps Jesus promise, for Jesus said, He will teach you all
things and remind you of everything I said to you (Jn 14:26). What the Spirit teaches
(2:13) is in fact the verbally inspired Word of God (1 Thess 2:13). Paul is setting up the
Corinthians for a blow. In 3:1 he says to them, Brothers, I was not able to speak to you
as spiritual people.
The spiritual things of 2:13 corresponds to the deep things of God (2:10), the things
of God (2:11), and the things graciously given (2:12). It comprehends all the spiritual
things the apostles have sown through the Spirit-inspired teaching of the word of the
The task of the apostles was to explain spiritual things to spiritual people (2:13). By
doing so, they followed in the footsteps of Joseph (Gen 40-41) and Daniel (Dan 5:7-30)
by explaining mysterious dreams. Just as these men were inspired by the Spirit, so Paul
and his associates explained Gods mysterious revelation in [words] taught by the Spirit
2:14 The Unspiritual Person Is Deaf to the Things of the Spirit
The natural state of a human being is completely unspiritual, dead in sin and thus totally
unable to contribute toward his conversion (see also 1 Cor 12:3; Eph 2). The unspiritual
man does not have a free will with which he can choose God. In spiritual and divine
things which concern salvation of his soul, man is like a pillar of salt, like Lots wife,
yes like a log or a stone, like a lifeless statue (SD II 20). The Formula continues: He is
worse than a block because he is resistant and hostile to the will of God (SD II 24). All
the glory of our conversion belongs to God alone.
2:15-16 The Spiritual Person Discerns Everything
Unlike the unspiritual person, the spiritual person is informed by the Word and the Spirit
of God. He is in accord with the Spirit when he is in accord with Gods Word. On the
other hand, to the unbeliever who is completely controlled by the natural man, the
Christian is an enigma; he cannot comprehend the reason for the Christians words or
actions (2:15).
Once again Paul rounds out his argument with at OT quote (see also 1:19, 31; 2:9). In Is
40:13, the all-powerful and all-wise Creator is so powerful and wise that when he
formulated his plan of salvation in Jesus Christ, he had no need for any human adviser.
But in his gracious condescension he poured out his Spirit to create spiritual people who
can discern and trust his plan. They do not see from a worldly point of view but with the
mind of Christ (2:16), always remembering that Christ was crucified for their sake.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

In 2:10-16 Paul speaks in absolute terms as if Christians were always spiritual people.
However in 3:1-4 Paul modifies the picture when he rebukes the Corinthians for being
fleshly even though they were baptized in Christ. Thus the portrait in 2:10-16 is the
Christian as he should be and ultimately will be (15:44-46), while 3:1-4 is how the
Christian actually is now. There is a struggle with Christians, where the Spirit and his
new spiritual nature struggle against his old, fleshly and human nature.

3:1-4 Your Divisions Are a Sign of Spiritual Immaturity

It might seem as if Pauls extensive discussion of the wisdom of the cross (1:18-2:16)
was a digression from the heart of the matter, that is, the divisions in Corinth. But in
reality it penetrated to the heart of the matter. These divisions threatened not only the
churchs unity, but also the Gospel itself. As long as they pursued the theology of glory,
they were stripping the message of the cross of its power.
Having clearly enunciated what the Gospel was (1:18-31) and that its wisdom was only
accessible to those with the Spirit (2:10-16), Paul returns to the Corinthians and his early
preaching to them. He says he was not able to treat them as the spiritual people (3:1) that
he described in 2:13, 15. Even though they were Christians who possessed the Spirit, they
did not walk according the Spirit. Rather, they walked by the spirit of the world (3:3).
They did not live up to their high calling. Their divisions were a sign that they were only
babies in Christ (3:1).
Milk is ok for babies. But over time babies grow up and develop the capacity for solid
food. Four or five years had elapsed since Paul had planted the church in Corinth. In that
time they should have developed beyond infancy and yet Paul strongly reproaches them
by saying, But you are not yet able even now (3:2).
They could not digest solid food because they were still fleshly (3:1); they lived by the
old Adam within them which caused jealousy and strife among them (3:3). Their
unspiritual walk caused them to pit one group against another within the church (3:4).
Paul lists two the four groups. Possibly the Paul and Apollos groups were the largest
and most vocal.
Paul has landed a heavy blow. He has done this to get the attention and wake up the
Corinthians. As he continues to address them, he does so as Christians who have received
Gods grace and who possess the Spirit. They are still Gods field, building, and temple

3:5-9 Gods Field

By asking what is and not who is Paul attempts to shift the focus from the person to
their office. What Paul and Apollos both are are servants (3:5) of Christ and his people

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

(3:22; 4:1). Like Jesus they were called not to be served, but to serve. God used them to
bring the Corinthians to faith (3:5) in Jesus, not faith in Paul or Apollos.
God has assigned Apollos and Paul their respective roles; they are under his supervision
(3:5). Paul was assigned the role of the planter (3:6). He planted the seed during his
eighteen months in the city (Acts 18:1-18). Apollos was assigned the job of watering
(3:6) the sprouts (Acts 18:24-19:1). He preached eloquently and proved through the
Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ (Acts 18:28). But as everyone knows, it is not the
farmer that makes the seed grow, he merely provides the conditions under which growth
can take place. It is the power and blessing of God that makes the seed grow. Notice the
change in tense (3:6, 7). It was God who gave the growth and it is God who gives the
growth now and in the future. God continuously works to cause the Word to keep
growing and thriving among them.
What, after all, is Apollos? What is Paul? Pauls answer is nothing. For their
ministries to be fruitful, they are totally dependent on God. They are nothing and God is
everything; he causes the church to grow (3:7).
Paul and Apollos are one (3:8), that is, they have worked together toward one common
goal. Each has been called to a task. And if they are faithful they will be rewarded (3:8).
Paul emphasizes that he and Apollos are servants, working for a master who will allot
each of them his pay (reward) in keeping with his productivity (work, 3:8). The pay
will vary in accordance with ones faithfulness. This reward will be given on the Last
Day. Paul looks forward to seeing his children in Gods presence on that day (Phil 2:16;
1 Thess 2:19-20). 3:8b looks forward to 3:12-15 where Paul will say more about this
Paul sums up what he has been saying by saying that all who labor for God are coworkers
for him and under him (3:9). And all who come to faith as a result of their work are like
fields of crops (3:9). Both workers and fields belong to God. Therefore it is impossible to
say, I belong to Apollos or I belong to Paul because all belong to God (3:9).
The picture of Gods church as a field recalls the parable of the sower, where God sows
the good seed of the Word in a field (Mt 13:3-9; cf. Also Jn 15:1-8, where the Father is
depicted as a farmer). The image of the building will be expanded in 3:10-17.

3:10-17 Gods Building: The Temple

Paul was called by grace and by that same grace he had laid the Corinthian foundation.
He laid the foundation as a wise master builder (3:10). What made Paul so wise? Pauls
wisdom was the Gospel of Christ crucified.
Pauls general practice was to begin a church in a city and then to let others build upon
the foundation he had laid. After a foundation has been poured, it would seem silly to
ignore it and lay another foundation. Paul laid the foundation when he preached Christ

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

crucified (3:11) and any teaching or practice of the church was to be based on the Gospel
as well. And this building is to be built with nothing but the finest materials. The
materials listed (3:12) are listed in descending order of value. Even more importantly,
they are arranged in two groups. The first group is noncombustible, while the second is
combustible. The noncombustible materials represent the preaching, teaching and care of
the wisdom of God, the Gospel of the crucified Savior. The combustible materials
represent the teachings and methods motivated by human wisdom. The OT gives a
preview of this when the temple and tabernacle were made of precious stones. The
materials represent the quality of each ministers work. The quality of that work will
become evident on the Last Day (3:13). That Day will come burning like an oven
(Mal 4:1). God will judge if the work done was done according to his wisdom or human
wisdom. God will determine if his servants have been faithful stewards, properly
proclaiming the pure Gospel and administering the Sacraments.
The work of those who use the finest materials will survive the heat and they will be
rewarded for their faithful service (3:14). On the other hand those whose work is oriented
to this age will see that lifes work consumed and destroyed, but he himself will be
saved (3:15). He will be like a person whose car is totally destroyed in an accident, but
who walks away from the wreckage physically unharmed.
Who does Paul speak of here, the preacher or all believers? In light of the context in
which he has been speaking of his own building and the watering of Apollos, he is
thinking mainly of the churchs pastors and teachers who have a special responsibility to
see that the church is built on the crucified Savior. But also what he says of pastors also
applies to all Christians.
Even though an unskilled builder builds carelessly with inferior materials, he himself
will be saved (3:15). Our salvation does not depend on what we do or even how we
build the church, it depends on our faith in the accomplished work of Christ on the cross
(1:18-23; 2:8-9).
Paul now specifies what kind of building the Corinthians are: a temple (3:16). The OT
temple was made of precious materials and was where the glory of God dwelled. The NT
dwelling place of God is similar. It too is made of precious materials and is the dwelling
place of God. But it is not a physical building, it is the church (2 Cor 6:16; Eph 2:21; cf.
Ps 26:8), a spiritual house. As the dwelling place of God, the Corinthians should build up
Gods house instead of tearing it down with jealousy and divisions.
Gods temple would also remind the Corinthians of the many temples to the many gods
that were all around them. But according to Paul, there is only one true God and only one
true temple of God, the church, of which each of them was a living stone (1 Pet 2:5).
The divisions among the Corinthians could destroy Gods temple. Any who do such are
akin to the Babylonians who burned Solomons temple. For any who destroy Gods
temple, Paul warns that God will destroy him (3:17). God reaction is so strong because
the church is Gods holy temple precious in his sight.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

3:18-23 No Boasting in Human Wisdom
3:18-20 Worldly Wisdom Is Foolishness to God
After a sharp warning (3:17), Paul exhorts them, Let no one keep on deceiving himself
(3:18). He calls for repentance, a 180-degree turn. If one thinks highly of himself, he
must become a fool [one who believes the foolish message of the cross]. They must die to
themselves and find life in Christ. This is the Great Reversal where God has put down
the mighty from their thrones and exalted the humble (Lk 1:52). Gods standards are
totally at odds with the worlds (3:19). The two are opposed, even hostile toward each
Paul supplies two texts, Job 5:13 and Ps 94:11, as support for his argument. In Job God
turns the tables on his crafty opponents. This is illustrated by Haman, as he was hanged
on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai the Judean (Est 6:10). In Ps 94, God sees
and hears the schemes of the wise and renders them futile.
3:21-23 All Belongs to God
Since the Scriptures just quoted show the futility of human craftiness, no one should
boast in human beings (3:21). If one is tied to one particular teacher, then he will miss out
on the wisdom that other teachers (Apollos, Cephas, etc.) offer.
The phrase all things are yours (3:21) may be a favorite slogan of the religious
elite in Corinth who have been influenced by the Stoics. If their slogan is true, then they
should not boast in only one person, but in all that preach the Gospel. When they follow
just one person they limit themselves. In fact, as heirs of Abraham, all things of this
world and the age to come belong to Christians. Christians are royal heirs of of the
world (Ro 4:13) but are hidden under the cross.
For the Christian all things that life (3:22) brings are for their good. Even
death (3:22) is looked at differently. [Death is certainly not natural and is to be seen as
an enemy. But] death is seen by the Christian as his usher into eternal life (cf. Phil 1:21
and 1 Cor 15:55-57). All things present (3:22) are gifts from God for us. For the
Christian all things to come (3:22) are ultimately for our good as well. Paul
summarizes with all things are yours (3:22), all things past, present and future are
Gods gifts for his children.
Even though the Christian has all things, Paul points out that the Christian is not
the center of the universe, rather the Christian belongs to Christ (3:23). And Christ is
Gods (3:23), which does not mean that the Son is inferior, but that he humbled himself
when he became man in order to save us.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

4:1-5 Apostles Are Stewards of Gods Mysteries
4:1 Christs Servants and Stewards of Gods Mysteries
4:1 is not bound to the previous sentence. Paul takes a new turn here. While the previous
verses concentrated on you (3:16-23), Paul now talks about us apostles and church
servants. Pastors are servants for Christ (4:1) and are only accountable to him. Christs
servants are stewards of the mysteries of God (4:1). A steward was often a slave, a
chief slave who managed the household or property of his master. Joseph was a steward
for Potiphar (Gen 41:40-46). Jesus referred to a faithful and prudent steward who was put
in charge of his masters slaves and was to give the allowance of food at the proper time
(Lk 12:42; cf. Mt 24:45).
The mystery of the Gospel has been hidden throughout the ages (1 Cor 2:7-9; see also Ro
16:25; Eph 3:4, 9; Col 1:26) and continues to be hidden from the wise (1 Cor 1:18-25; see
also Mt 11:25). But now it had been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets in the
Spirit (Eph 3:5). Since knowledge of these mysteries is a gift, the apostles and pastors
can only be considered stewards of a sacred trust. The word mystery sums up the plan
of God to save sinners through the foolishness and weakness of Christ crucified (2:1-16).
The mystery will be consummated when Christ returns. It will be revealed to all at the
resurrection. At that time also the stewardship (in all avenues through which the Gospel is
proclaimed-Word and Sacraments) of each pastor will be revealed and evaluated by God
(4:1, 5). Mystery not only refers to the Gospel story (how God would become man and
died in mans place winning forgiveness of sins) but it also refers to the Sacraments and
to Christian articles of faith. It is certainly a mystery as to how we are incorporated into
Christs crucifixion and resurrection in Baptism (1 Cor 12:13; see also, e.g., Acts 2:38-39;
Ro 6:1-4; Col 2:11-13) [and how we receive the true body and blood of our crucified and
risen Savior] in the Lords Supper (e.g. 1 Cor 11:23-26). Also such doctrines such as the
Trinity, the incarnation, election, etc. are mysteries as well. To accept all the mysteries of
the faith our intellect must be held captive and faith must trust in what the Word has
revealed (FC).
4:2-5 Leave the Judgment of Stewards to the Lord
Since a steward was often left unsupervised for long periods of time, the most important
quality of a steward was faithfulness (cf. Lk 12:42). Several of Jesus parables taught the
need for faithfulness while the master was away (Mt 25:14-30; Lk 19:11-27; cf. Mk
In 4:3 Paul begins with For me in the place of emphasis setting up a contrast between
his attitude and that of the Corinthians. They have accessed their teachers (1:2). But for
Paul this meant nothing. The only day that anyones judgment counted was on the Last
Day when God would evaluate his ministry. Before that Day the only concern of the
steward was to be faithful to his master.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

Paul realizes that some may misunderstand what he is saying, believing he has something
to hide. To that Paul says, I have nothing on my conscience (4:4). But Paul realizes that
he does not have the final word. The one whom he aims to please (2 Cor 5:9; cf. 1 Th
2:4) is the final Judge.
Based on this argument (consequently), Paul urges the Corinthians to let the Lord be
the Judge on the Last Day. He alone understands the hidden councils of the human heart
(1 Sam 16:7; Ps 139:1; Ro 2:16; 8:27).

Application to the Contemporary Church

What this passage says to ministers today is that they are accountable to God (4:4-5).
Ministers are servants and stewards, not lords and despots. It is appropriate for the
congregation to judge whether the minister preaches the pure word of God. The creeds
and confessions are very helpful in this matter.
On the other hand, the main thrust of 1 Cor 4:1-5 is that the congregation should not
examine their ministers on the wrong grounds, such as for his charismatic qualities.
God requires his servants to be faithful not successful.

4:6-7 Learn Not to Go beyond Scripture

In 4:1-5 Paul spoke of I, me, and us. Now in 4:6-7 he speaks of you. What
lessons should the Corinthians learn from this?
What does the phrase not beyond what stands written (4:6) mean. Some commentators
take it to be unintelligible and omit it from their translation. Some take it as a proverbial
saying. The simplest solution is to take it as a reference to the authority of Scripture. Four
times already Paul has introduced a quotation from Scripture with it is written. Paul
also quotes the OT seven other times in 1 Corinthians. In order to keep some in Corinth
from getting carried away with enthusiasm about human leaders (1:10-17) and becoming
puffed up (4:6), Paul reminds them that they must humbly submit to the Scriptures.
Paul asks three questions to deflate their pride. The first is similar to [Who made you
king?]. The second reminds them that all the gifts they have are exactly that, gracious
gifts. And the third is that if you did receive these free gifts, why do you respond with
pride instead of thanksgiving to God. Grace leads to gratitude; wisdom and selfsufficiency lead to boasting and judging. Grace has a leveling effect; self-esteem has a
self-exalting effect. Grace means humility; boasting means that one has arrived.

4:8-13 Fools for Christ

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

Pauls argument in chapters 1-4 reaches its high point and conclusion in 4:8-13. Three
brief sentences in 4:8 lead to this climax and are charged with heavy irony. Whereas Paul
and his fellow apostles are engaged in an arduous struggle (4:11), the Corinthians in their
own estimation have reached full spiritual maturity. They do not consider themselves
beggars and they do not feel the tension of living in between the now and the not yet.
They have little to look forward to because they believe that they have already received
and attained everything; they already have all they want (4:8).
They have become so rich (4:8) that they are like the church in Laodicea who said they
need nothing even though they were wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked (Rev
3:17). They have gone ahead leaving Paul and his co-workers behind. They see the glory
side of the Christian coin, but fail to see the tribulation of the Christian life and the
patient endurance it takes to enter the kingdom of God (Rev 1:9).
There will be a day when Christians will share in Christs triumphant rule (Rev 3:21).
This is the ultimate destiny of all who are in Christ (cf. Rev 4:4). Paul wishes the
Corinthians had indeed begun their rule, for if they had, the sufferings and hardships of
the apostles would be over. But this is not their current experience (4:9). Still in Pauls
mind would be the riot in Ephesus where he and his friends feared for their lives (Acts
19:28-31). This event may provide the imagery for this verse (4:9). In fact the threat of
imprisonment was always over the apostles heads (cf. Acts 4:3; 20:22-24). The imagery
is also drawn from a victorious Roman general celebrating triumph. With God as the
general, the apostles are the condemned captives that are put on display at the end of the
line. They appear as a sorry spectacle to the world. And yet these who would die are
more than conquerors (Ro 8:37).
Just as the world considers the cross as foolishness (1:18), so it considers those who are
bearers of that word as fools on account of Christ (4:10; cf. 3:18). The world wonders
how and why anyone would willingly allow themselves to be taken captive to the
obedience of a crucified Messiah (2 Cor 10:5). On the other hand, the Corinthians
believed that they were wise in Christ (4:10). They believe they are honored for their
strength and wisdom (4:10). In contrast to these wise Corinthians, Paul catalogues the
sufferings and hardships that he and those with him have endured (4:11-13) and that show
their weakness and dishonor.
Paul, like Jesus in the desert and on the cross, suffered hunger and thirst (1 Cor 4:11).
Paul suffered from nakedness (cf. 2 Cor 11:27) as Jesus did on the cross. Paul was beaten
(cf. Acts 23:2; 2 Cor 6:5; 11:23) as Jesus was before the cross. Paul was constantly on the
move (1 Cor 4:11) like Jesus who had no place to lay his head. Paul had to work hard
with his hands, something the Greeks despised. Jesus too learned a trade from his stepfather (Mk 6:3). Many of the apostles were fishermen. Paul was a tent maker and repairer.
He worked on top of preaching so that he could provide the Gospel free of charge and as
an example of one who gives up his rights for the sake of others.
Pauls way is similar to his Masters way, the way of the cross. It is utter foolishness to
the world to bless and pray for those who harm you. Despite insults, persecution, and

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

slander, their constant response was prayer, patience, and conciliation. And these
responses were in the present participle form, meaning that these abuses and response
were going on even now.
With the phrase we have become (4:13) Paul begins another round of
descriptions of the apostles sufferings. Paul seems to have picked up the words scum
and dirt from Lam 3:45. Just as the people of Jerusalem were treated like scum, so were
the apostles. Since Jeremiah is the author of Lamentations, it may also allude to the
suffering of Jeremiah as the prophetic model for the sufferings of the apostles. This
describes the Christian life like the cruciform life of Jesus and is in great contrast to the
Corinthians who see themselves as filled, rich, ruling, wise, powerful, and honored (4:8,
10). The apostles conformed to the passion of their Lord and so should all Christians.

4:14-21 Pauls Fatherly Appeal for Unity

Although his pointed comparisons between their complacency and the apostles hardships
could hardly have failed to embarrass them, that was not his ultimate goal. He was trying
to restore his fatherly relationship with his children and lead them to a more humble,
repentant attitude (cf. 2 Cor 7:8-10). In calling the Corinthians my beloved children
(4:14), he is saying he has a special relationship with them. Pauls intention is to
admonish the Corinthians, which means to correct while not provoking or embittering
them. Pastors are to have this fatherly approach with their congregations.
If Paul is their father, then Apollos and Peter have been their tutors (4:15). Tutors
were important in Roman society in supervising a boys education. Tutors could come or
go, but no one could replace a father. The tutor metaphor was not used to put anyone
down, but was used to distinguish his relationship with the congregation and others. Paul
continues the father metaphor with I myself begot you (4:15), but he qualifies it with
in Christ Jesus. All that Paul has done and accomplished in Corinth is a result of the
Good News of what Christ has done.
Paul has been made in the image of Christ and now he encourages the Corinthians to
imitate him who is their spiritual father. They should imitate his teaching and conduct. If
they do they will be humble, suffer for the Gospel, and boast only in Christ. Paul is
sending Timothy to teach them of Pauls ways in Christ. Again the way of Paul is the
truth of the Gospel and the way of love and peace, the way of the cross, the way that Paul
teaches in every church (4:17).
Paul qualifies that some of the congregation had become puffed up. All are not to
blame, and yet, a little leaven leavens the whole batch (5:6). Apparently those who
were puffed up tried to convince others that Paul was just another traveling sophist who
they would never see again. But Paul has every intention of returning as soon as possible
(4:19). Paul qualifies his statement though because he knows that sometimes the Lord has
other plans (4:19).

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

If and when Paul comes (from Acts 20:2-3 it appears that he did pay them a threemonth visit), it would be like that of his Lord, a day of reckoning. When they arrived
would they be holding onto what is powerful (the word of the cross), or would they hold
on to the empty (Christ-less) words of this world, the words of power, prestige, wisdom,
and knowledge? Idle talk does not lead to the kingdom of God, only the power of the
cross leads to Gods kingdom (4:20).
Paul ends his rebuttal with two sharp questions. They can either continue in their arrogant
opposition or they can allow themselves to be moved by the Spirits power through the
word of the cross. Either way, Paul will come and do his fatherly duty. Fatherly
correction is sanctioned in Scripture, but Pauls and Gods preference is repentance, so
that Paul might come with a spirit of love and gentleness.

5:1-7:40 The Word of the Cross Is the Basis for the

Churchs Holiness
5:1-13 A Case of Incest
5:1-5 Pauls Verdict against Puffed Up Tolerance
In chpt. 5 it seems as if Paul makes an abrupt switch to a new problem, a case of sexual
immorality. However there is a link between the factionalism of chpts. 1-4 and tolerance
of immorality. Two Greek words tie the two topics together. The first is you are puffed
up. In 1-4 they became puffed up or boasted in following a particular person. In chpt. 5
Paul addresses how they had become puffed up or boasted in their tolerance of this
immoral man. The second Greek word is power. In 1-4 Paul urged the Corinthians to
live by the power of the Gospel. Here Paul calls on them to let the power of our Lord
Jesus be demonstrated in their midst through the proper exercise of church discipline.
Paul had already said that he would come with either a stick or in love (4:21). Which way
he would come would partially depend on their response to this issue. He has already
written to them once about this issue (5:9), about what was the proper response of those
sanctified in Christ Jesus (1:2).
It seems as if this case had become notorious even in a culture where rampant immorality
was present (1:1). Note that Paul attacks the congregation and not the individual. He
speaks to you, the people of the Corinthian congregation, the body of Christ (5:1,2).
The Jewish people, following the OT, condemned sexual immorality, which included
adultery, fornication, homosexuality and other sexual aberrations. On the other hand, the
pagan world was known for their laxity in these matters. And this was the society that the
Corinthian Christians lived in. But even pagans would have been horrified by the sin
perpetuated in the Corinthian church.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

Paul sharply rebukes the Corinthian church for tolerating the incestuous relationship. It
seems as if the Corinthians prided (5:2) themselves in being open, broadminded, tolerant
and inclusive. They thought they were celebrating their Christian freedom. But rather
than being puffed up, Paul says that this incident should have sent them into mourning
(5:2), for its as if one of them had died and they were partially responsible for it. They
failed to realize the enormity of sin and that the Gospel calls us to crucify sinful thoughts
and deeds and pride in them. The Christian life calls for repentance, a leaving behind of
the former way of life.
Paul has made up his mind on what should be done. Paul advocates that the
congregation remove the man from fellowship in order to startle him into seeing the
reality of his sin and cause him to repent. This is not only Pauls judgment, but also the
Holy Spirits as the Spirit inspires Paul to write this letter. Paul urges that they meet and
in the powerful name of Jesus hand him over to Satan, the prince of this world. Because
of the position of in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, all that follows it is done in
Jesus name.
By removing him, Paul hopes to bring about the destruction of the flesh (5:5).
Many consider this to be a physical punishment. Passages that are used to back up this
idea are: Acts 5:5-10 (Ananias and Sapphira died), 1 Cor 11:29-32 (Lords Suppersickness), Acts 13:8-11 (Elymas blinded), 2 Cor 12:7 (Pauls thorn in the flesh), and Job
2:6-7 (Jobs physical problems). But this may not be the case. Paul does not always use
flesh in physical terms. The flesh is the willing instrument of sin, the bearer of sinful
feelings and desires. [So the flesh is all that has been corrupted by sin and is its servant,
both physically and spiritually.] Christians are to crucify the flesh with its passions and
desires (Gal 5:24). This is what the incestuous man had not done. Pauls aim then is to
get this man to see his sin, crucify it and be restored that he might be saved on the Last

5:6-8 The Paschal Lamb Has Been Sacrificed

That the congregation has allowed this to continue on was not good (5:6) for the
church. In fact, if they were as knowledgeable as they claimed to be, they would have
remembered that a little leaven leavens the whole batch (5:6). Allowing this man to
continue in the congregations midst was like letting a boil continue to poison the body,
or in todays terms, letting a little cancer continue on until it corrupts and kills the whole
body. If we find any sign of cancer, we do all we can to eradicate it.
The symbol of leaven as infectious evil probably is rooted in the exodus, when the
Israelites ate unleavened bread (Ex 12:34-39). They were to clean out all leaven from
their houses and bake unleavened bread. They were to celebrate their redemption by
eating unleavened bread, which would remind them how quickly their freedom came.
Pauls command to expel the immoral man is based on this background. As Israel
cleaned out every trace of leaven, so the church is to clean out every trace of the

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

leaven of immorality from within her midst. The imperative and the following
subjunctive (Clean out the old leaven, so that you may be a new batch) rest on the
Gospel indicative just as you are unleavened (5:7). Some question why, if they are led
by the Spirit, such an imperative is needed? The answer is that Christians are at the same
time both sinners and saints. The sinful nature stills needs to hear this imperative and the
new person in Christ needs to be instructed and guided by the Spirit with the Word.
Through the Word God makes the church what he calls her to be. She must become who
she is.
Complacency about sin is incompatible with the Gospel [Law/Gospel since it identifies
sin and then does away with it. The Christian is holy in Gods eyes and so he must then
be holy. The Christian life is a life of continuous repentance. How one lives is a reflection
of who or whose he is]. Leaven is foreign to the Christian and must be expelled. The
community of grace is cleansed of the old leaven (5:7) because of the Passover Lamb
has been sacrificed. His sacrifice has made them into repentant sinners. They can not
tolerate any who are unwilling to repent.
Pauls conclusion then is that the Christian life is one of continuous celebration (like the
Passover celebration). Every day is Easter. We continually celebrate Gods forgiveness
and respond with holy living. Malice and wickedness (5:8) are two generic words for
all kinds of sin. Rather than live in such unleavened bread, the Christian lives in the
unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (5:8). The Corinthians should not only look for
sincere and truthful preaching and teaching (chpts.1-4), but also for sincere and truthful
living the chief issue here (chpt. 5).

5:9-13 Remove the Wicked Man

Paul refers to a previous letter he wrote to the Corinthians about their association with
sexually immoral people. This was necessary because of the widespread acceptance of
immorality by Greek and Roman society. Apparently they had misinterpreted what Paul
had wrote and so he immediately moves to make clear what he had said. The Corinthians
likely believed that Paul had said not to have anything to do with any sexually immoral
person. Paul makes clear that that was not what he meant. For he knew if that was the
case it would be impossible in this fallen world to avoid associating with such people.
Paul had meant not to associate with those in the church who lived such lifestyles since it
was contrary to Gods will. Sexual promiscuity and perversion constitute spiritual
harlotry. A person who persists in defiling himself cannot remain a part of the church,
which is the pure, virgin bride of Christ.
By the greedy (5:10) Paul means those who are covetous. The rapacious (5:10) are
swindlers who belong together with the unrighteous and the adulterous people of this
world (Lk 18:11). Jesus calls false prophets rapacious wolves (Mt 7:15). The world too
is filled with idolaters (5:10). He will talk more about idolaters in chpts. 8-11. In 6:9-10
Paul says that none of these people will inherit the kingdom of God.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

In his former letter Paul urged the Corinthians not to associate with immoral people. Paul
makes clear here what he had in mind. He was thinking of people who call themselves
Christians and yet lead immoral lives. Such a person refuses to live a life of repentance,
trusting completely in Christ. Paul lists 6 lifestyles that are incompatible with the
Christian faith (5:11). Four have already been mentioned (sexual immorality, greed,
idolatry, rapaciousness/swindler). Abusiveness (verbal slander) and drunkenness
(enslaved to alcohol) are the other two. Christians may on occasion fall prey to any of
these. But then they admit it, grieve over it and seek the power of the Spirit to amend
their lives and avoid these sins in the future. Paul is concerned with those who have
surrendered themselves to sin as a way of life. In other words, they let sin rule (Ro
6:12) over them. In Ro 7 Paul himself talks about his personal struggle with sin. But the
person here has given up the battle; he has surrendered to the enemy. He can no longer be
characterized as a Christian brother, but as sexually immoral (5:11).
Paul says that the congregation should not even eat with this man, either a regular meal or
the Lords Supper. This is excommunication. Today this sounds intolerant and punitive.
But in reality this action is taken out of loving concern for the mans eternal well being.
The goal is that the man may repent and the loaf (the church) not be permeated with the
evil yeast. The basis for church fellowship is Gods Word (2 Thess 3:14). We are not to
maintain fellowship with those who refuse to comply with Gods Word.
In 5:12 Paul speaks of those outside the church. This expression comes from the
OT and is projected into the new heaven and earth. In the beginning Adam and Eve were
driven out of the garden (Gen 3:23-24). Later unclean persons were expelled outside
the camp until they were cleansed (Lev 13:46; 14:3, 8; Num 12:14-15). Those who
violated the Torah were put to death outside the camp (Lev. 24:14, 23; Num 15:35-36).
Jesus also distinguished his disciples, who had access to the mysteries of the kingdom, to
those outside (Mk 4:11; cf. Col 4:5; 1 Thess 4:12; 1 Tim 3:7). In the new heaven and
earth, Gods saints will dwell in the new Jerusalem, while those condemned to hell will
be outside (Rev 22:15).
Pauls (and the Christians) responsibility is not to crusade against unbelievers,
nor pronounce judgment before its time (4:5). But it is the Christians responsibility to
judge those inside the church (5:12). Jesus command not to judge is often taken out of
context. He was speaking of hypocritical judging. If taken this way, then anything goes;
the church would then tolerate any kind of sin within its midst. [Then the church is no
better than those who are outside.]
God is the one who will judge outsiders. And so this man is to be made an
outsider (5:13) who knows he will face Gods wrath and judgment. Like all outsiders
he is in need of the churchs prayer, testimony, and love.
From 2 Cor 2:5-11 it appears that the congregation followed Pauls advice here.
Whether it was this man or another, the discipline seems to have born fruit. If the
excommunicated person has truly repented, then it is the duty of the pastor and

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

congregation to forgive and restore him. The restoration is the ultimate goal of all church

6:1-8 Lawsuits among Brothers

It might seem that Paul here abruptly shifts to whole new topic. But upon closer
inspection there is a close connection between the failure to expel the immoral brother
and the litigation between brothers in court. What links the two is the attitude of
unwillingness to condemn and restrain their own sin, to die to self, to go the way of the
cross, a failure to exercise church discipline. A key verb in both cases is to judge (5:3,
12-13; 6:1, 2, 3, 6). Specifically in 5:12b Paul says they should judge among themselves
and not damage Christs name in public, making the church a laughingstock.
Paul begins with an emphatic, How dare anyone of you (6:1). Paul does not simply
frown on the practice, he is outraged by it.
Recent studies of the Roman legal system shows that most civil cases were brought by
the wealthy against those of lesser means. The judge most often sided with the rich. It
may be that the wealthier members of the congregation were affected by the culture and
were exercising their legal clout over the poorer members. If this is true then the way that
the rich despised the poor at congregational meals presents a parallel situation (11:22).
For the first of six times in the ch. (6:2, 3, 9, 15, 16, 19) Paul asks them, Dont you
know? A church so gifted with knowledge (1:5) should know better! The fact that the
saints will judge the world is an extension of the promise that the apostles will judge the
twelve tribes of Israel. Paul here uses the rabbinical exegetical principle of light and
heavy. If the saints will be entrusted with the heavy task of judging the world, surely
they can handle this light task. By comparison with the judicial task awaiting them on
the Last Day, these cases in Corinth are trivial (6:2).
Angels are ministering spirits. They serve the heirs of salvation (Ps 8:5; Heb 1:14; 2:511). Since Gods children are superior to the angels, Paul again argues from heavy to
light. If you can judge the angels, cant you judge the things of this life (6:3)? And by
mentioning again in 6:4 the things of this life, Paul implies that Christians should have
their sights set on things above and not on worldly things.
How 6:4 should be rendered is debated much. The way that the NIV interprets it is
probably incorrect. It is doubtful that Paul would refer to anyone in the congregation as
ones with no standing. And it is unusual to find an imperative at the end of a Greek
The second clause in 6:4 should be understood as a question: Do you entrust
jurisdiction to people with no standing in the church? This is precisely what Paul was
concerned about. Paul is not belittling non-Christians. In other places he stresses paying
all authorities the proper honor (Ro 13:1-7; cf. 1 Pet 2:13-17). [They have been assigned
to these positions outside the church by God. Outside the church they are to be honored.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

Inside the church their position means nothing.] Another reason is that this verse comes
in the middle of a sequence of questions.
In 6:5 Paul does not hide the fact that he seeks to shame them. In a congregation
this wise, there must be at least one individual who can help settle this matter between
Christian brothers (6:5, 6).
In 6:7 Paul reminds them of the way of the cross, challenging them to endure
mistreatment. Christian meekness is the opposite of human self-assertion. Rather than
follow their Lord in the way of suffering, they instead inflict suffering on others, even on
their own Christian brothers (6:8).

The Christian and Courts of Law

The question might arise as to whether Christians should shun the secular courts
altogether. Paul himself used the courts for his own defense (Acts 9:2; 16:37; 22:25;
25:11). Paul regarded the Roman authorities as ordained of God and accountable to
him (Ro 13:1). Whether a Christian uses secular courts is determined by the parties
involved, the motivation and/or concern for a neighbor.

6:9-11 You Were Cleansed of All Unrighteousness

6:9-10 Unrighteous People Will Not Inherit Gods Kingdom
The Or of 6:9 provides a close link between 6:1-8 and what follows. It would be better
for them to suffer unrighteous treatment than to inflict it on others because the
unrighteous will not inherit Gods kingdom (6:9). Unrighteous is a synonym for
unbeliever and an antonym of brother. Unrighteous people are characterized by
unrighteousness (Ro 1:18, 29). They live the lifestyles listed in 6:9b-10. The righteous
however, by faith, stand in a right relationship with God. This is not the only place where
Paul categorically denies that wicked people will not inherit eternal life (Eph 5:5; Gal
An inheritance is received simply because one is born into his fathers household. All
those who are born of the water and the Spirit are born into Gods household and as long
as they do not despise the family name by persisting in unrighteousness, they will inherit
eternal life. But the Corinthians have deceived themselves if they think that those who
live an unrighteous lifestyle will inherit the kingdom. Their behavior now should be
affected by the judgment that is to come.
There is a difference between the righteous and the unrighteous. The Corinthians have
blurred that difference (the immoral brother, taking each other to court). Paul is calling
on them to keep things straight. Pauls list begins with sexual sins. Idolatry is included
with them because in that day idolatry often led to sexual sin [shrine prostitutes].

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

Catamites and sodomites reflect a common vice in the Greco-Roman world. They were
the passive and active partners in a homosexual relationship. If those who live such
lifestyles will not inherit eternal life, how can they be ordained ministers of the church?
These sins, like all other sins, should be approached with the Law and the Gospel.
Sexual sins are listed as examples of unrighteousness because they are sins against ones
body, which is the home of the Holy Spirit. If God dwells there, it is to be a pure and holy
place. As the Creator, God created sex as an expression of love between married people
[man and woman] and as a way of procreating. Homosexuals are then the ultimate
example of those who rebel against their Creator and the roles he created. There is a close
connection between sexual immorality and idolatry. Sexual immorality is a kind of
Paul then goes on to list sins concerning property and physical and verbal abuse. The
repetition that these people who live these lifestyles will not inherit the kingdom of God
(6:9, 10) underlines the gravity of the issue. These sins cannot be condoned or ignored by
the church. Persistence in such sins is rebellion against God. By doing so one spurns
Gods grace.

The Righteous and the Wicked in Paul

Malachi pointed out that the righteous serve God and the wicked do not (Mal 3:18).
Distinguishing between the two today seems intolerant to many people. But one must
remember when the Bible speaks of the righteous, they are righteous not of their own
volition, but because God causes them to repent and gives them his righteousness by
grace (Mt 5:6; 6:33). The wicked refuse to repent and spurn Gods grace.
What Paul describes in 5:9-11 and 6:9-10 are the dark days of the Corinthians before their
conversion (6:11). Some had at one time lived this way, but that was in the past. This is
what they were, but a change has taken place. Gods grace has overcome all their sins.
The Christian by the power of the Spirit is to put to death the deeds of the flesh. If you
live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the
deeds of the body, you will live (Ro 8:13).
6:11 Washed, Sanctified, Justified
In 5:7 the imperative clean out the old leaven rested on the indicative Christ our
Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. It is the same here. But you were washed, but you
were sanctified, but you were justified (6:11) is also an indicative. It states what God has
already done for the Corinthians-he has converted them.
First Paul says they have been washed. The filth of their pagan past has been washed
away. Of course the apostle is speaking of Baptism, the washing of the water in the
Word (Eph 5:26), the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5). Acts 22:16 says, Arise and
be baptized and wash away your sins.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

Second Paul says they have been sanctified. Their faith has made them people
dedicated to God. What they had become by faith holy, sanctified people they should
become in practice and living.
And thirdly, they have been justified. Their transformation from what they once were to
what they are now can be viewed as justification. Being justified is being declared
righteous. The unit began with a warning against unrighteousness (6:9). So they who
have been declared righteous must not have anything to do with unrighteousness. It is
incompatible with faith and life in Christ.
These three things have been done for them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by
the Spirit of our God, a Trinitarian formula [it mentions Jesus, the Spirit, and God (the
Father)]. Verse 11 may be an early baptismal formula. If this is true then when Acts talks
of Baptism in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38; 10:48) or in the name of the Lord
Jesus (Acts 8:16; 19:5), it may be a shorthand version of the Trinitarian formula.
Through Baptism the Spirit dwells within their bodies. This has profound implications for
the Christian life and Paul now turns to it (6:12-20).

Excursus: Homosexuality
There is a difference between homosexual desires and practice. Both are sinful, but one
need not put into practice what one thinks about. The biblical condemnations of
homosexuality focus their spotlight on indulgence in homosexual behavior.
From beginning to end the Bible condemns homosexual behavior as an unnatural
perversion. The Creators original intentions for human sexual relations in a life-long
relationship between one man and one woman was affirmed by Jesus (Gen 1:26-28; 2:1825; Mt 19:1-9; Eph 5:22-23). When the men of Sodom and Gomorrah perverted Gods
design they were punished with sulfur and fire (Gen 19:24-29). In Mosaic Law such
actions were punishable by death (Lev 20:13). When the men of the Benjamite city of
Gebeah degenerated to the point of repeating Sodoms sin, the other eleven tribes carried
out the Lords judgment (Judges 19-20).
The NT agrees. In Romans 1, Paul condemns homosexual practice as the prime example
of ungodliness and unrighteousness (Ro 1:18). 1 Cor 6:9-10 focuses on the actual
practices and deeds that are part of a persons way of life. This is living according to the
flesh, which leads to death (Ro 8:13). The Christian may have the same sinful desires as
the non-Christian, but the Christian has been called by God through the power of the
Spirit to kill those desires by not acting upon them. Instead he is to confess the sinful
desires and receive absolution.
If a person succumbs to such desires and commits the sinful act, forgiveness is available.
But if one lives such a lifestyle, then he is no longer seeking forgiveness; he is thumbing
his nose at Gods grace.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

In other places (Eph 5:5; 1 Tim 1:9-11), Paul lists those who will not inherit the kingdom.
And again he includes homosexuals. Also Rev 21:8 and Rev 22:15 reference those who
are detestable (applied specifically to homosexuals in Lev 18:22 and Lev 20:13) and
the dogs (see the parallelism in Deut. 23:17-18). These are really references to
homosexuals and they will be excluded from the holy city and condemned for eternity to
the lake of fire.
Notice that in 1 Cor 6:9-11 Paul uses the past tense when he says that some of the
Corinthians used to live that way before they were washed, sanctified and justified.
Whether or not some have a predisposition toward this behavior because of environment
or genetics does not matter. Through the power of the Holy Spirit some in Corinth had
changed. This does not mean that they no longer had sinful desires. Adulterers, thieves,
etc. still have those inclinations too. That is part of our human existence in a fallen world.
The Gospel provides Gods resurrection power to live a new kind of life. The Christian is
called to put to death the old way of life so that the new Adam can come forth and govern
his daily life (Ro 6; 1 Cor 12:13).

6:12-20 Our Bodies Belong to the Lord.

Paul has questioned the Corinthians judgment in the case of the Christian
brother who openly lived an immoral life (chpt. 5), in settling disputes among
themselves (6:1-11), and now in the accepted practice of men having sex with prostitutes
(6:12-26). The Corinthians believed they were free and what they did with their bodies
did not matter. This too excludes a person from the kingdom of God. The remedy for
such perversion is Christian marriage (chpt. 7).
Pauls argument against sinful laxity falls into three parts: (1) In 6:12-14 he quotes the
slogans used to defend this practice. He adds some correctives and instills a proper
respect for the body as belonging to the Lord. (2) In 6:15-17 he argues that a union with a
prostitute and with Christ is incompatible. (3) In 6:18-20 he specifically forbids sexual
immorality with a direct command.
6:12-14 Not All Things Are Beneficial
Luther once proposed, A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A
Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant to all, subject to all. The phrase that the
Corinthians were apparently quoting from their culture was all things are in my power
(6:12). This is similar to the first part of Luthers statement. But they needed to
understand that the Christian freedom from sin and the Laws condemnation is not
freedom to sin, but freedom to live by the power of the Spirit by Gods Law (e.g. Ro 6;
13:10). To this phrase Paul adds, Not all things are beneficial (6:12; cf. 7:35). This is
the other side of the paradox.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

When one does not crucify his sinful passions, one remains enslaved to them. A person
is a slave to whatever masters him (2 Pet 2:19). A Christian, as a slave of Christ, is to
serve Christ, not his sinful passions.
The next Corinthian slogan that Paul cites is about food and the body. The Corinthians
are apparently making an analogy between food and sex. They were saying that just like
we satisfy our hunger for food, so we must do the same with sex, even if it is with a
prostitute. And besides, what one does with his body is unimportant, for one day God will
destroy both food and the body it nourishes.
But Paul rejects this analogy. It is true that food, along with our bodies in their current
state, marriage and reproduction will not continue in heaven (Mt. 22:30). All of these
belong to the world that is passing away (1 Cor 7:31). But Paul believes the body is to be
honored. A Christians body is Gods property. At the resurrection our bodies will be
raised (6:14) in a transformed state. Gods will for our bodies is sanctification [make
holy] and devotion to the Lord. In Ro 14:7-8 Paul speaks of the mutual devotion of the
Lord and the believer. The Christian must not defile Christs possession by sexual
Through the Sacraments, Christians are washed, have the name of Jesus applied, are
made a member of the body of Christ, and receive the body and blood of Christ. In this
mystical union, the Christian must not sin against Christ; he must remain pure for the
Lord (6:13).
6:15-17 Your Bodies Are Members of Christ
This is the fourth time in this chapter that Paul asks, Dont you know? (6:15; 6:2, 3, 9).
[These are supposed to be very knowledgeable people!] This is Pauls first reference to
Christs body. He will refer to it again in 1 Cor 12:12-31 and Ro 12:4-8. This was
probably part of Pauls fundamental instruction to converts. This teaching may be derived
from Pauls Damascus experience. When the body of Christ is persecuted so is the
With this in mind, Paul is understandably horrified that the body of Christ is united
with a prostitute. He says that by no means (6:15) should this ever happen.
The Greek verb for who joins himself means to glue or cement. But even the
gluing of two pieces of paper together does not adequately describe the joining of two
persons in the act of sexual intercourse. In a mysterious way the two actually become one
(Eph 5:32). This was intended by God only within the covenant of marriage. When a man
united himself with a prostitute this is more than a sexual sin. The Holy Spirit cannot
coexist with the spirit of a brothel. The Christians body is meant to be a temple for the
Lord, a dwelling place of God. The body is to be used in his service.
When one joins oneself to anyone other than the one whom God has brought to you, then
you will not inherit the kingdom of God (6:9-10). Solomons downfall came when he

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

weakened in his devotion to the Lord and consorted with many foreign women (1 Ki
11:2). But the one who is united with the Lord is one spirit [with him] (1 Cor 6:17).
6:18-20 Flee from Sexual Immorality!
As Joseph ran away from Potiphars wife, so Paul says, the Christian should flee from
sexual immorality (6:18) and instead pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace (2 Tim
2:22; cf. 1 Cor 10:8; 1 Tim 6:11).
Just as sexual sin is uniquely body-joining, so it is uniquely body-defiling. The results of
this sin are sexually transmitted diseases that ravage the body. When one sins in such a
way, the Lord lets them suffer the due penalty for their perversion (Ro 1:27), which is
the degrading of their bodies (Ro 1:24). This is especially true of homosexuality and
lesbianism; cf. 1 Cor 6:9).
Sexual sin has both spiritual and physical ramifications. This body, which has been
consecrated by God as a temple of his Holy Spirit (3:16-17), which has been bought for a
price, and which is destined for resurrection, has been torn from its spiritual union with
Christ and joined in an unholy union.
The bright cloud of Gods glorious presence had filled the tabernacle and then temple in
the OT. In the NT Jesus himself became the greater temple (Jn 2:21). And each believer is
a living stone in that temple (1 Pet 2:4-5). Each believer is a mini-temple and the abuse of
their bodies in sexual sins violates the very holiness and presence of God. And since the
Holy Spirit had taken up residence within them, the body was not unimportant as the
Corinthians believed, but was raised up to a higher place. Therefore the Christian has no
place for premarital and extramarital relations.
For the Christian, their bodies are not their own (6:19), but actually belong to Christ
(3:23). They have been bought for a price (6:20). This short passage brings together the
Gospel and its implications for life. The Gospel says that Christ made that once-and-forall sacrifice on Calvary in order to ransom us from slavery. Freed from slavery, the sinner
is not free to go, but comes under new ownership; he has a new Lord. But he is now free
to worship, love and serve the Lord. Before it was impossible to worship, love, and serve
the Lord. He has become a slave of Christ (7:23), but Christs yoke is easy and his burden
is light (Mt. 11:30).
Having begun with a negative command, Flee from sexual immorality! (6:18), Paul
ends with the positive exhortation to glorify God in your body! (6:20). His appeal is
similar to Ro. 12 where he says, I urge you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God,
to present your bodies as a sacrifice that is living, holy, acceptable to God (Ro 12:1).

Introduction to Chapter 7

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

From this point on Paul will be responding to questions from Corinth. Even though he
starts a new section, Paul makes a close link between his warnings concerning sexual
immorality in chs. 5 and 6, and his positive efforts in ch. 7 to form healthy attitudes
towards marriage and sex. The close link is made with the word sexual immorality in
5:1; 6:13, 18 and 7:2.
Paul does not consider sex degrading as some believe. He urges husbands to love their
wives in the sacrificial way that Christ loved the church (Eph 5:21-33). However, he did
call celibacy a good thing, even a better thing (7:38). Whether one is celibate or
married is entirely a matter of Christian freedom. The one advantage to being celibate is
that one has fewer distractions in serving God and neighbor. But Paul realizes that all
cannot do this. It is far better to marry than to burn with sexual desire (7:9).
The hearers understanding of ch. 7 depends on ones understanding of 7:1, It is good for
a man not to touch a woman. Is this one of Pauls sayings or one of the Corinthians
sayings? This commentary believes this is a saying of the Corinthians. Paul agrees, but is
quick to qualify it. In order to avoid immorality, Paul encourages marriage and the
satisfying of ones spouse (7:2-3).
So in counseling the Corinthians on sexual matters, Paul faced opposition on two fronts.
The antinomian libertines held that one could do whatever he wanted with his body (chs.
5 & 6 immorality, adultery, homosexuality, and prostitution (5:9-11; 6:9-20). In ch. 7
Paul counters the ascetic overreaction by some to abstain from marriage and sex within
marriage because it did not fit with the Christians new spiritual existence.

7:1-7 Mutuality in Marriage

7:1b, it is good for a man not to touch a woman, should be seen as a statement of what
the Corinthians believe. It is qualified by 7:2, which is the center and general rule for
Paul. This pattern appears several times in the ch. Paul begins with a statement, but then
adds a qualifier (7:7, 8-9, 25-28). Marriage then is the rule and celibacy is the exception.
Note the imperatives in 7:2 (must have). The reason many must have is because of
the temptation of sexual immorality. Some point out that Paul is not giving a general rule
as to why one would get married, that marriage is given for procreation (Ge 1:28) and
companionship (Ge 2:18). These are indeed the reasons God instituted marriage, but
marriage also provides the proper place where human sexuality can be expressed. It also
serves as a remedy for sin, a buffer against Satans temptations (7:5).
Paul speaks of full reciprocity on the part of both the husband and wife in their sexual
obligations to one another. He emphasizes the importance of unselfish giving in their
sexual relationship (7:3). He emphasizes unselfish love in contrast to the modern
emphasis on self-fulfillment and the individuals sexual autonomy. Neither husbands nor
the wives have authority over their own bodies (7:4). Their bodies belong to each other.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

They have entered into this relationship putting the other person first [as Christ does for
the church].
The verb in 7:5 translated as depriving is literally defrauding. This word was used in
6:7 with reference to some Christians defrauding each other in property cases. To deprive
ones spouse of sexual relations is to rob the other of what rightfully belongs to him or
her (cf. for the use of the same verb in James 5:4). Only under exceptional circumstances
is abstinence allowed (mutual agreement, for a short time, for prayer, 7:5). If abstinence
is observed, sexual intimacy should resume as soon as possible in order that the tempter
not be able to seize the opportunity to draw them into sin. The marital relationship serves
as protective shield against the devils cunning.
The word this in I say this (7:6) refers to the concession to a period of abstinence in
7:5 and not to a concession that Christians marry. Paul has commanded marriage using
four imperatives, insisting that each person take a spouse and fulfill their conjugal duties
(7:2, 3, 5). Only after this does he concede that there might be a reason for a short period
of abstinence.
Paul would like it if all people were unmarried [so they could more fully devote their
entire lives to the Lord]. But Paul realizes that to remain celibate and to remain free from
burning sexual desire is a gift from God not given to all; each receives different gifts
(7:7). Celibacy and marriage are both gracious gifts from God.

7:8-9 Widowers and Widows

Based on 7:7-8 it appears that at this time Paul was not married. But perhaps at some time
he had been married (now either a widower or his wife left him, possibly at his
conversion). Luther concluded that Paul was a widower. Twelve times in ch. 7 Paul deals
with men and women in mutuality. So it would be natural for him to do the same here,
translating widower instead of those who have never been married.
So Paul grants that it is good that widowers and widows remain unmarried. The
exception being if they lack self-control and are tempted to visit prostitutes or indulge in
extramarital affairs. If this is the case then the remedy is marriage, for it is better to
marry than to burn with sexual passion (7:9). Paul was probably countering ascetic
groups that sought to forbid remarriage of widowers and widows. Paul believed that the
death of one spouse left the surviving spouse free to remarry (7:39; see also Ro 7:2-3).

7:10-11 To the Married: No Divorce!

Paul now turns to married Christians. He states categorically that they are not to divorce.
His authority on this comes from the Lord. Jesus has expressly forbidden marriage as
contrary to the Creators design and will.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

In Judaism wives could not initiate divorce, but in Greco-Roman society they could. It
may be that some spiritual women who were drawn to ascetics had rejected sexual
relations and were even divorcing their Christian husbands. If she does divorce him then
there are only two possibilities, either she live as a single person or she reconcile with her
husband. The NT view of marriage is that it is indissoluble: the two have become one and
will remain so in Gods eyes. Only death can dissolve a marriage (Ro 7:2; 1 Cor 7:39). As
one commentator says, Divorcing one spouse to marry another is nothing other than a
legalized form of adultery. In the Greek, the weight falls on final phrase in both 7:10
(must not separate) and 7:11 (must not divorce). In Mal 2:16, the Lord says, I hate
Paul emphatically tells men the same thing; he must not divorce (literally send away)
(7:11). Men in both Jewish and Greco-Roman societies had the legal right to divorce. But
the apostles standard on marriage and divorce do not come from society, they come from
the Lord [the Creator of marriage].

7:12-16 Mixed Marriages

Now Paul turns to believers married to unbelievers. In many cases a person was
converted to Christianity, but their spouse was not. Pauls advice, based on apostolic
authority, was to remain married if both are content to do so. There may have been some
concerns from the Christian spouse that they should not associate with the immoral
(Pauls command in 5:9-13). Plus the ascetic group may have argued that marriage to a
pagan defiled the Christian partner. But Paul assures the church that the opposite is the
case: the unbeliever is actually sanctified through association with the believer (7:14).
To be sanctified does not necessarily mean to be saved. As much as the believing spouse
wants salvation for and prays for their spouse, the Gospel can still be rejected. But
whether they come to believe or not, the unbelieving spouse comes under the holy
influence of the Christian. Christ is greater than the world (1 Jn 4:4). The light of Christ
dispels darkness (Jn 1:5).
The holy influence of the believing spouse also extends to the children. This
influence very well may have included baptism. Paul is reassuring that continued union
with the spouse is not displeasing to God. Rather, the Christian spouse has a positive
effect on his family.
It may have been common for the spouse of a new convert to find their spouses
new religion strange and embarrassing. This may have caused them to want to opt out of
the relationship (7:15). Only under these circumstances may the marriage be dissolved.
The Christian is not responsible for the breakup since it was the unbeliever who wanted
out. A Christian husband or wife may want to save the marriage in order to save their
spouse, but there are no guarantees that the spouse will be saved. Trying to hold on, when
the partner has made up his mind to leave, will only cause hostility. The guiding principle
of marriage is peace and not evangelism.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

7:17-24 Remain as You Were When Called
In this section Paul states the principle of remaining in the state in which you were called
three times (7:17, 20, 24), drawing parallels with circumcision and uncircumcision, then
freedom and slavery. In these verses Paul uses called eight times. This verb denotes
ones call to faith in Christ and not ones vocation or station in life. It is the condition in
which God finds a person when he first called him into a relationship with his Son (1:9).
Ones status, whether male or female, single or married (7:7), circumcised or
uncircumcised, slave or free, rich or poor has no bearing on ones standing with God. His
argument here is similar to his baptismal argument in Gal. 3:28. Social status is not
important in Gods eyes. Even slaves can have the high calling to eternal life in Christ
(Phil 3:14). Paul stresses contentment with ones lot in life (Phil. 4:11-13).
If one is circumcised (Jewish) when he is called, he should remain so. If one is
uncircumcised (Gentile), he should remain so. Ultimately after Christ came and fulfilled
the Torah, the question of circumcision became irrelevant. What mattered was keeping
the commandments of God (7:19).
What does Paul mean by the commandments of God? 1 Jn 3:23 says believe in Jesus
and love one another. In Galatians Paul speaks of faith that works through love (Gal 5:6).
In Romans he speaks of the obedience of faith (Ro 1:5; 16:26). As Luther said, faith is
a living, busy, active, mighty thing that constantly serves the neighbor in loving
obedience to the Ten Commandments (Ro 13:8-10).
But in the present context, a broader definition should be applied. Gods commandments
include all divine revelation, the OT and the words of Jesus. This is the sense of
commandment in 1 Cor 14:37.
In 7:20 Paul reiterates the principle. Whatever ones calling (or state, similar to our
vocations of marriage, circumcision, etc.), one should stay in that state after one has
received the divine call to be a Christian.
The next example is from the practice of slavery (7:21). A slaves place in society should
not bother them. They can still live a Christian life under those circumstances. But if their
master offers them freedom, then by all means take advantage of the opportunity.
The reason for the statement in 7:21a to not worry is given in 7:22a. To be a child of God
is to receive freedom from the bondage of sin. But this does not mean that the Christian is
now at liberty to be his own master. Rather release from bondage has resulted in a
transference of ownership. From now on, he is a willing slave of his Lord Jesus. Paul is
an example of this. He who was a free Roman citizen often introduced himself to his
readers as a slave of Christ Jesus (Ro 1:1; 2 Cor 4:5; Gal 1:10; Phil 1:1; Titus 1:1).

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

Luther summarized Pauls teaching with this: A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all,
subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant, subject to all. The Corinthians
and Christians freeman status had come at a price (7:23) the precious blood of Christ
(1 Pet 1:18-19; Rev 5:9).
Paul repeats his thesis in 7:24. Bloom where you are planted is a modern restatement of
the apostles message. The call to be a Christian sanctifies and ennobles all stations of
life. Whatever that station is, the Christian can be assured that God is with him and will
never leave him (cf. Deut. 31:6; Josh 1:5; Heb 1:5).

7:25-28 Those Never Married May Remain Single

Paul now speaks to unmarried people. By the phrase, now concerning (7:25), Paul
signals that he is taking up a fresh topic from the Corinthians letter to him. But in this
case he has no specific word from the Lord. He instead offers pastoral advice with their
best interests in mind. His advice is that he believes that it would be best if virgins remain
Paul gives this advice based on the present distress (7:26). What does this mean? He
might be alluding to the end of the world (thus NRSV: impending crisis). The context
of the short time (7:29) and the world passing away (7:31) might lead one in this
direction. This may have been on Pauls mind, but there may have been another specific
distress for the Corinthians at this time.
During the A.D. 40s and 50s there were food shortages in numerous Greek states. There
is evidence of one Tiberius Claudius Dinippus, who was responsible for grain for Corinth
during the shortages, being honored for his services. If the people of Corinth did suffer
from famine then it is understandable why Paul would give this advice. It is easier for an
unmarried person to cope with the hardships than for parents with children. This may also
be behind Pauls concern for the poor at the communal meals, which accompanied the
Lords Supper (11:21, 34).
Since the destruction of Jerusalem prefigures Judgment Day, and since Jesus spoke of
famines, etc. as signs of his return (Mt. 24), all such earthly hardships should be seen as
signs of Christs return.
Paul has learned to be content with whatever situation he is in (Phil 4:11). He reiterates
this advice to the Corinthians (7:27). However if an unmarried person decides to marry
this is not a sin (7:28). He was simply giving advice, and not to follow it did not bring
spiritual peril. His advice here follows that of 7:2 and 7:9.
Paul adds that if one does get married he will have to deal with the normal worldly
troubles (7:28). These normal anxieties (7:32-34) were added to or accentuated by the
famine. Paul would like to spare them from these worries.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

7:29-31 Living as Those Whose Time Is Short
Paul reminds them that they live in the last days. They should live eshcatologically, as
if they might leave this world at any moment. A good analogy is the terminally ill. The
person who knows they have a limited amount of time, lives with a new perspective. He
sees, hears, and values everything in a new way. Believers should focus on eternal
essentials. Their lives should not be dominated by the world and its values. There are
legitimate earthly concerns, but most things of this world we can do without.
The poetry of 7:29-31 is similar to 2 Cor 6:10.
Paul frames these verses with the time has been shortened (7:29a) and for the form of
this world is passing away (7:31b). Paul is looking forward to the Last Day, when the
present creation will be superseded by a new creation and our lowly bodies will be
transformed into a glorious body like Christs.

7:32-35 Service without Anxiety

In contrast to the married man, an unmarried man can devote all his time and attention to
serving and pleasing the Lord. Paul does not say that marriage is bad. He simply points
out that the married man has divided loyalties (7:33-34). The same is true for unmarried
and married women (7:34). If single, they can have single-minded devotion to the Lord.
Anna had that kind of devotion (cf. Lk 2:37). An important message here is that the single
life has dignity and value before God. It is also important to realize that Pauls advice is
influenced by the special needs of his day, the present distress (7:26). At other times a
married person may be able to minister more effectively.
Nowhere does Paul say that marriage is displeasing to God. He does not make celibacy
the rule. He does not wish to put a noose (7:35) around anyones neck. Not everyone
has the gift of remaining single. What is important is not despising Gods Word. Whether
single or married, we should follow Marys example in choosing the better part, and
not allow ourselves, like Martha, to be excessively distracted with much serving (Lk

7:36-38 To Marry-or Not to Marry-Ones Virgin

The interpreter is challenged in identifying who the anyone is that is acting improperly
and who the virgin is. There are three views:
1. In this view the anyone and virgin refer to a father and his daughter. He would
not have acted properly towards her by not providing for her marriage. And she is not
content or does not have the gift of celibacy. In favor of this view is the word
translated as marry, to give someone to someone else in marriage. On the other

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

hand, it seems strange to refer to a daughter as his virgin. Also the phrase let them
marry (7:36b) seems strange when the fianc has not been introduced.
2. A second view is that of a spiritual marriage, where an ascetic couple live together
as brother and sister in Christ, abstaining from sexual intercourse. In this case the man
becomes overly passionate. The objections to this are (a) lack of evidence of such
spiritual marriages in the first century and (b) Pauls specific injunction to married
couples not to cease sexual intercourse (7:3-5).
3. The viewed adopted by Lockwood is that Paul is concerned about an engaged couple
who has postponed their wedding because of the economic situation or the
expectation of the Lords return. In these circumstances men found it difficult to
remain abstinent and thought it dishonorable to keep their fiances in suspense. Paul
assures them that there is nothing sinful about remedying the situation by marriage.
Pauls advice is similar to his advice to widow and widowers in 7:8-9: remain single
if you can, but if not then go ahead and marry. For it is better to marry than to burn.
On the other hand, some men have the gift of controlling their sexual desire and are
willing to remain single to be of full service to the Lord. The men who marry are doing
well (7:38a). The men who can remain single are doing better (7:38b).

7:39-40 A Widow May Remarry-a Christian

Paul has already had a pastoral word for widows (7:8-9), but now at the end of this
chapter Paul adds a special word for widows. Widows as a group often suffered great
Paul reiterates that marriage is for life (7:39, 10-11, 13). However if her husband were to
die then she is free to remarry, but only to a Christian (7:39) (see also 9:5 where it is
implied). He may assume that all Christians would think this way. In his second letter to
the Corinthians Paul states it in a general way, Do not become unequally yoked to
unbelievers (2 Cor 6:14).
Paul makes clear that a widow has every right to remarry and that there is nothing sinful
in doing so. Paul believes she would be better off if she remained single (7:40). The
reason for this he has already given earlier (7:32-35), the troubles and distractions of the
Throughout the chapter Paul has been arguing against the apparent exaltation of celibacy
and asceticism. If one has the gift to remain single thats fine. But if one doesnt then it is
better to marry, but that too requires gifts. Both ways of life are pleasing to God.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

8:1-11:1 The Word of the Cross Is the Basis for the
Churchs Freedom
Introduction to Chapter 8
Paul now turns his attention to another question from the Corinthians letter to him: What
should their attitude be to food that has been offered to idols? It seems as if the wise in
Corinth held a very liberal view. The council at Jerusalem had sent out a letter to Gentile
Christians to abstain from food sacrificed to idols in order to promote good relations
between Jewish and Gentile Christians. Pauls response to this issue is in chpts. 8 through
10. He distinguishes between 3 different issues:
(1) the primary issue was whether the Corinthians should recline at table and eat
sacrificial food in an idols temple (8:1-10:24);
(2) whether they should eat in their homes food purchased at the food market (10:25-26);
(3) how they should conduct themselves as guests in non-Christian homes (10:27-30).
Another way of summarizing this is:
1) Knowledge puffs up; love builds up (8:1-13).
2) The apostolic example of renouncing rights (9:1-27).
3) Warning against idolatry (10:1-22).
4) Use your freedom for the glory of God (10:23-11:1).
Idolatrous worship in Pauls day has been illuminated by archaeology and by studies of
contemporary literature. Traditional religion in Corinth was polytheistic. Excavation of
the sanctuary of the goddesses Demeter and Kore show a sanctuary of three levels: the
bottom, which was open to the public, the middle, which was open to the members, and
the top, which had the cult images. Eating sacrificed pigs and dedicated cereals and fruits
was an important part of the Demeter cult.
Pauls language refers to Christians with knowledge 8:1, 7, 10, 11) and the weak
(8:7, 9, 10). The way that Paul uses these terms is in reference to those who were not
offended and those who were easily offended by food offered to idols. But Pauls interest
is not to educate the weak; instead he wants all Christians especially the wise - to act
in love, a love that builds up others in Christ.
An important issue in interpreting 8:1-11:1 is the relationship between chapters 8 and 10.
In 8:10 Paul seems to tolerate the knowledgeable Christian eating at the idol-temple,
whereas in 10:14-22 he is totally against it. Some believe this tension is caused by the
fact that the two chapters are from two different letters. Others argue that Paul cannot
address all issues at once, so he states the problem in ch. 8, but does not fully cover it
until ch. 10. In ch. 8 his primary concern is how reclining at the idols temple will hurt
ones brother (8:11). In ch. 10 Pauls concern is how flirting with idols (instead of fleeing
from them) will harm oneself (10:1-22).

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

8:1-13 Food Sacrificed to Idols
8:1-3 Knowledge Puffs Up, Love Builds Up
Another apparent slogan in Corinth was We all have knowledge (8:1). And for
some, the knowledge that other gods were not really gods at all led them to consider all
food as eatable.
Paul warns them against the wrong attitude by saying knowledge puffs up (8:1). For
many times superior knowledge tends to inflate a person with a sense of superiority over
others. Boasting in ones self rather than in the Lord puts one add odds with the Lords
purposes for the church. The Lord wants the church to build up through unselfish love
(cf. 10:23). This love is patterned after the example of Christ, who died for the weak
(8:11) and after Paul in his willingness to renounce meat for the sake of his Christian
brothers and sisters (8:13).
Hab. 2:4 contrasts the righteous person who lives by faith with the puffed up person
who believes his actions elevate his status before God. The puffed up person is selfcentered and lives according to the Law. The person who lives by faith lives by the
Gospel of undeserved grace. He is content to be a listener and learner. He never presumes
that he can teach the Master. He awaits heaven where he will know as he has been known
(1 Cor 13:12).
In 8:3 Paul speaks of the one who loves God. If someone loves God, it is because that
person is known by God; God is the source of that persons love. Gods knowledge and
election of a person come first and enable a person to then know and love God. It is
Gods prior action of [selecting,] knowing, and revealing himself to a person that results
in that person knowing and loving God. This person is freed from pride in himself and
what he knows. He no longer lives for himself, but for God who has saved him in Christ.
Loving God shows itself in loving others and building them up. When a persons focus is
on God and others, he will no longer rejoice in his own knowledge but in Gods gracious
knowledge of him (cr. 1 Cor 13:12; Gal 4:9). His life is characterized by humble gratitude
(cf. 1 Cor 4:7).

8:4-6 One God and One Lord

8:1-3 laid the foundation for Pauls response to the question about idol-food. Paul
agrees that Christians know that there is no idol in the world and there is no God but
one. Therefore food that was part of idol sacrifices is really just food. But later he
reminds the Corinthians that knowledge used with out love is of no value (13:2).
That idols are nothing agrees with the prophets and the psalmists who mocked the lifeless
idols of the heathen (e.g., Ps 115:3-8; Is 44:9-20). And the second slogan is echoed by the
Shema (Deut. 6:4). The acknowledgment of one God was what distinguished the Jewish

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

people from their polytheistic neighbors. Like the Jews earlier, Christians in Pauls day
could agree that any god besides the one, true God was nothing.
Paul acknowledges that there are many so-called gods and lords, but as far as Paul and
Christians are concerned there is only one God, the Father (8:6). This one God is not a
local deity, but the almighty Creator. He is also the Father of the one Lord Jesus Christ
(8:6) and of those who believe in him. Christians live for their heavenly Father (8:6). In
everything they are oriented toward him and strive to please him.
Paul is bold to identify Jesus as the one Lord of Israels Shema (8:6). It was through the
Lord Jesus, who is the Word, that the Father created all things (8:6). It is through Christ
that we have our spiritual and physical existence.

8:7-13 Love for the Weak Brother

Paul has agreed with the enlightened Christians of Corinth that food offered to
idols is simply food (8:4-6). But knowledge not applied in Christian love merely puffs up.
Paul is aware that for some to join in eating meat at an idols temple, the former way of
life might reassert itself. They would see this meat in another light, as meat offered to
idols. Their conscience would bother them; they would feel guilty (8:7). And preserving a
good conscience (theirs and their neighbors) is a part of a Christians high responsibility.
The Corinthian situation is similar to todays mission fields.
The phrase food will not present us to God (8:8a) may be another Corinthian slogan
and again it is in accord with Pauls position; it is not of any importance. Paul was
concerned with faith active in love (Gal 5:6; cf. 1 Cor 7:19; Gal 6:15). But knowledge
can puff up and Paul warns them not to make any stumbling blocks for the weak (8:9),
which would lead them into spiritual danger (8:10-13).
The knowledgeable in Corinth would argue that idols are nothing but wood or stone and
the food sacrificed to them is simply food, a gift from God. Thus they saw nothing wrong
with dining in the temples of idols. But they fail to think about what effect this would
have upon their weak brothers. Paul makes their use of liberty into something personal as
he speaks of when others see you acting on your knowledge thereby sinning against
your brothers (8:10-12). To you its only food, but to your brother, its still idol-food.
This then is love-less behavior. These knowledgeable Christians have become personally
responsible for jeopardizing their brothers salvation, for his spiritual ruin (8:11; cf. 1:18;
10:9-10; 15:18). Four times Paul reminds them that the weak Christian is their brother.
The phrase the brother for whom Christ died is being destroyed (8:11b) is very pointed.
Every word tells; the brother, not a mere stranger; for the sake of whom, precisely to
rescue him from destruction; Christ, no less than he; died, no less than that. Jesus
died for all, even the fragile and despised.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

Pastoral Implications for Today
Is this applicable for today? Yes, the principle of brotherly love has broad application.
Although we dont have idol-food, it is never right to bring another Christian down by
our use of our new freedom. What we do to our fellow Christians, we do to Christ (Acts
9:4; Gal 4:14; Mt 25:35-40).
In our day, there are cults and the occult; there is our secular culture and our materialism.
Anything we revel in besides God and his gifts is idolatry. Some examples might be an
alcoholic or gambler. When Christians flaunt their freedom to drink or gamble, the
alcoholic or gambler might be drawn back into it. Such behavior is a sin (8:12) and
strikes at the persons spirit (8:12). And sinning against the Brother is a sin against Christ
Paul concludes in 8:13 with his statement that he would do whatever was necessary to
prevent my brother from losing faith.
Paul will return to this topic in 10:19-22. So ch. 8 is a preliminary response to the
Corinthians question. It the Lord Jesus gave up his life for his brothers and sisters,
shouldnt they be willing go give up some of lifes luxuries for their brothers?

9:1-27 The Apostolic Example of Lovingly Renouncing

9:1-2 A Free Apostle
At first it may seem that Paul has deviated from the subject of eating food
sacrificed to idols. But what he does is switch the focus from the Corinthians to himself.
He too is free like the enlightened Corinthians. He is free to eat and drink, to be married
and to receive support from the congregation (9:4-7). And he is even more, for he is also
an apostle. As one who has seen the risen Jesus, he has the knowledge and authority of an
apostle. And the Corinthian congregation adds proof to his apostleship. They are his
handiwork. He is their apostle. The fact that a congregation in Corinth exists seals the fact
that Paul is an apostle of the Lord.

9:3-14 Four Proofs of the Apostles Right to Support

9:4-6 Apostolic Practice
Paul invokes four authorities that confirm that he has the right to receive a wage as
compensation for his work as an apostle. First he lists the conduct of the other apostles.
Apparently some argued that Paul had refused to take compensation because he knew he
had no right (9:4-6, 12, 18) to it. But Paul argues that he and his coworkers had every

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

right to expect financial support. Similarly, he has a right to marry a Christian woman.
The other apostles, Jesus brothers and Peter have married and have taken their wives
with them on their journeys for the Gospel (9:5). Paul and Barnabas had these same
rights, but in the right of compensation they purposely refused that right and instead
supported themselves .
9:7 Custom
Paul asks three questions related to everyday life. It is considered proper that the laborer
receive compensation for his efforts. Paul uses the examples of a soldier, a wine grower
and a shepherd. It is noteworthy that Scripture often pictures Gods people as an army,
vineyard, and flock.
9:8-13 The Old Testament Law
Is Paul speaking merely from a human point of view? Of course not! He has the OT
behind him as well. Paul quotes Deut 25:4, You shall not muzzle the ox while it is
threshing the grain. The context for this verse is the fair treatment of all of our fellow
human beings, especially those in need. The principle that God is laying down is that it is
only fair that all workers be paid for their services.
Paul insists that God is speaking of those who work full time in spreading the Gospel.
Paul uses extreme language when he uses entirely and denies that God cares for oxen.
This is a Semitic device used, where the lesser of two things is subordinated or denied
altogether. Another example would be when God says, I desire mercy and not sacrifice
(Hos 6:6). [Its not that God does not want sacrifices (He laid out Israels sacrificial
system), but that sacrifices made with the wrong attitude are worthless.] Other examples
are Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated (Mal 1:2-3) and Jesus words, If anyone comes to
me and does not hate his father (Lk 14:26). So if God cares for oxen, then how much
more will he care for us?
The phrase in hope is in the emphatic position and it is repeated (9:10). Those who
work should be confident that their labors will be rewarded. Paul will use this quote again
in 1 Tim 5:17-18 when he insists that pastors be properly paid; he is a laborer worthy of
his pay.
9:11 is similar to Ro 15:27. As Paul and others have sowed spiritual things, they expect
physical support. Others have exercised their right (9:12). Some may have thought that
since Paul hasnt exercised the right, then he must not feel he has a right to it. But Pauls
main concern was the spreading of the Gospel. He wanted nothing to hinder it (9:12).
What he preached was free (salvation), he made sure they understood that by preaching
for free. This was very different than the travelling philosophers who charged for their
Paul gave examples of the Priests and Levites (9:13-14). They both were compensated for
their work with meat and grain and tithes (Num 18:5-20; Deut 18:1-3; Num 18:21-23).

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

9:14 The Lords Command
The final piece of evidence is a command from the Lord Jesus himself. Jesus
principle was those who preach the Gospel are to live by the Gospel (9:14). When
Jesus sent out the 72 he told them, The laborer is worthy of his wages (Lk 10:7). Since
Jesus said that to the 72 and not the 12, it has broader meaning than just the apostles.

9:15-18 Pauls Decision Not to Exercise His Rights

Having thoroughly established that he had every right to be compensated, Paul
returns to the point he began to make in 9:12, we did not take advantage of this right.
Paul has never used those rights, nor, by his detailed insistence on those rights, does he
insist on such support. For Paul the preaching of the free Gospel is of the greatest
importance. Throughout his ministry Paul has sought to lower himself in order that others
might be raised (2 Cor 11:7-11).
As a Gospel preacher, Paul was compelled to preach the Good News (9:16). Paul was in
debt. He had been entrusted with something precious that was to be passed on to others.
Until it was passed on he was in debt. If he did not preach the Gospel, it was woe to him
(9:16). He had a burden of preaching the Gospel. Jeremiah had a similar burden.
Paul could carry out his task voluntarily or involuntarily (9:17). If voluntarily then he
should be rewarded. But this was not the case. Paul [and all Christians] was a slave of
Christ. Paul was Christs steward. He had no choice. That was the job Christ entrusted
him to do. Paul is not concerned about an earthly reward. Presenting the Gospel free of
charge was reward enough (9:18).
So the message here is two-fold. The minister is worthy of his salary and benefits. They
must be able to devote themselves completely to the Gospel without concern for worldly
cares. On the other hand, the point of the text is not really rights. Rather the point is the
Gospel, that it be communicated without any hindrance (9:12). In some circumstances the
church worker may have to forego some rights in order that the Good News reach
peoples hearts. Paul is a model for ministers of selfless and sacrificial labor in
discharging the Gospel free of charge. And Paul in turn has imitated the ministry of
Christ who came to serve.

9:19-23 All Things to All People

Pauls goal was to win as many people as possible to the Gospel. If that meant
giving up certain rights then thats what he would do. Paul adapted his mission strategy
according to the different groups he dealt with. Here he gives four illustrations based on
four different groups that he dealt with: (1) the Jews (9:20a); (2) those under Law
(9:20b); those without Laws (9:21); (4) the weak (9:22).

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

Although Paul was called as an apostle to the Gentiles, he was obligated to the Jews first
(Ro 1:6). The Jews were Gods chosen people. With their background they should be the
easiest to reach. They should be able to see in Jesus the fulfillment of Israels ancient
hope (Acts 26:6-7; 28:20). The Jews were natural branches who were cutting themselves
off and Paul wished to graft them back in again (Ro 11:17-24).
Paul always began his mission in a synagogue, appealing to the Jews first and then to the
Gentile God-fearers. To win the Jews Paul had to become as a Jew (9:20). He wanted
to do nothing that would cause offense (see Acts 16:3 and 21:20-26).
The second group Paul refers to are those under Law (9:20). This group included not
only the Jews, but also Gentile God-fearers. These people were drawn to and accepted
much of the Jewish law. Even though Paul was free from the Law, he humbly identified
himself with them in order to win them for the Gospel.
The third group, those without Law, were Gentile converts. Paul did not obligate this
group to OT dietary and ceremonial laws (Col 2:16). All that Paul required of this group
was to believe the Gospel and to be baptized. That this group was without Law meant
that they were not Jews. It did not mean that they were free to live an immoral life. All
people have Gods Law written in their hearts (Ro 2:15).
By saying that he too did not live under the Law, Paul was saying that the main driving
force in his life was not the Law but the Gospel. Its not that he doesnt care about the
Law, for he is obedient to the law of Christ (9:21). Paul sought to love all people in all
situations, but what motivated him was the Gospel and not the Law.
The fourth group are those who are weak. Paul has already spoken of how, even though
idols and the meat sacrificed to them are nothing, he humbly identified with them so that
he would not cause offense. The weak may have a two-fold aspect. They may have
been weak in that they were easily swayed by others and/or they may have been
economically weak. Most members of the congregation were not well-educated,
influential, or of noble birth (1:26-31). Paul accommodated himself with them by not
taking money for his services.
Paul accommodated himself to all of these groups in order that he might by all means
save some (9:22). He followed the pattern set down by Jesus, as he ate and drank with
sinners in order to save the lost. Paul was able to use different methods to reach each of
these groups while not compromising the message. He used the OT with the Jews (e.g.,
Acts 1316-41). He could speak the native tongues of Greek or Aramaic (Acts 21:3722:2). His familiarity with both Jewish and Hellenistic culture helped him reach people (1
Cor 9:24-27). But Paul did not become puffed up in his learning. Instead he used it in
service to bringing salvation to the lost.
However much Paul adapted himself to the people, he did not change the Gospel. The
message of the cross was foolish and weak to people, the opposite of what they
might have expected. This is why it is important not to be offensive to unbelievers.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

9:24-27 Self-Discipline to Win an Imperishable Prize
Some of Pauls imagery here probably comes from the Isthmian Games. These
Olympic-like games were held every 2 years only 10 miles from Corinth. Paul uses the
example of the runner to show the importance of effort and self-discipline in the Christian
To prepare for games like these, the athletes spent about 10 months in strict training.
They gave up even many good things in order to focus on the goal. They had to exert
self-control. This is one of the fruits of the Spirit for a Christian (Gal 5:23; 2 Pet 1:6). The
athletes exhibited such self-control in order to win a wreath of withered celery along with
some personal honor and glory. The Christian maintains self-control in order to receive
the gift of eternal life (2 Tim 4:8; James 1:2; 1 Pet 5:4; Rev 2:10).
Paul now applies this image to himself. Paul did not run aimlessly (9:26). Rather, he ran
toward the goal in order to receive the prize. As a boxer accomplishes nothing but hitting
the air (9:26), so Paul did not waste his energy on things that did not further the Gospel.
Paul had the rights to many things that he did not insist on. Some of them would have
made his life better and easier. But he was willing to be beaten and enslaved for the cause
of the Gospel. He willingly gave his body as a living sacrifice (Ro 12:1). By such
discipline, Pauls faith was active in loving service. Had he not stayed disciplined, he ran
the risk of disqualifying himself from winning and for the prize (9:24-25). The benefits
that Paul gives to others through the Gospel are benefits that he himself wants to share in
(9:23). By falling in love with the things of this world instead of with God, one could fall
from grace. The message for the Corinthians was that they should exercise self-control so
that they wont fall back into idolatry and forfeit their salvation. Christians must
constantly exercise self-control, restraining and putting to death by the power of the Spirit
their sinful desires.

10:1-11:1 Conclusions about Idol-Foods

10:1-13 Warnings against Spiritual Complacency

10:1-5 Our Fathers in the Wilderness

Paul begins this section with, I do not want you to be ignorant, brothers (10:1). This is
a formula that he commonly uses to introduce something new and important (Ro.1:13;
11:25; 1 Cor 12:1; 2 Cor 1:8; 1 Thess 4:13).
Paul now turns to the OT. Even though Paul speaks to a predominantly Gentile
congregation, he can still refer to OT Israel as our fathers, for they have been grafted
into the vine. Abraham was not only the father of Israel, but he was also the father of all
believers. In fact the Christian church is the true Israel (Gal 6:16).

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

The word all is used five times in 10:1-4. The whole nation received Gods gifts of
grace. All were under the cloud (10:1) of Gods glorious presence and power. In the
cloud he led them and protected them. All passed through the waters of the Red Sea
(10:1). They all were saved through water as was Noah. They all received manna from
heaven (10:3). They all drank the miraculous water that came from a rock (10:4). And yet
most of them did not reach the promised land. In fact only two of them did, Joshua and
Caleb. So Paul is warning them not to be like the Israelites and forfeit, through
unfaithfulness and false worship, the salvation given them.
Israels passing through the waters of the Red Sea prefigures the waters of Baptism. Their
baptism into Moses was a baptism in which they submitted to Moses leadership in
guiding them through the waters, and when they saw what the Lord accomplished, they
believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses (Ex 14:31). Their salvation in the cloud
and the sea (10:2) led them into a trusting, personal relationship with the great mediator
of the old covenant (Moses). Accordingly Moses was a type of Jesus Christ, the greater
mediator of the new covenant, into whom the Corinthian Christians had been baptized (1
Cor 1:13-17; 12:13).
Just as all the fathers of Israel received a type of Baptism, so they also received a type of
the Lords Supper. They all received the the grain from heaven, the bread of angels
(Ps 78:24-25). Its heavenly origin explains why Paul called the manna spiritual food
(10:3). It was superior to ordinary bread just like the spiritual body with which the
believer will be clothed in the resurrection is superior to the natural body (15:42-44).
Likewise the water the Israelites drank from the rock was their spiritual drink; it
corresponds to the wine of the Lords Supper. Paul says that it was Christ, the rock, who
accompanied Israel through the desert (10:4). The rock in the OT is Yahweh; therefore
Paul identifies Jesus as Yahweh. The second person of the Trinity was with Israel
providing them life-giving water.
Paul has described how all the Israelites had received Gods spiritual gifts. But then he
suddenly shifts course saying, But with most of them God was not pleased (10:5). His
warning to the Corinthians was clear. If they who had received Gods grace failed to
make it to the promised land, then the same could happen to you. Their penalty for
disbelief and murmuring is severe; they died on their journey to promised land.
In 10:1-5 Paul has told about Gods gracious provision for Israel in the wilderness and his
judgments on those who rebelled. This same God has done the same for the Corinthians
(1:3-4) and if they succumb to the same sins he will punish them just as he did Israel.
Gods actions in the OT and the NT eras are of one piece. His acts in OT times are
advance presentations of the way he acts now in the fulfillment of the ages.
The Significance of 10:1-5 for the Churchs Sacramental Theology and Practice
Admittedly, the baptism into Moses and the spiritual eating and drinking in the
wilderness were only shadows of the great sacraments of the NT era, Christian Baptism

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

and the Lords Supper. But it would be contrary to Pauls argument to claim that these OT
types lacked any relationship to the NT sacraments. He draws a parallel between this
baptism and spiritual eating and drinking and the Corinthians. Pauls purpose in drawing
this parallel is this: just as many Israelites were disqualified because of their
unfaithfulness and false worship, Christians too face the danger of being disqualified
from salvation if they engage in false worship and fail to remain in repentance and faith
worked by the Holy Spirit.

10:6-13 Patterns in the Pentateuch for Our Instruction

Paul now supplies five illustrations of why most of the Israelites died in the desert. These
illustrations were chosen because of their relevance to the situation in Corinth: the
Corinthians were prone to the same sins.
The first illustration (10:6) happened when Israel left Mt. Sinai. Some of them craved the
meat and vegetables of Egypt and despised the manna God sent (Num 11:4-5, 31-34). In
response the Lord provided meat (quail), but struck many with a plague. The food itself
was not evil. But the foods connection to idolatrous Egypt, along with their rejection of
the gracious food and water God provided, showed that they preferred slavery, idolatry
and impurity to the true freedom, provision and worship of the one, true God. The
Corinthians likewise were tempted to crave the meat offered to idols. They coveted this
meat, breaking the first and tenth commandments.
Pauls second illustration (10:7) was the gross idolatry of Israel worshipping the golden
calf (Ex 32). Aaron built an altar before the calf and proclaimed a feast to the Lord. The
Israelites made offerings and then engaged in sexual immorality. In response to this the
Lord came close to wiping out the entire nation. But Moses interceded and in the end
only about 3,000 lost their life (Ex 32:28). Just as the Israelites had fallen into the
temptation of sitting down and eating in honor of an idol, Paul warns the Corinthians not
to do the same in their reclining and eating and drinking in an idols temple (8:10; cf.
10:14-22). As was true in this case as well, the worship of the calf led to the sexual
immorality of the Israelites, so some Corinthians have been found guilty of incest and
visiting prostitutes.
In Pauls third example (10:8), Balaam advised the Moabite king Balak to throw
enticement to sin before the Israelites [so as to cause them] to eat meat sacrificed to idols
and to commit sexual immorality (Rev 2:14; cf. Rev 2:20). The Lord was angry and sent
a plague which killed 24,000 in the wilderness even as they were at the very gates of the
Promised Land. Paul warns the Corinthians not to fall into the same trap. With the Holy
Spirit living within them, they were to live holy lives; they were to avoid anything
unholy. They should be able to see that idolatry and immorality bring down Gods
judgment on a massive scale.
Israel was often impatient and complained in the desert. Pauls fourth example (10:9)
comes from Num 21:4-6 where the impatient Israelites spoke against God and Moses.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

They once again complained about the food and drink. This is when the Lord sent fiery
serpents among them and many were bitten and died. Their complaints against the
spiritual food and water that God provided was a sin against Christ himself (10:4). This
example is similar to the first illustration that Paul used.
Pauls fifth illustration (10:10) was that the Israelites grumbled against the Lord and
Moses in desert. Israel did much grumbling in the desert, but Paul has a specific incident
in mind. Commentators are divided between two incidents. Some believe it is Num 14
where after the spies returned the people refused to trust the Lord and enter the Promised
Land. They cried out against Moses and Aaron and the Lord. But others believe Paul is
referring to Num 16 where the earth swallowed up Korah and company. This again was a
result of the peoples grumbling against Moses and Aaron. If the Corinthians then
continued to grumble against the apostolic authority of Paul, they risk suffering the same
destruction. The same is true today for those who grumble against the authority of sacred
scripture or who grumble against church minister who faithfully proclaim the Scriptures.
Korah claimed that all the Israelites were just as holy as Moses and Aaron. This would be
similar to our day if someone said that the priesthood of all believers made the pastoral
office unnecessary or that anyone could assume the pastoral office without a divine call.
Paul says that what happened to Israel was a type or prefigurement (10:11) of how God
treats those who oppose him. We who live in the last days should learn from their
examples. These are the last days because Gods gracious provision in all the previous
ages of this earth has come to fulfillment in Jesus death and resurrection. We live in the
shadow of the last great day.
Mindful of all this Paul warns the Corinthians not to be complacent or arrogant (10:12).
Paul likewise warned the Roman Christians (Ro 11:20) that they, who had been grafted
into the Vine, could be broken off. Only by the humility of faith could they stand. They
should not become too prideful in their own knowledge and freedom.
Paul also adds a word of encouragement. God has placed limits on their tests and trials.
The trials they have are common to all people (10:13) and even though many Israelites
failed (10:6-10), God kept some from falling. God always remains faithful; he will keep
them from falling. With each trial the Lord provides strength to endure and a way out

10:14-22 The Lords Table and the Table of Demons

In 8:1-13 Paul introduced the discussion of the idol-meat issue. In the preceding
verses (10:1-12) Paul warned them not to follow in the footsteps of disobedient Israel. He
now returns to the idol-meat issue with a strong so then (10:14) and with the pastoral
words my beloved ones (10:14). In a previous passage Paul had warned not to have
anything to do with an idolatrous brother (5:9-11). Now Paul warns that reclining at the
table of an idol is idolatry. And idolaters will not inherit the kingdom of God (6:9-10).

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

Instead of dallying with sin, they must flee from it (10:14), as they must flee from sexual
immorality (6:18).
The people eating idol-meat probably thought they were doing a sensible thing. So now if
they are sensible they should be able to judge the soundness of what Paul says and
understand the dangers of idolatry (10:15).
Paul begins his argument with two rhetorical questions. The questions are based on
Words of Institution of the Lords Supper (11:23-25). The cup of blessing (10:16) refers
to the third cup of the Passover meal. This is the cup that he spoke his words over. This
cup is one that we are thankful for, because in it we receive the blood of Christ and
through it we are blessed.
The drinking the cup and eating the bread constitute a communion and participation in
the body and blood of Christ. Communion means sharing with someone in something.
The Corinthians along with their fellow believers share in the gifts of the Lords Supper,
His body and blood.
When the saints of Jerusalem received charity from the other congregations, they shared
in the gifts of the saints. They received something tangible and it was called a
communion or fellowship (Ro 15:26; 2 Cor 8:4). In the Supper they directly and orally
received the Lords crucified and glorified body and blood.
Through the physical reception of the Lords body and blood in the sacramental bread
and wine, we become one body with Jesus and the communion of saints. Like the many
grains of wheat become one loaf and the many grapes become one wine, so the many
Christians become the one body of Christ (10:17).
Israel according to the flesh (10:18) is the physical nation of Israel and not the spiritual
Israel, the Christian Church (Ro 9:6; Gal 6:16; Phil 3:3). When the priests, Levites and
other Israelites consumed their portions of the sacrificed animals, they entered into a
close relationship with the altar and all it represented. The altar was the place where
communion between God and Israel was restored and where the people received the
divine gifts. Mt 23:16-22 argues for the inseparable connection between the sanctified
gifts on the altar, the altar itself, the temple, the throne of God, and the One seated on the
throne. The vertical dimension is paramount. This is true of the idol meat, altar, and gods
as well. When they have communion at the idol-temple, they have communion with evil
spirits. Pauls main concern here is the Corinthians relationship to the supernatural, to
demons and to God. To participate in a meal, temple meal or the Lords Supper, is to
invite demons or God into ones life.
Paul makes sure that what he has said is not misunderstood. The meat is only meat
(10:19-20). Its what the meat is connected to that is evil. These are sacrifices offered to
demons (10:20; see similar language in Deut 32:15-18). Such an unholy communion is
incompatible with their communion in Christs body and blood. Just as the OT prophet
rules out any compromising, syncretistic mix of the worship of Yahweh with the worship

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

of Baal, so Paul does the same here. The faith of the Church, like the faith of ancient
Israel, is radically exclusive.
The Lords Supper is called the Lords Table in 10:21 and the expression the Lords
Table has its roots in Mal 1:7, 12, where my table means the altar of Yahweh (see also
Is 65:11; Eze 41:22; 44:16).
To combine Christian worship with any form of idolatry is foolishness; it may provoke
the Lords anger (10:22). And the Lord is the Almighty God (10:22).

10:23-11:1 Considerations for Others to the Glory of God

10:23-30 Consideration for Others in the Matter of Idol-Foods

Paul has absolutely forbidden reclining a temples and eating idol-meat as worshipping
demons (10:20-22). But there were other related issues that the Corinthians needed
guidance with: (1) What about food sold at the food market? (Paul responds in 10:25-26.)
(2) What about eating at the homes of non-Christians? (Paul responds in 10:27-30.)
Paul frames the entire discussion on idol-meat with the words build up (8:1; 10:23).
The building up of the church happens when one seeks the advantage of the other and not
oneself (10:24). Eating at an idol-temple does not build up anyone. It is a serious
stumbling block for the weak (ch. 8) and idolatry (10:14-22), just like Israels idolatrous
rebellion (10:1-13).
Paul now moves on to another major issue: what should their policy be when shopping
for meat at the market? Should they pick and choose only meat not offered to idols?
Pauls reply is straightforward, eat without asking any questions (10:25). Christians
were much different than Jews. The Jews had to investigate the food first (Mishnahoffered to idols, prepared correctly, etc.). Christians could eat with a clear conscience
because they knew there were no such things as idols, that there is only one God. All has
been created by God. Jesus had a similar attitude, as He proclaimed all foods to be clean
(Mk 7:19; cf. Ro 14:14; Gal 2:11-14).
Paul grounds his counsel in this matter on Ps 24:1: The earth is the Lords and all that
fills it (1Cor 10:26). Ps 50:10-12 is similar. And in 1 Tim 4:4-5 Paul again says the
everything created by God is good and is to be received with thanksgiving. Because
everything from the Lord is good, all food at the market can be eaten by the Christian
without offending his conscience (10:25). The same is true for eating at someone elses
house (10:27). The Christian is totally free from OT ceremonial law and Jewish tradition.
But the situation changes if someone points out that the food was sacrificed to idols
(10:28). For the sake of that person and his conscience the Christian should refrain from
eating it, especially if the person pointing it out is a [weak?] Christian. Pauls principle to

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

make every effort to save as many as possible would govern this decision. He would do
nothing that would tarnish the Gospel message in anyones mind.
Paul makes clear that his concern is not for his own conscience (10:29). His conscience
should not be affected such an incident. If he abstains from eating, it is for the sake of the
weak conscience of others.
The Christian receives the food they eat with thanksgiving (10:30), recognizing that it is a
gift from God. The basic principle of pagan religions is that: I offer my meat and drink
and go through my rituals in order that my god may bless me. In other words, they
manipulate their god. The Christian does no such thing, for God cannot be manipulated
by human sacrifices and good works.

10:31-11:1 All for the Glory of God

By partaking of his food thankfully, a Christian gives glory to God. Paul now extends this
principle to the whole of Christian life (10:31). Everything is to glorify God and benefit
his neighbor (cf. Col 3:17; 1 Pet 4:11). The believers whole self is a living sacrifice to
God (Ro 12:1; 1 Cor 6:20).
When that is a Christians chief concern, he will not give offense to others. Paul specifies
three groups: Jews, Greeks, and the church of God (10:32). Christians should not do
anything to alienate Jews or Gentiles from the salvation they offer. By the church of
God Paul probably meant weak Christian brothers who might be led into sin.
Paul holds himself up as an example for them to follow (10:33-11:1). His sole purpose is
the salvation of others (see save in 1 Cor 5:5; 7:16; 9:22; 10:33; 15:2). Paul imitates
Christ so that others may know Him and thus be saved.

11:2-14:40 The Word of the Cross Is the Basis for the

Churchs Worship
11:2-16 Womens Head-Coverings
11:2-6 Headship and Head-Coverings
Even though the Corinthians are far from perfect, Paul commends them for
faithfully keeping the traditions he handed down to them (11:2). Yet Paul also must call
them to account in several areas: head coverings (11:3-16), lax attitude toward the Lords
Supper (11:17-34), unbalanced attitude towards spiritual gifts (12:1-14:33), the role of
women in worship (14:34-40), and their failure to understand the implications of Christs
resurrection (15:1-58).

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

The customs of that time concerning women were apparently similar to modern Islam.
Even moderate Islamic women keep their heads covered.
First of all, Paul is not laying out rules about specific practices for all places and all
times. When Paul does lay out a universal and permanent rule for practice he often refers
to a direct command from God, as in 14:37, or to the teaching or practice in every
church or in all the churches, as in 4:17; 7:17; 14:33. Rather, he is establishing the
universal and permanent principle that men and women at worship should conduct
themselves modestly and sensibly (1 Tim 2:9; cf. Pet 3:1-6), in keeping with the customs
of the day. Similarly, Jesus laid down a new, permanent principle in that his disciples
should love one another (Jn 13:34) and, in keeping with the custom of the day, held up
the practice of foot washing (Jn 13:3-17) as an example of showing love. But he did not
command the specific practice of foot washing for all times. The binding principle of love
is expressed in many different ways.
God created men and women different and society uses certain conventions to recognize
those differences. Apparently some of the women were dressing more like men (by not
wearing head coverings) and were therefore blurring these differences. Paul addresses the
issue by laying down the principle of headship. He uses three parallel phrases (11:3):
The head of every man is Christ,
the head of the woman is the man,
the head of Christ is God.
Since they are in parallel, all three clauses must be interpreted in relation to each other.
Before the 1960s there was never a question that headship meant authority over.
Since them some have postulated that headship means source, as in the source of a
river. But in Eph 5:22-24, Paul uses the same headship language and adds to it: Just as
the church is subject to Christ, so also [let] the wives [be subject] to their husbands in
But Pauls idea of authority is not one of harsh subjugation. Authority for Paul is the
responsibility for loving, self-sacrificing service. In Eph Paul continues by saying that
husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up in death
for her (Eph 5:25). When headship is performed with an attitude of loving service, no one
will feel demeaned. Following Pauls line of reasoning, it is no more demeaning for a
woman to be subject to man than for Christ to be subject to God the Father. There is a
difference between essence and role. Men and women are essentially the same, as are
Christ and God. But each has a different role within the relationship. For any team to
function effectively there must be a recognized leader and those who are willing to follow
that lead. The same is true for pastors and congregational members.
Now, in 11:4-6, Paul spells out the implications of the headship principle for public
worship in Corinth. Each person praying or prophesying should show proper reverence to
his/her head. It is possible that some of the men of the congregation were pulling up their
togas over their heads as they prayed in imitation of pagan priests. Men should not cover
their heads because they were made in the image and glory of God (11:7). Because

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

man is created in Gods image, he represents his Maker in ruling creation (Gen 1:26-28;
2:15-24). To cover his head would dishonor Christ, who is his true head. Mans being is
derived from God and womens image is derived from man (order of creation) (Gen 2:2123). (Notice that the order of creation can be looked at as going from lowest to highest,
from physical elements to higher orders, from dirt to plants to man. Looked at in this
way, the woman is the highest.)
If a woman prayed or prophesied with her hair uncovered, she dishonored the man set in
authority over her (father or husband, or perhaps pastor or deacon). Not only were
women covering their heads a custom of that day, but Paul may have wanted to avoid
some people equating Christian women with women in the idol-temples who participated
in the rites with long, loose, uncovered hair.
If women want to flaunt their liberty, then Paul says (11:5b-6) he wishes they would go
the whole way and get it all cut off and shaved. His argument is similar to Gal 5:12 where
the Judaizers were advocating circumcision. There Paul says they should go the whole
way also and have themselves castrated. If anyone wishes to blur the lines of the sexes
given by God, he should leave no doubt in his intentions. On the other hand, if it is
shameful for a woman to uncover her head (there is no doubt that it was in Pauls day)
then she should accept and glory in her femininity (11:7) and wear a head covering.
Pauls arguments are based on the customs of his day. So are they really relevant for all
people in all cultures? Based on 11:13-16, to some extent, it seems that hairstyles do
reflect natural law, the innate ordering which God built into creation.

11:7-16 The Orders of Creation and Redemption

11:7-10 The Order of Creation

Why should women keep their heads covered and why should men not keep theirs
covered (11:2-6)? The answer is found in the order of creation recorded in Gen 1-2. Man
should not have his head covered out of respect for God because he is the image and
glory of God (11:7). A comparison with today may be helpful. If a man is wearing a hat
and he comes into the presence of someone important or a woman, it is considered
disrespectful if the hat is not removed. Another example is that out of respect all hats are
removed when the national anthem is sung.
The expression image of God (Ge 1:27; 1Cor 11:7) refers to man being the
representative of God, particularly in his authority over the creation (Gen 1:28-30; 9:6-7).
Man in his authority relation to creation and his wife, images the dominion of God over
the creationand the headship of Christ over his church. Man, as the artwork of God,
brings glory to his Artist.
In Pauls discussion of women, he speaks of their relationship with men and not with
God. They too are created in Gods image, but that is not his focus here. As man is to

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

bring glory to his head, so a woman is to bring glory to her head, man. By attaching
herself to him and being his helper, she honors her husband. Notice where glory for/to
her in 11:15 is the antithesis to disgrace for/to him in 11:14.
Paul gives two reasons why the woman is mans glory. First she has her origin in him; she
was sculpted from Adams rib (Gen 2:22-23). And second, woman was created for man as
his helper (Gen 2:18). This original ordering of creation has ongoing significance for the
relationship between the sexes. The mans priority in the order of creation lays on him the
responsibility of leadership, while the woman is to be helpful (Gen 2:18), submissive,
supportive, and complementary. [Feminists argue that any role distinctions between men
and women are due only to the fall. But as we see here, Paul argues from creation and not
from the fall. Men and women are created by God as equals but with different roles that
provide order.]
In 11:10 the apostle simply calls the head-covering an authority. He means that it is a
symbol of or a sign of authority. In other words, the head-covering is a symbol of
womanly dignity. In the orient the head-covering is the power, the honor and the dignity
of the woman. When a womans head-covering disappears, so does her authority and
A curious phrase in 11:10 is for the sake of angels. Some have suggested that this refers
to bishops or clergy, but the NT almost always uses this term to refer to supernatural
beings. And the way it is presented it speaks of good angels and not bad angels. The best
suggestion is that holy angels are present at Christian worship (see Ps 137:1). If the
women of Corinth thought little of offending men, they should consider that their
departure from the created order also offends angels, who never fail to carry out their role
of benefiting the saints (Heb 1:14) in the created order.

11:11-12 The Order of Redemption in the Lord

In 11:11-12 Paul makes an important qualification concerning headship and submission
in order that he not be misunderstood. Women are not inferior creatures. While the order
of creation leads to distinctive roles, men and women are interdependent. Neither can
exist without the other. In the Lord there is full baptismal equality (11:11; Gal 3:28).
Said in the language of Christian dogmatics, in the order of redemption there is equality
and unity.
Some modern commentators try and place the order of creation and the order of
redemption in opposition to each other. Or they say that redemption overrides creation.
But Paul sees the two as complementary. Paul illustrates this with an example (11:11-12).
Women originally came from man, but ever since then man comes from a woman. They
are interdependent on each other. And both men and women owe their existence to God
(11:12). He is the ultimate source of life of everything and everyone.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

11: 13-16 What Nature Teaches
Paul now returns to the order of creation. Paul uses a rhetorical question where he expects
the answer to be no. Normally the words to pray do not have an object. But the addition
of to God in 11:13 reminds the Corinthians that in prayer they come before the
almighty and holy God. In his presence they should show due decorum.
By the expression nature itself (11:14) Paul means the natural and instinctive sense of
right and wrong that God has implanted in us. This sense has been implanted since
creation, although since the fall, it is not always reliable. Although there have been
variations over the centuries and cultures, humans have generally and instinctively known
that long hair is a more glorious covering for women that for man and that short hair is
more acceptable for men. Old paintings and sculptures bear this out. Some OT
stipulations require uncut beards and hair, but these are the exception and not the rule. By
naturally covering a womens head with hair, God is indicating that she should be
appropriately covered at worship (see also 1 Cor 11:2-6).
Paul has said all he wants to on this matter. If anyone wishes to argue about it, he has
nothing more to say. What he has said is the practice of all the churches of God (11:16).
If one disagrees then he is at odds with God.

11:17-34 The Lords Supper

11:17-22 Abuses at the Communal Meal
Paul now moves on to another topic in which he has no praise for the Corinthians.
Their behavior in the communal meal which was held in conjunction with the Lords
Supper was totally unacceptable. In coming together there are divisions among them. Not
the same divisions described in 1:10-12, but two groups, the haves and the have-nots
Pauls first word on the matter is cautious (11:18). He knows that not everyone is guilty
of such arrogant behavior. Such behavior can happen in the church as it does in the world
because all people are of the world. But God makes good come from evil and so with
such behavior it can be seen that some are true believers and some are not (11:19). This is
part of Gods eschatological plan and judgment.
Based on their behavior, Paul can only conclude that they have lost all sight of what the
Lords Supper is all about, that it is a sacred testament and a gracious gift. Apparently the
wealthy could not wait for the day labors and slaves. They ate and drank so freely that
before the laborers arrived, some had become drunk.
It is also likely that the wealthy were physically separated from the poor. The wealthy
probably dined with the host while everyone else ate in the courtyard. This would be
similar to Roman culture and so the culture was setting the agenda for the churchs

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

practice. In our day where material prosperity is important and money talks, this speaks
to us as well. God has a special place in his heart for the poor. God chose the lowly and
despised of this world (1:27-29).

11:23-26 The Words of Institution

Pauls main theme here is remembrance. By their actions of the pre-sacrament
meal, we see that the Corinthians are in need of having their memories jogged. They are
not there to gorge themselves and humiliate the have-nots. They are there to remember
Jesus and proclaim his death until he returns.
11:23 The Lord Took Bread
Paul begins with an emphatic I. What he is about to tell them he has personally
received from the Lord. Twice Paul speaks of the Lord. This is the Lords Supper. The
Lord gives the direction of his Supper.
How did Paul receive the Lords directives? Either he received it from the other apostles
or he received a direct revelation from Jesus (such as in Gal 1:12).
The CC translates this as the night in which he was handed over (11:23). This might
mean his betrayal. But Paul uses handed over in other places (e.g., Ro 4:25; 8:32) and
his usage there strongly suggests that Paul did not have Judas in mind but God. His usage
is similar to Is 53:6 which says, He was handed over for our sins, and Is 53:12b, And
he bore the sins of many, and because of their sins, he was handed over. Jesus was
handed over as part of Gods plan of salvation for the world. Jesus acted in obedience to
his Fathers will. Jesus words and actions on the first Maundy Thursday stand out in
sharp contrast to that of the actions of the Corinthians.
At the Passover meal Jesus took a loaf of unleavened bread, gave thanks, broke it and
distributed it. It is reminiscent of the meal he hosted for the five thousand (Mk 6:41).
11:24 This is My Body
Jesus words are clear, This [bread] is my body, which is for you. The bread is no
longer simply bread and the wine is no longer simply wine. The true body and blood of
our Lord Jesus Christ are under the bread and wine (SC VI 2). With the bread we also
receive the body. Because of the Sacramental union, the bread and body are not two
distinct substances (as in the theory of consubstantiation). The sacramental bread conveys
the Lords body given in sacrifice for you (11:24). The preposition for is regularly
used in contexts which speak of Christs vicarious atonement. It is a highly visible and
tangible form of the Gospel. It confers on the believer the benefits of Christs vicarious
suffering and death.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

Jesus then commands to keep doing this (11:24, 25). In this way the Sacrament will be
like the Passover meal celebrated every year by Israel. That meal reminded Israel of the
Lords redemption of his people. By participating in that meal, every generation of
Israelites received the benefits of that saving act. Eating the Lords Supper reminded
Christians of the greater act of redemption that Jesus accomplished. But this is not just a
symbolic act either. In it Christ truly comes to us in the bread and wine. This kind of
remembering then requires faith in the words of Jesus. All of this seems like foolishness
to the world, but it is actually the power of God to save.
11:24, 25 In My Memory
The background to the phrase in my memory (11:24, 25) is undoubtedly
remembrance/memorial of the original Passover account (Ex 12:14; 13:9). For the
people of Israel, this remembering was much more than recollecting past events. It was
something that became very real for them. For them it was an event that happened
today (e.g., Deut 9:1; 15:15; 26:17; etc.). This involves Israels sense of their nation as
one corporate personality, with past, present, and future generations all bound together as
one people sharing the same blessed redemption. This is especially true in Deut 5:2-4. In
the same way the Communion is a sign that keeps the past vividly present. And it is the
words of Christ that make it real and effective for you. Through the words of Christ,
Golgotha becomes a real event here and now. And so this meal is much more than
remembering a past even, a dead man. It is a meal where he who was dead, but is now
alive presents himself among his followers in the Holy Communion.
11:25 The Lord Took the Cup
The blessing and distribution of the cup seems to have happened some time later after
the supper (11:25). This was probably the third cup or the cup of blessing (see Justs
commentary on Luke to see how the Supper fit in with the Passover Seder). Matthew and
Marks versions of the cup parallel more closely the saying over the bread. Paul and Luke
emphasize more the new testament that was sealed and ratified by the blood of Christ.
The new testament supersedes the old testament which was ratified by the blood of oxen
(Ex 24:8). The blood of Christ confers on each believer the gift of the new testament, the
forgiveness of sins.
11:26 You Proclaim the Death of the Lord until He Comes
Given the circumstances of the Last Supper and the gifts it bestows, it is totally
inappropriate for the Corinthians to be divided, uncaring and drunk. Rather when they
gather for the Meal they should remember that Jesus gave the Meal to his church as he
was being handed over by the Father to win the forgiveness of their sins.
The Eucharist is an acted out sermon or acted out proclamation of the death that it
commemorates. When the laity participates in the Supper, the laity preaches a sermon.
The Sacrament is the pulpit of the laity.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

The Christian life occurs during an interim period, between Christs death and his second
coming. So the Supper not only looks backwards to Christs death, but it also looks
forwards to the eschatological banquet. It is a foretaste of the feast to come. The
Corinthians, thinking that they were in heaven on earth, treated the Lords Supper as if it
were the eschatological feast. They had nothing to look forward to.
Christians are like OT Israel on their way through the desert; they are on the way with
their loins girded and lamps burning. As people of the Way, Christians are challenged to
express their faith (that Christ has come to them offering them forgiveness in the
Sacrament) in loving service to others, especially to the churchs needier members

11:27-34 Unworthy Reception of the Sacrament

The strong conjunction so links this paragraph with the previous account of the
institution of the Lords Supper (11:23-26).
11:27 Eating Unworthily
Paul proceeds with a warning of the dire consequences of unworthy eating. By unworthy
eating, Paul has in minded the type of behavior he described in 11:20-22 and 11:29-30.
Many of the Corinthians were sinning against faith and love. They were sinning against
faith by not discerning the body and blood of the Lord (11:29-30). And they were sinning
against love by considering the poor and needy (11:20-22).
Sinning against the Lords body and blood was like killing Jesus again (Heb 6:6).
Unworthy eating and drinking is like trampling the Lord under foot (cf. Heb 6:29).
The last part of 11:27 makes clear that by eating and drinking the Sacrament the
communicant orally receives the Christs body and blood. There is a sacramental union.
Since Christs body and blood are present, whether one believes it or not, it is received. If
one does not recognize and receive in faith (spiritual eating) Christs body and blood, one
does not eat worthily and draws upon himself Gods judgment (11:29-30). The fact that
Christs body and blood are present does rest upon faith or the person who receives it, but
upon the words of Christ
Close Communion
Because an unworthy recipient receives Christs body and blood to his harm (11:27-30),
the church discriminates who may receive the Sacrament. Since this is the Lords Supper,
it must be administered according to his institution and instructions. Christ preached to
[and ate with] all kinds of people, but he ate the Sacrament only with his disciples.
Failure to Discern the Body Is Unworthy Eating (11:27, 29)

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

The key to communing in a worthy manner is the ability and willingness to discern the
body (11:29). It consists of repentance and faith. These move in two directions at the
same time, repentance towards God and towards ones fellow communicants, vertical and
horizontal. One who communes worthily recognizes the need to preserve unity between
themselves and [God and] their fellow communicants.
The traditional view of body is that it refers to Christs physical body. The only
references to the body in this chapter are references to Christs sacramental body. There
is a tight relationship between the three verses 11:27, 28, and 29. The problem is stated in
11:27; the remedy for the problem is found in the exhortation in 11:28; and 11:29 states
the reason why Christians must heed the exhortation in 11:28 and so avoid committing
the grievous sin described in 11:27. The cohesiveness of Pauls argument in 11:27-29
requires that body must refer to the sacramental body of Christ in 11:29 as well as in
Pastoral Supervision
Paul does not give explicit instructions that pastors should determine who should
go to the Supper, but he himself, the apostle, exercises that control. His example serves as
a model for all pastors who are stewards of the mysteries of God (1 Cor 4:1). In ch. 11
Paul does not forbid anyone from taking communion, but he does tell them to change
(since they are causing divisions) before they do. If they do not, it is a logical next step to
stop their communion if divisions still exist.
Divisions within the Local Congregation
Those who are causing divisions in the congregation can be excluded from the
Lords Supper. The Supper is for the unity and oneness of the congregation. How can
communion continue while divisions exist?
Difference between Denominations
[It would seem apparent that if communion should be withheld for those who
cause divisions within the congregation then] communion should also be withheld from
those denominations which cause divisions through unbiblical teachings. Looking at 1
Corinthians, Paul speaks out on matters of morality (ch. 5), pagan worship (ch. 8) and
worship practices (chs. 11-14). It is inconceivable that Paul might say, Think what you
like about these issues. Disagree with me and still come to the Lords Supper. Paul does
not tolerate doctrinal diversity. Unity in apostolic doctrine is appropriate and necessary
among those who commune together at the Lords Supper.
11:28 Let a Person Examine Himself
There is a need to examine oneself so that one does not receive Gods judgment. And
Gods judgment comes as a result of not discerning the body of Christ.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

There are three dimensions to examining oneself.
1) First, do you believe that the Christs crucified and risen body and blood are really
present in the Sacrament? Do you trust Christs word that it is?
2) Do you believe that there are benefits (forgiveness of sins) in eating the Supper? If so,
do you desire them? Do you realize you are a sinner and need forgiveness?
3) Do you recognize the unity of the body of Christ (the church) and wish to preserve that
unity by removing anything that is causing divisions?
By examining oneself, Paul does not mean that one need be perfect or sinless before he
can partake of the Sacrament. On the contrary, one is worthy of eating the Sacrament
only when one recognizes his sin, his unworthiness, and his need for the forgiveness
Christ offers in the Meal.
Should the Sacrament Be Offered to Children?
The Lutheran church has traditionally used 11:28 (examine himself) as the basis for not
offering Holy Communion to children. To examine oneself is not the same thing as to
believe or have faith. It requires intellectual discernment (1 Jn 4:1). Who is the audience
when Paul told them to examine themselves? He is speaking to the adults of the
congregation at Corinth. And yet, Luther does not forbid the Sacrament from being given
to children, those who heartily and in a Christian spirit desire it.
11:29 The body and the Church
The word for connects 11:29 (judgment) back to 11:28 (examine oneself). In
examining, one must recognize the body. The body refers to the greatness of the
things that lie before them. The holy things are not to be despised or trifled with.
Some believe that body refers to the church, since the overt sin of the church was a rift
between the prosperous and the poor in connection with the sacramental celebration. This
interpretation does not do justice to the immediate context of the Words of Institution and
the little hooks which connect the two texts. A case can be made that besides the
primary reference to Christs physical body, the body may secondarily refer to the church.
11:30 Many are Ill
Because a large number of Corinthians had fallen ill and died despite the presence of
some who had the gift of healing (12:9), Paul interpreted this to mean Gods judgment
was falling on them for not discerning the Lords body. The medicine of immortality,
designed to heal, instead brought harm and death to those who despised it. This judgment
may have been a one time warning for the church. To despise the Lords Supper will have
consequences whether or not they come in the same way or not.
11:31-32 Gods Discipline So That We Will Not Be Condemned

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

Paul speaks of Gods judgment on the Christian as discipline. In other words, dont
despair of Gods grace. He is acting like a loving father, disciplining us to bring us to our
senses and to keep us from being condemned like the rest of the unbelieving world (cf.
Heb 12:5-7, 10).
11:33-34 Conclusion
Paul concludes by saying that this self-centered behavior at the agape meal must stop. It
is ruining the whole evening, including the Lords Supper. Instead of bringing and
displaying unity, they brought upon themselves Gods displeasure and judgment. By what
Paul says, we see a clear distinction between the agape meal and the Lords Supper.
There were other matters that Paul needed to discuss with them, but they were apparently
of lesser importance. He will talk to them about them when he comes, although hes not
sure when that will be (16:5-8).

12:1-31 Spiritual Gifts

12:1-3 The Holy Spirit Inspires the Confession of Jesus as Lord
In chapter 12 Paul deals with another problem affecting the congregations
worship: their ignorance concerning spiritual gifts. His efforts to correct their misguided
thinking will occupy the next three chapters (12-14). First he will lay the ground work
presenting a broad theology of the role of spiritual gifts (chapter 12) and then stress the
need to use each gift in love (chapter 13). Finally in chapter 14 he will confront directly
the abuse of the gift of tongues.
The formula now concerning indicates that again Paul is taking up an item from the
Corinthians prior letter to him. There is no quote from that letter, but it appears that Paul
wishes to correct some misunderstandings about spiritual gifts.
The church at Corinth lacked no spiritual gifts (1:7). But they tended to have pride in
their gifts as if their own human effort produced them. And they exalted certain spiritual
gifts above others. The very term spiritual gifts should have been a reminder that the
gifts were indeed gifts from Gods Spirit.
Not long ago the Corinthians were Gentiles, pagans who worshipped dumb idols
(12:2). The OT often speaks of idols being deaf and dumb in contrast to the living and
true God. Even though these idols were nothing, behind them were demonic forces
(demonstrated in 10:19-22). And once snared, these demonic forces led away their
captives for execution.
The exact situation of cursing Jesus (12:3) is not known. Perhaps some of the more
liberated Christians joined the temple worship meal and became drunk and joined their
heathen associates in cursing Jesus. It later became known that true Christians would

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

never curse Jesus. So that became a method of finding who really was a Christian. During
the time of persecution, those who refused to curse Jesus and worship the emperor were
executed. Whether one cursed or confessed Jesus became a matter of life and death.
Where the Holy Spirit is present Jesus will not be cursed but will be confessed as Lord.
The Holy Spirits chief role is to glorify Jesus (Jn 16:14). In fact only by the Spirits
power can anyone call Jesus Lord. Those who lack the Holy Spirit are totally unable to
understand the things of God. The gift of calling Jesus Lord is the gift that all believers
have in common. It is the gift given to all who have been reborn of the water and the
Spirit (Jn 3:5). Luther states clearly the doctrine of the Holy Spirit: I believe that by my
own reason or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him. But
the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel. [So also does the Nicene Creed,
where the Holy Spirit is confessed to be the Lord and giver of life.]
The confession of Jesus as Lord is at the heart of the Christian confession of faith. In the
Greco-Roman world Christians confessed Jesus to be the Lord of lords and King of
kings (Rev 17:14).
The first three verses provide the proper framework and perspective for the discussion of
spiritual gifts.

12:4-11 Varieties of Gifts from the One and the Same Spirit
The Corinthians have a variety of spiritual things (12:1). These spiritual things
are called gifts of grace (12:4). This is a gentle reminder that the spiritual things that
they have have not been merited but are indeed underserved gifts from God the Holy
Spirit. God had given these gifts to build up the church not to impress others. Paul uses
the term gifts of grace in a broad way throughout his epistles. The following are listed
as gifts of grace by Paul: salvation (Ro 5:25-16; 6:23; 11:29), encouragement (Ro 1:11),
celibacy or married life (1 Cor 7:7), the gift that helps a pastor fulfill his office (1 Tim
4:14; 2 Tim 1:6). All Christians, not just pastors, have gifts (1 Cor 1:7; cf. 1 Pet 4:10).
What is Paul emphasizing here? Is he emphasizing the variety of gifts or the one Spirit?
He is stressing both, with a center of gravity falling each time on the second clause: the
same Spirit, the same Lord, the same God. If this is the case then there is a parallel
in Eph 4:1-6. There he speaks of the unity of the Spirit (Eph 4:3), in one body, one Spirit,
one hope, one Lord, one faith, one Baptism, and one God and Father. Then he goes on to
mention a variety of gifts of Gods grace (Eph 4:7-11). He gave these gifts for unity of
faith, for growing up, and for being built up as one body (Eph 4:13-16).
Paul mentions gifts of grace, services, and workings. In each of these ways, the
triune God gives, serves, and works through Christians. Even though God is united and
indivisible, each person of the trinity plays a prominent role in these gifts. The Holy
Spirit takes a prominent role in bestowing gifts of grace, spiritual gifts. The Lord Jesus,
who came to serve and not be served, is the one who inspires Christian service. God the

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

Father, who is always at work in sustaining his creation, is the one who continues to work
in the life of the Christian. The glory for the congregations giftedness belongs to the
triune God alone.
This is a Trinitarian passage. Other Pauline passages in which the trinity is mentioned by
the same names and in the same order (Spirit, Lord, God) are: 2 Cor 13:14 and Eph 4:4-6.
With the theological foundation in place gifts come from the triune God Paul moves
from general principles to specific gifts and their role in the body of Christ. But first he
lays down his thesis in 12:7: this variety of gifts are all given by the same Spirit and are
designed to serve the common good. The whole church is to benefit from and be edified
by these gifts. There is no room for divisiveness, jealousy, and looking down on others as
the Corinthians were doing. These gifts are not given because of personal
accomplishments. All of these gifts are being given by God for the church.
Paul begins with the gifts of wisdom and knowledge (12:8). Gods wisdom and
knowledge are found in the Gospel of Christ crucified, the theme of 1:18-2:16. Paul may
have started with these gifts because they may have been the most common gifts in the
church. Wisdom is probably the application of the Christian faith to life, while knowledge
probably was telling the basics of the Christian faith, which itself imparts knowledge (cf.
Gal 4:9).
The gift of faith (12:9) must be a special gift besides saving faith since all believers have
faith. An example of such faith might be the Syro-Phoenician woman (O woman, great
is your faith, Mt 15:28) in contrast to the disciples whose faith was weak. This faith
maybe spectacular or it may be quiet. It is always strong, patient, and steadfast trust in
God and his word.
Next is the gracious gifts of healings (12:9). Since healings is plural, there may have
been several different kinds of healing. Jesus message was accompanied by healings. His
healings were both compassionate and signs of salvation. Apostolic preaching was also
powerfully confirmed with healings. The ministry of Paul and Barnabas also included
Are these healings found in the church today? Some gifts (such as apostleship) were
given only during the foundational period of the church. The writing of the Scriptures
also ended during this foundational period. So, some believe that the gifts of healing and
tongues were given for this same period but ended thereafter. None of the healing
ministries today exhibit the same six characteristics that Jesus and the apostles did.
A couple of examples are given where Paul could have healed someone (Phil 2:25-27; 2
Tim 4:20) but didnt. Paul also did not heal himself (2 Cor 12:9). Had the gift faded? The
gift was given not to keep Christians healthy, but as a sign that the gospel was the divine

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

On the other hand, few Christians would say that God does not perform miracles today.
God sometimes goes beyond the natural healings of doctors.
One might view the Lords Supper as a healing gift. Jesus is not only the Savior of souls,
but is also the good Physician. He came to save the whole person. As Jesus preaching was
accompanied by miracles, so the churchs preaching is accompanied by the sacraments.
As Jesus healings pointed toward complete eschatological healing of body and soul, so
the sacraments also point to the future redemption of body and soul.
Others were given workings of miraculous powers (12:10). This may have included
exorcisms and other spiritual power. Jesus healed with power, healing occurred when the
power went out from him. Jesus gave his twelve apostles power over unclean spirits. The
gifts of healing and miraculous power may have overlapped each other. In Acts 10:38,
those oppressed by the devil were healed.
Others were endowed with the gift of prophecy (12:10). This is the gift of the reception
and imparting of special revelation. It is paired with the gift of discerning of spirits
(12:10). This is the ability to distinguish between true and false prophecies, as
demonstrated by 1 Jn 4:1-3. The true prophets confession of faith glorifies the Christ. In
these prophets the Spirit of God dwells. In false prophets the spirit of the antichrist
Next comes the gifts of speaking in tongues and interpreting or translating tonguesspeaking (12:10). Whether speaking in tongues means speaking in other known
languages, as in Acts 2, or speaking in ecstatic utterance is debatable. And the question
may be asked, why Paul leaves these gifts last? Is it because it is the gift that is causing
problems or because the Corinthians have blown up the possession of this gift beyond
reason, placing too much value to it? In ch. 14 Paul places a lesser value on this gift.
Whatever the case, the gift of tongues also needed an interpreter. Otherwise the church
could not be edified with this gift.
All of these gifts derive from the same source, the Holy Spirit (12:11). They are intended
not for individual glorification, but for the building up of the church. And it is the Holy
Spirit who decides what gifts to give to what people. The Spirit blows where he wills
(Jn 3:8; cf. Ps 135:6).

Excursus: Spiritual Gifts in 1 Corinthians

Paul ties Spiritual gifts (gifts of grace) to Gods grace in Jesus Christ (the Gospel). Both
are unmerited gifts from God. The grace of the Gospel continually supplies and sustains
the gifts of grace. Grace is a power from the Holy Spirit and it is constantly being given
to believers. It is by grace that the Holy Spirit enables the heart and mouth to say Jesus
is Lord (12:3). The same Spirit also gives gifts of grace for the common good of the
body of Christ (12:7-11). Each Christian is given grace in his Baptism (12:13) and is
called in life to bear the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). In addition God has seen fit to

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

bestow extraordinary gifts upon particular Christians. All gifts, whether mundane or
extraordinary, are given for service to others. All are given the edification of the church
(14:26). When used properly, the gifts of grace (including Gods word) strengthen the
individual and the whole church and promote health and harmony.

The Nature of the Individual Gifts

The variety of gifts listed in Ro 12, 1 Cor 12, and Eph. 4 are more illustrative than
exhaustive. Gods gifts include talents, abilities, and people.

The Extraordinary Gifts: Prophecy and Tongues

A key text for understanding what Paul means by prophecy is 1 Cor 14:29-30. Here it is
clear that prophesy is the prophets message that comes from revelation. This is the same
as the OT prophets who saw (seer) and were caught into Gods council and received
Gods word and then communicated it. The past, present, and future were opened up
before them. They called the people to repent of past sins, to apply Gods word to today,
and they spoke prophetically of the future. They were both forth-tellers and foretellers of
Gods Word. They were entrusted with the powerful Word of God which creatively
accomplishes what it says (Is 55:10-11).
There is a distinction between prophecy and preaching. Prophecy takes a new revelation
from God and makes it known. Preaching takes what is already known and proclaims and
disseminates it.

The Fading of Prophecy in the Early Church

Prophecy was part of the apostolic age which provided the foundation of the church (Eph
2:20). Even in the OT, prophecy was not a continuous institution. Sometimes there were
many prophets and sometimes there were none.
The revelation God made known through his prophets was written down as the Word of
God. This Word is even more reliable than first hand experience (2 Pet 1:19-21) [because
it comes from God himself]. 1 Pet 1:8-12 explains how the Holy Spirit inspired the
prophecies of Christ so that future Christians would believe. All that is necessary for
salvation is in the Scriptures. Rev 22:19 warns anyone who adds or takes away from it.


The Nature and Function of the Gift of Tongues

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

An important criterion for Paul concerning spiritual gifts was: Let all things be done for
edification (14:26). Going by that, Paul sees prophecy as being more important than
tongues. This does not mean that Paul thought that tongues were of no value. He allowed
some to speak in tongues as long as they also had an interpreter.

The Nature and Purpose of Tongues in Acts

The great miracle on the day of Pentecost was the ability given to the apostles to speak in
other known human languages, so that everyone there could hear the good news spoken
to them in their own native languages. The gift had two purposes. 1) It demonstrated that
the Gospel of Christ crucified and risen was for every nation. 2) It was a word of
judgment for those who did not believe, for those who claimed the disciples were drunk
(Acts 2:13). Multiple languages came into being when God brought judgment on the
earth at the tower of Babel. The Gospel reunites humanity-except for those who reject it.

The Nature and Purpose of Tongues in 1 Corinthians

The Corinthians Gift Understood as Ecstatic Utterance
Most NT scholarship since the 1970s has accepted the gift of tongues in 1
Corinthians as being different than Acts. It has been viewed as the gift of ecstatic
utterance and not the gift of the ability to speak in foreign languages.
The Corinthians Gift Understood as Speaking Foreign Languages
There two great obstacles to understanding this as ecstatic utterance. First, Paul
uses the same terminology that Luke uses in Acts 2. They both use the common Greek
term for natural human language. The verb to interpret simply means to translate.
Second, Paul uses Isaiah to describe the nature and purpose of the Corinthians gift (Is
28:11, quoted in 1 Cor 14:21). There Isaiah is speaking of the foreign language of the
Assyrians. The ability to speak in languages unknown to the speaker is the interpretation
that stood through the Reformation.
A Supernatural Endowment with Facility in Foreign Languages
It is important to note that the ability to speak in foreign languages was not a
natural one, but a supernatural gift given by the Spirit in order to promote the Gospel
(12:4-11). It was amazing at Pentecost and it was amazing in Corinth. This gift conveyed
the Gospel in different languages and it brought divine judgment to those who said, You
are crazy.

The Modern Practice of Glossolalia

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

If tongues are a supernatural facility in normal human language then the modern tongues
phenomenon is not the NT gift.

Spiritual Gifts Today

At least one of the gifts that is in two of Pauls lists is no longer needed today: the gift of
apostleship. The foundational work of the apostle is done. It was a unique and
unrepeatable ministry. The same may apply to gifts like prophecy and tongues. All the
prophecy necessary for salvation has been made. The point that the Gospel is for all
nations and that those who reject it are under Gods judgment has been made. Other signs
and wonders of the apostolic age (miraculous healings and powers) may have been
intended simply to confirm the apostolic message (cf. 2 Cor 12:12).
The spectacular gifts mentioned above may not have faded away (Scripture is not specific
about them), but neither are they for all people at all times (as some claim). Another
approach would say that the Spirit may add or take away gifts at any time for the benefit
of the church. Has he enabled people to be hymn writers, poets, composers, architects,
writers, broadcasters, etc.? The Spirits gifts may increase or decrease as is the Spirits
will and the needs of the church.
Pauls concern that the language of worship be intelligible to the hearers has a timeless
relevance. It is to benefit and edify the entire congregation.

The Spirit and His Gifts Are Given in Baptism (1 Cor 12:13)
The Pentecostal denomination teaches a second spiritual experience after Baptism. Rest
assured that water Baptism is a baptism of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit gives all
his good gifts in Baptism. When you were baptized the words of the Father to the Son
apply to you: This is my beloved son[/daughter], with whom I am well pleased (Mt
3:16-17). Faith is also given in Baptism and it is faith that receives the Holy Spirit again
and again. Before Baptism there is one spirit that lives within us, our own. But after
Baptism there are two spirits, our own and the Spirit of the living God. His presence
means we have all the resources we need for living the Christian life fruitfully and for
faithfully performing the Christian mission God assigns to each of us.

12:12-26 The Analogy of the Body

The rest of ch. 12 is about the body of Christ. Previously he has spoken of the
gifts given by the Spirit, which are to be used to build up the church. Now he reminds
them of their Baptism in the Spirit (12:13). This Baptism has united them into one and
the same body, the body of Christ (12:13).

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

12:12-13 Baptized into One Body
The image of the body and its members for the unity of the church was a favorite of
Pauls. The unity of the church is in its members Baptism into the body and their
reception of the Lords body and blood.
Just as the human body is a single entity made up of many parts, so also is Christ
(12:12), which is short for so also is the church, which is the body of Christ. The unity
of the many is their common Baptism with one Spirit into one body (12:13). The unity
of Baptism transcends all divisions. The word all is used twice and the word one is
used three times in 12:13. There is only one baptism and in it all who are baptized receive
the Holy Spirit. There is no second baptism as Pentecostals claim. That doctrine is
divisive. It leads to arrogance and inferiority. Here Paul stresses the unity of all.
The heaping of alls upon ones in this important text (1 Cor 12:13) should instruct
event the most obdurate in Corinth that all Christians have been baptized in and by the
one Spirit into the one body of Christ, giving them all the one indrinking of the Spirit,
making them, all of them, one (F.D. Bruner).

12:14-20 Inferior Members of the One Body

In the next section Paul emphasizes that every part of the body, no matter how
insignificant it may seem, has a vital role in the healthy functioning of the whole.
Paul presents an imaginary conversation among the parts of the body. Some parts are
depressed over their lowly status or the drudgery of their work. They are tempted to
discontinue their faithful service to the body. But all the body parts are needed. And in
fact, God has set each individual part in the body just as he wished (12:18). God has
given each a distinctive function that will support the whole. Every member cannot have
the same function, and therefore there must be higher and lower gifts. The body is like a
choir where each singer has an assigned and vital role in producing a pleasing result. [Not
everyone is a lead singer, yet every singer, no matter how small their part might be, is
12:21-26 Superior Members of the One Body
Paul now addresses those who have been endowed with more spectacular gifts and are
tempted to look down on the less gifted. The importance of those with lesser gifts is
illustrated in the following: a city can survive without artists, but it cannot survive
without tradesmen. The quiet worker in the church may go unnoticed by the movers and
shakers and yet make a greater contribution to the life of the church. No ones service is
All the parts of the body are in it together. If one hurts they all hurt. If one is honored they
all are honored. There should be no division in good times or bad.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

12:27-31 Application: Gifts and Offices in the Church
With an emphatic now you are the body of Christ (12:27), Paul applies his
example of the human body (12:14-26) to the Corinthians. Everything he said about the
unity and importance of each part of the body is true for the Corinthians. They are not
merely part of the body of Christ; they are the body of Christ in Corinth. And each
individual believer is a part of that body.
God has given the church the gifts it needs. He gives to each person a role and function in
accordance to his will. He lists three kinds of persons and then lists various kinds of gifts.
First in Pauls list come the apostles (12:28). They were a unique group. They had
spent time with Jesus and witnessed his death and resurrection. They were first because
they held a preeminent leadership role in the church as its founding fathers (Eph 2:20;
3:5; Rev 21:14). Usually when Paul speaks of the apostles he is speaking of the Eleven
plus himself. But there are times when he uses apostle more generally, referring more
to ministers or church workers (e.g., 2 Cor 8:23; Phil 2:25).
Pastors are not eyewitnesses to the resurrection like apostles, nor do they receive special
revelation like prophets, but they do preach and teach the Gospel form the prophetic and
apostolic Scriptures, which are Gods divine revelation.
Second in importance were prophets (12:28). They received divine revelation and
then made it known. Like the apostles, they were unique to the early church.
Third are the teachers (12:28). These are people at the congregation level (pastors,
Christian teachers) that publicly read and expound Scripture (1 Tim 4:13).
Paul then turns from three specific offices to a list of five gifts (12:28). The first two gifts
are of the miraculous nature and may have been given at specific times (e.g., Acts 20:10).
The next two gifts are more on the everyday line and are not in Pauls earlier list of gifts
in 12:8-10. Finally Paul mentions the gift of tongues. The gift of interpretation is not
mentioned but is probably assumed. The list is not exhaustive just illustrative.
Not all were called to be apostles, prophets or teachers. Not all had all gifts of grace. Paul
drives this point home through a series of seven rhetorical questions (12:29-30), each
expecting an answer of no. As body parts are not interchangeable, neither are the offices
and gifts of the church. Each person must carry out his office or exercise his gifts. All are
necessary for the building up of the church.
Next, Paul encourages the Corinthians to strive for the gracious gifts that are greater
(12:31). Prophecy is among these gifts (14:1-25). But how can one strive for a gift. Lk
11:13 provides a helpful parallel, where the Lord encourages his disciple to pray for the
gift of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, pray for Gods gracious gifts.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

Finally Paul speaks about a more excellent way (12:31). The way he speaks of is laid
out in ch. 13; it is the way of love. All gifts are to be used in love. The Christians life is
to be characterized by love. Only by love does the church function smoothly and grow
(Eph 4:16).
Love is not classified as one of the spiritual gifts, but love as the first and highest fruit of
the Spirit (Gal 5:22), transcends and applies to all gifts and is to be used by all believers.

13:1-13 The Royal Road of Love

Introduction to Chapter 13
Christian love is necessary for the body of Christ to work properly. Without it the
most extraordinary gift is worthless. So ch. 13 is the heart of Pauls discussion of the gifts
of grace. Viewed even more broadly, ch. 13 might be said to be the antidote for all the
problems in Corinth: the factions (1-3), the Corinthians tolerance of gross sins (5-6), the
freedom of eating idol meat without regard for the damage caused to fellow Christians (810), and the divisions at the Lords Supper (11:17-34). Faith is always active in love (Gal
5:6). Gifts employed without the motivation of faith and love incur Gods censure, I
never knew you (Mt 7:22-23).
Pauls idea of love is different than todays sentimental notion of love. In modern culture
love is self-seeking. Even in the church love can be self-serving. Some condemn favorite
sins, some accommodate sin thinking they are showing Christian love (contrast with 1
Cor 5), for some an insistence on biblical truth is unloving, tolerating doctrinal error is
more loving.
Christian love is marked by unselfish service to Christ and his Word. Love is a sign that
the Spirit has liberated a person from his ego.
The structure of 1 Cor 13 has been nicely summarized: vv. 1-3 urge the absolute
necessity of love; vv. 4-6 describe the character of love; and vv. 8-13 illustrate the
permanence of love.

13:1-3 The Absolute Necessity of Love

[God has gracefully given all kinds of offices and gifts to his church. But even if
these gifts are recognized and used, if they are not used out of love, they are worthless.]
He uses those who speak in tongues as an example. He does not confront them directly
though. Instead he uses himself. If he speaks in tongues (other languages) but not out of
love then what he says is worthless; instead of a beautiful melody, he would be like a
noisy gong or symbol (13:1). Note when Paul speaks of the noisy clash of symbols he

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

may have been thinking of the symbols used in the frenzied worship associated with the
cults of Dionysus and Cybele.
What applies to tongues applies to the greater gift of prophecy. Even if one has all
knowledge, if he doesnt use it love, it is worthless (13:2).
Pauls language here (mysteries and knowledge apocalyptic) echoes Daniel 2:1922).
Jesus spoke harshly of some who on the Last Day will say, we prophesied in your
name, but whom he rejected as workers of iniquity (Mt 7:22-23). Just because one
possesses outstanding gifts is no guarantee of Gods approval if they were not exercised
in faith active in love.
The same holds true for faith. Echoing Jesus, Paul says even if one has faith to move
mountains, if he lacks love then if would amount to nothing (13:2).
Paul turns to the giving away of possessions, like the early Christians did in Acts 2:45
and 4:32. If it were not motivated by love, it would carry no spiritual benefit. In fact, he
would be no better than Ananias and Sapphira, whose behavior was prompted solely by
selfish considerations (Acts 5:1-11; cf. Mt 6:2).
All his physical sufferings on behalf of the church would be similarly meaningless if
undergone without love. A textual variant adds the phrase so that I will be burned. This
was probably added later during the persecutions of Nero. A martyr does not give his
body over; it is instead taken from him. Paul is merely thinking of all the sufferings he
underwent for the Gospel. But he would not boast in them, instead he would boast in the
Lord (1:31) and in his own weaknesses (2 Cor 11:18-30; 12:9).
The same is true today. If anyone is puffed up because of the significant role he plays,
Paul would call him to consider that if his motivation is not love, he serves no good

13:4-7 Love in Action: The Character of Love

This paragraph uses fifteen verbs to describe the qualities of Christian love. The
first two verbs give a positive description of loves greatest qualities. They are followed
by a series of eight negated verbs which express what love is not. The final four verbs are
positive again, each being preceded in Greek by all things.
English translations generally resort to adjectives in translating many of these verbs.
These verbs show that love expresses itself in actions that benefit others. To love means
to be the one for others. Christian love expresses itself in outgoing, self-forgetful activity.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

Loves first and greatest characteristic is to be longsuffering (13:4). In contrast to the
feverish emotionalism of the heathen cults (12:2), Christian love is marked by its taming
or lengthening of emotion. Rather than be short-tempered, it is longsuffering with others.
In this he imitates God who has always displayed longsuffering with his people. God has
been longsuffering to us and we in turn reflect that love to others. This is not something
we can cultivate and do, rather it is a gift of the Spirit, a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22).
Loves second characteristic is to be kind (13:4). God again sets the standard. God is kind
in his creation, preservation, and redemption of his people. His kindness then bears fruit
in their lives (Gal 5:22; Col 3:12).
Having seen loves most important positive characteristics, Paul throws love into sharp
relief by showing what love is not. Love is not jealous (13:4). The Corinthians have
fallen prey to this in their competitiveness and factions (1:10-11; 3:3). Jealousy is never
content with the gifts it has received, but eyes the gifts of others (Mt 20:15). It is one of
the works of the flesh that makes war against the new Spirit-filled life within the body of
Love also does not act like a windbag (13:4). Some Corinthians were impressed by
eloquent speech. Paul had to educate them about the worlds false wisdom, how it is
foolishness to God (1:17-24; 3:19). Paul deliberately avoided superficial eloquence in his
presentation of the Gospel (2:1-7, 13; 4:19-20).
Nor does love condone being puffed up (13:4) with ones self. Paul has chided the
Corinthians several times about being puffed up (4:6, 18, 19; 5:2; 8:1) in their factions, in
their tolerance for immorality, and in their disregard for the apostles directives.
Ballooned egos are incompatible with Christian love; it fractures the unity of the body of
Love also does not behave improperly (13:5). It is concerned for what is right in the
Lords sight and does not offend others (chs. 8 and 10 talk about not offending the weaker
Nor is love self-seeking (13:5). Christians look to edify others and not self. Paul would
later commend Timothy for his unselfishness (Phil 2:20-21; cf. Phil 2:4).
Further, love is not easily provoked (13:5). Paul had been provoked concerning John
Mark (Acts 15:39). He probably regretted it, for Mark had proved to be a valuable church
servant (2 Tim 2:20-21; 4:11). In Corinth the factional rivalries had led to much
provocation. Christians are to control their anger (Eph 4:26, 31-32).
Love also does not keep a record of wrongs (13:5). This follows the lead of our Lord as
he erases the sins of his people from his ledger (Ro 4:8; Col 2:14) so that he remembers
them no more (Jer 31:34; Heb 8:12). Love does not nurse a grudge. It forgives, even as
Christ has forgiven (Eph 4:32).

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

The last negative verb that says what love is not is: love does not rejoice in
unrighteousness (13:6). Love avoids the fallen human propensity to not only give tacit
approval to wickedness, but even delight in it and perpetuate it (cf. Acts 8:1; Ro 1:18, 32;
6:13). Here unrighteousness is contrasted with truth. Unrighteousness surpresses the
truth, while Gods righteousness is displayed in the truth of the Gospel (Ro 1:16-17; Gal
2:5, 14). Reception of the Gospel means a break with unrighteousness toward neighbor
and replaces it with loving service. Instead of serving unrighteousness, one serves what is
true, constructive and edifying (see Phil 4:8).
Paul concludes his description of loves activities with four brief clauses in 13:7 about
loves tenacity. The first (bears all things) and last (endures all things) form a chiasm
and again sounds the main theme of the way of love extends itself in longsuffering.
First love bears all things. It puts up with trying people and circumstances. For the sake
of the Gospel Paul put up with a lot (9:12).
The second and third clauses introduce faith and hope. To believe all things does not
mean to be gullible but means to have faith in God in all circumstances. To hope all
things means that the outcome of faith is certain. No matter what the circumstances the
Christian hope in Christ is certain.
Finally love endures all things (13:7). Endurance is one of the great characteristics of
life under the cross (Rev 1:9). It is similar to longsuffering.

13:8-13 The Permanence of Love

Paul begins this section with a thematic statement that love never falls (13:8).
Similar statements are made about the word of God in Josh 21:45; 23:14. Just as Gods
Word never falls to the ground ineffective but always accomplishes its purposes (Is
55:10-11), so Christian love will retain its honored place throughout time and eternity.
By contrast, the spiritual gifts that the Corinthians consider so valuable are only of
temporary value (13:8). In this age they are of value, but as it passes away, so will these
gifts. The Corinthians would do better by looking ahead to Jesus return, keeping an
eternal perspective. When the last day dawns, the gifts of prophecy, tongues, knowledge,
and so on will no longer be necessary.
For as Paul points out in 13:9, even the knowledge and prophetic insight that we have are
at best only partial. Not that knowledge is bad. Jesus word is truth and gives eternal life.
Even though it is liberating and life-giving, it gives only a glimpse of what will be fully
revealed in eternity.
Children are limited in their speech and thinking. There are certain limitations that they
cannot go beyond. As they grow older they become more mature. Their former ways are
no longer appropriate once theyve grown up. Similarly, gifts like tongues and prophecy

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

have their place in Christian life now in this aeon, but will be obsolete when eternity
During this age we live by faith in the revelation we have been given in Gods Word; we
do not yet behold God face to face. This may be compared to a mirror where we see only
a reflection of the real thing. This is not a poor reflection as in the NIV, for Corinth had
its fine quality bronze mirrors. In our day we see the image of someone on TV and do not
see them face to face (13:12). That privilege is reserved for the next life.
Now Paul knows God in part. But then his knowledge will be complete (13:12). God
knows us perfectly, but we do not know him perfectly.
More important than all of these gifts is the triad of faith, hope and love (13:13). They
have supreme and enduring value for the lives of Christians. But these virtues will not
abide eternally. Faith in this aeon is contrasted in 2 Cor 5:7 with the sight of the coming
aeon. And hope that is seen is no hope at all (Ro 8:24). So faith and hope only apply to
this temporary aeon as well. On the other hand, the loving relationship between God and
his people will endure throughout eternity. In fact, in eternity not only our love for God
will be perfect, but so will our love for other human beings, as our love flows from Gods
perfect love toward us.
But loves value is not only in the age to come. Love is of great value now for the church.
Pauls whole aim is to show the Corinthians that all they do should be done out of love.

14:1-33a Prophecy and Tongues

14:1-12 Prophecy Is Superior to Tongues Because It Edifies the Church
14:1-5 Tongues Compared to Prophesying
Pauls main concern is love. And from love will flow the edification of the church. In
striving for spiritual gifts the congregation should be guided by that which best promotes
the loving edification of the church. Edification is the theme of ch. 14. In ch. 8 Paul
demonstrated loves superiority to knowledge. In ch. 10 he showed the priority of
edification over freedom. The Triune God is the source in ch. 12 and love is the way in
ch. 13 and the building up of the church is the goal of the spiritual graces.
Paul here singles out two of the spiritual gifts. Both are valid for the edification of the
church. But the Corinthians seem to have put undue emphasis on the spectacular gift of
tongues. So Pauls goal in 14:1-25 is to give the Corinthians a more balanced view of the
value of each gift. Never does he disparage the gift of tongues. Rather, he says he wishes
they all could speak in tongues (14:5a). He simply does not want the gift of tongues to be
elevated above the other gifts. In fact he believes that prophecy is of greater value to the
church than tongues are.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

Pauls thesis is that tongues do not edify the church as well as prophecy does, because
they are not intelligible to others without an interpreter. What the tongue speaker does is
good, but no one understands (14:2). The mysteries he speaks of are aspects of the
Gospel of Jesus. The words that speak of these mysteries flow from the heart rather than
from the mind. And likewise, the listeners mind is also not engaged in the message. On
the other hand, prophecy is superior because it is spoken in the native tongue and is
intelligible to the hearers. The prophecy of the church builds up the faith and encourages
and comforts (14:3).
For some commentators, 14:2 speaks decisively against tongues being a foreign language
as in Acts 2. but no one understands could simply mean that no one in the congregation
spoke and understood the language the tongue speaker spoke. And Paul maybe using
hyperbole here, so that no one understands is an intentional exaggeration.
Paul continues to speak of prophecys value over tongues in 14:4-5. Tongue speaking
edifies only one person. Prophecy edifies the whole church. This could be illustrated by a
pastor reciting the Lords Prayer in Greek. He is edified but the congregation is not. If he
uses Greek let him also interpret it.
Paul was not against speaking in tongues. For in 14:5 he says he wishes that all of the
Corinthians could speak in tongues. But even more than that, he wanted all to be able to
prophesy because the prophet builds up the whole church. The problem is not speaking in
tongues, but speaking in tongues without an interpreter.
14:6-12 The Analogy of Musical Instruments
Tenderly addressing them as brothers, Paul asks them to imagine him coming to them
speaking another language which they did not understand (14:6). It might be memorable,
but how would that benefit them?
The word revelation (14:6) may have a broad meaning, similar to the revelation of Jesus
Christ (Rev 1:1), that is, the book of Revelation. Or it may have a narrow meaning in
which the revelation is more specific, such as the revelation of the resurrection in ch. 15.
Paul speaks of revelation, knowledge, prophecy and teaching. There may be a
relationship between the first and third items and the second and fourth items. Revelation
comes to the prophet and is then proclaimed by his prophecy. Similarly, divine
knowledge is acquired by the teacher who then transmits it by teaching.
Paul uses the analogy of musical instruments in 14:7-8. If instruments only produce a
drab monotone sound then no one would derive any benefit from the music. Instead of
stirring the emotions, it would grate the nerves. Music is meant to convey a message. But
the sounds Paul speaks of are chaotic and meaningless.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

An incoherent sound in another situation could be disastrous. If the bugle is not strong
then the soldier is not aware that he is to prepare for battle. A forceful and unambiguous
message is critical for a successful military operation.
Paul now applies these musical analogies to the Corinthians use of tongues (14:9). If
their speaking fails to convey a recognizable message, the whole exercise is futile. It
would be just a bunch of hot air.
Perhaps recalling the babble he heard in the public places of cosmopolitan areas he had
been to, Paul reminds them that there are many languages in the world and that they are
all intelligible to those who can understand them (14:10). But to others they are just
noise. There is a barrier between the one speaking and most of those who hear him
Summing Pauls argument, musical instruments need to play meaningful tunes. The
trumpet must produce a compelling sound. And human speakers of the Gospel must
speak a language that his hearers can understand. Paul urges them that their goal should
be to build up the church. And to build up the church, they should strive for those gifts
which do it the best (14:12).

14:13-19 The Tongues-Speaker Must Pray for the Gift of Interpretation

Paul has established the principle of edification. With a strong therefore
(14:13), he spells out how the tongue-speaker can make himself more helpful to the
church. He can pray for the gift of interpretation (14:13; cf. where Jesus encouraged his
disciple to pray for the gifts of the Spirit (Lk 11:13) so that all people can hear and
understand. But they must also keep in mind that the Spirit gives his gifts to those whom
he chooses (12:11).
Paul has laid down the principle that what is important is the edification of the church. So
with a strong therefore (14:13) he spells out how tongue speakers can make themselves
more helpful to the church. As Jesus encouraged his disciples to pray for the gift of the
Holy Spirit, so Paul encourages the tongue-speakers to pray for the gift of interpretation.
As long as he speaks in the languages that the Spirit gives utterance his mind is in neutral
and it is not meaningful to his listeners.
Paul is resolved to pray both with his spirit and his mind (14:15). Tongue-speaking is not
primarily a form of teaching, but consists of prayer, praise and thanksgiving (to prayto
sing to bless, 14:15-16) addressed to God. For Paul anything said in public worship in
a tongue will be interpreted for the benefit of the congregation.
Eph 5:19 says, [speak] to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Vocal
utterances in worship must be mutually edifying.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

In corporate worship, prayers are corporate prayers. If a prayer is spoken in a language
that no one can understand then it obviously cannot be a corporate prayer in which the
congregation can say amen (14:16). The speaker is the only one edified (14:17).
Paul is not speaking of tongues from a sense of sour grapes, for he himself spoke in
tongues more than anyone else. This gift, without an interpreter, has its place in private
prayer and thanksgiving. But in the church Paul wants all to edified. To that end, Paul
would rather speak a few words (14:19) in the congregations native tongue than speak in
an unknown and un-understood language.

14:20-25 Tongues Serve as a Divine Hardening Instrument

Paul appeals to his brothers (14:20) to take a more mature approach. To edify
the church is mature. To show off ones spiritual prowess is childish. [To be more mature
often means to have more experiences in which to learn from.] Concerning evil they were
to be babies; they were to have less experience in evil, which plagued the city and the
Pauls key text is Is 28:11-12. Through the prophet Isaiah, God had been trying to
guide his people in the way of peace and rest, but they had rejected his message as
gibberish (Is 28:10). In response God declared that since they would not listen to clear
Hebrew they would be compelled instead to listen to the Assyrians, men of strange lips
and with an alien tongue (Is 28:11 RSV). Thus Israel would be subject to the judgment
foretold in Deut 28:29.
Speaking in tongues in the NT era continues to signify Gods judgment on
unbelievers (not even so will they listen to me, 4:21). Paul explains that the speaking in
tongues in Corinth was meant not only as a salutary gift to build up the church, but it was
to serve as a negative judicial sign arousing the hostility of unbelievers. If unbelievers in
Corinth were confronted with tongue speaking, their reaction would be similar to the
unbelieving Jews on Pentecost Day, You are out of your minds (14:23). In this respect,
the gift of tongues served a similar dual purpose in the same way that Jesus parables did,
enlightening some and blinding others.
In 14:23-25 Paul proceeds to paint an imaginary scene to illustrate his point about
the respective roles of tongues and prophecy. If the whole church was to gather in one
place instead of at their house churches, and everyone began to speak in tongues, what
would happen if some unbelievers entered? They would say that the church was out of its
mind. That experience would only confirm their unbelief.
But if an unbeliever entered where everyone was engaged in prophecy, he would
be overwhelmed by the clear Word of God as it was spoken in his intelligible language
(14:24-25). Step by step Paul describes the process through which this person will be led
by the Holy Spirit as the great spiritual gift of prophecy takes effect. First the Spirit will
work in the persons heart to convict him of his sinfulness (cf. Jn 16:8). Second, he will

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

hear everyone calling him to account: Something must be done about your sin. In the
third place the person is led to confession of his secret thoughts and motives of the heart
and renounced. Finally, the Spirit leads him to fall down and worship God. The vision of
the prophets was that the Gentile nations would be incorporated into the people of God
with Israel (Is 45:12-17; Zech 8:20-23). Paul alludes to that prophetic vision in his quote
in 14:25, which draws on Is 45:14 and Zech 8:23. The Christians now endowed with the
spiritual gift of prophecy now fulfill Israels ancient hope.
This process is similar to one event in Jesus ministry: Jesus encounter with the Samarian
woman at the well (Jn 4). He spoke her language. He revealed her sinfulness (Jn 4:1718). She replied, I see that you are a prophet (Jn 4:19). She thought he might be the
Christ and invited the towns people to come to him.
By seeking the gift of prophecy, which edifies and enlightens, the Corinthians will also be
more evangelists. The clear language of prophecy convicts and brings the light of Christ.

Excursus: Worship Practice Today

Pauls apologetic for worship is a straightforward and uncompromising
proclamation of the Word of God, both Law and Gospel. The question asked today is: Is
the purpose of worship to edify those already in the church or to attract outsiders to the
faith? The answer from 1 Cor 14 is both. It should be designed to edify and edifying
worship is the best kind of worship for evangelism and outreach. Seven times in ch. 14
Paul mentions edification of the church and in 14:20-25 Paul mentions the effect of
worship on the outsider and unbeliever.
Worship should include a direct presentation of the Law (accusing and convicting). Some
object because it offends. But all are sinful and it does and must offend all of us. Without
the Laws condemnation, one cannot be brought to repentance and faith.
Worship must also include the Gospel with its full forgiveness by grace.
Such worship might be called prophetic worship. Prophecy is what benefits the whole
congregation and the outsider. This is the opposite of tongue-oriented worship, which is
The historic liturgies of the catholic church are prophetic. They proclaim the Word of
God, Law and Gospel. The world is always changing. God does not change. And the
church should be a place of stability, the anchor for lifes storms. The church today has
continuity with the saints who have gone before, no matter what nationality.
Every age also contributes to worship. Every age has fresh contributions to make to

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

Based on ch. 14, a) all liturgy and all hymnody should be based on the Word of God. b)
the whole church should be nourished by the life-giving Word and Sacraments. Worship
should not focus on any one group.
In 14:26-40 Paul has more to say about worship, that it should be orderly and people
should observe their God-given roles. The service of women as pastors is not within their
role, since it is against Gods command (14:37). To allow women to be pastors in order to
use their gifts goes against Pauls emphasis in ch. 14 that the edification of the whole
church takes precedence over the individuals desire to exercise their particular spiritual
gifts. The churchs order is the churchs witness to the unbelieving world.

14:26-33a Guidelines for the Orderly Use of Tongues and Prophecy

in Worship
The Corinthian worship services had become disorderly. Some women had
abandoned head coverings, the well-to-do showed selfish behavior in the communal
meal, tongue speaking had gotten out of hand, prophets competed with each other and the
role of women in worship was in question. But Paul says that all things [should] be done
for edification (14:26).
One person has a hymn he wants to share. Another has the gift of teaching. Another is a
prophet who wants to share a revelation he has received. Another wants to speak in a
foreign language, while someone else interprets. All can be used in worship as long as
they are edifying (14:26).
Now Paul adds some direction for tongue speakers and prophets (14:27-33a). He is happy
to let some speak in foreign languages, but he adds three qualifications. (1) No more than
two or three tongue-speakers. (2) Speak in an orderly fashion, waiting for ones turn and
not on top of each other. (3) Speak only when there is a translator, otherwise remain
The command is for a tongue-speaker who has no interpreter is to be silent in church
(14:28). This is the first time out of three that this phrase is used. The prophet too must be
silent if another person receives a revelation (14:30) and women must be silent in the
churches (14:34).
Prophets too are limited to two or three and other prophets should listen attentively and
evaluate so that false prophecy is not introduced (14:29-30). Evaluating whether a
message is true or false prophecy is based on whether it is in accord with Scripture and
the Gospel, whether the prophecy came to pass, and whether it accords with the great
Prophet. True prophecy comes only from the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 1:10-12).
Even though Paul restricts [tongue-speakers and] prophets to two or three, he is not
imposing a harsh restraint. In time all will be able to use their gifts (14:31). The goal after
all is not to stroke the ego of the prophet [or tongue-speaker], but to edify the church.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

One of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control. Therefore tongue-speakers and prophets
should be able to control themselves (14:32). Christianity is not a cult that puts forth
uncontrolled emotional outbursts. Inspired speech is not ecstasy as is sometimes
translated. There is no loss of control or frenzied babbling. Keeping in control and
maintaining order is in keeping with Gods character (14:33a). If the Corinthians wish to
keep in harmony with God, they will do all they can to promote peace and order in the

14:33b-40 The Lords Command for Women to Be Silent in the


14:33b-34a Let the Women Stay Silent in the Churches

This is Pauls third command for silence. As Paul has just stated, this is a result of the
order God has ordained. (For a fuller discussion of the relationship between chs. 11 and
14 see the excursus The Ordination of Women.)
Paul uses a similarly structured article as in 9:3-14. First he uses an ecumenical argument.
They are simply one part of the catholic church (14:33b). Second, he appeals to the
Law (14:34). Third, he appeals to their sense of shame (14:35b). Finally, he cites a
specific command of the Lord Jesus (14:37).
The apostles command is simple and clear (14:34). Pauls injunction covers any kind of
authoritative teaching of Gods Word when the congregation assembles for worship. Paul
is just as clear in 1 Tim 2:12 where he says, I do not permit a woman to teach. This
translates into the prohibition of the ordination of women and their service as pastors.

14:34b-35 A Divine Command

Paul quickly grounds this prohibition in the divine will. It is not permitted is passive,
implying that God does not permit it. Also the phrase as the Law also says (14:34)
implies God is behind it. The apostles word prohibiting women to speak in church is
Gods word.
Women are to follow the pattern laid out in 11:3, where they are to willingly submit to
their husbands. The pattern in the home is the pattern for the church (14:34). It is no more
demeaning for women to submit than it is for Christ to submit to the Father (1 Cor 11:3;
cf. 15:27-28).

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

Paul also backs up his words with Gods Law, the Torah. The parallel account in 1 Tim
2:11-12 reveals that Paul had in mind the creation account and fall into sin (Ge 2-3).
According to it, the woman played a subordinate role both before and after the fall. Adam
was created first and then Eve was formed as his helper (1 Tim 2:13). Also Eve was
deceived and fell into transgression (1 Tim 2:14). Thus her subordinate role was
confirmed after the fall. God instituted the order of creation in the beginning for the
benefit and welfare of humans. [For her benefit,] the church abides by the order of
creation. The order of redemption does not abrogate the original divinely willed order (cf.
Mk 10:2-9).
Unlike rabbis, Jesus taught women the Word of God (see Lk 10:38-42; Jn 4:7-30; Acts
16:14-15). But in the church, the women were to listen and learn quietly and ask
questions at home (14:35). [Why couldnt they ask questions?] It may be that they were
using their questions to interrogate and dispute and actually use their questions as a
means of instructing, undermining the speakers message.
Paul says, It is shameful for women to teach in church. The formula it is shameful
covers what is offensive to God as well as what causes social offense (see shameful
also in Eph 5:12).

14:36 Universal Practice

In this verse Paul speaks with heavy irony. Were they so puffed up that they thought they
were the fount of Gods revelation? Were they the only church to receive the Gospel? The
same questions might be asked today when some churches ordain women. Do they have a
superior wisdom that previous generations of the church did not have? We do not hold on
to and follow tradition for traditions sake. Here the tradition Paul refers to in 14:33b-38
is part of the unchanging and authoritative Word of God.

14:37 The Lords Command

Paul clinches his argument with a command (14:37) from the Lord Jesus. To defy Paul
would be to defy God. The command is not dependent upon the prevailing culture.
Actually it is counter-cultural. It is not a response to or a result of the culture (see
excursus on The Ordination of Women). It is a divine command to be accepted in the
obedience of faith.
What Paul refers to is either a direct command of the Lord Jesus to his disciples, but
never recorded in Scripture, or it is an alternative phrase synonymous with the Law
(14:34) and the Word of God (14:36). In the latters case Paul is referring to the
opening chapters of Genesis which express the words, will, and action of the Lord.
A Permanent Command

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

Some divine commands may be temporary, such as the OT law allowing divorce. The OT
ceremonial law was only temporary. When it is temporary, there are textual clues given in
the context. Without such a context, the command is permanent. Jesus said that the
Decalogue would remain until the heavens and the earth pass away (Mt 5:17-19). There
are no limits set on Jesus commandment to love (Jn 13:34; cf. Jn 15:12; 1Jn 2:7-11).
According to John, the mark of one who loves Jesus is that he keeps Jesus commands (Jn
14:15; cf. Jn 14:21; 15:10, 14).
The context of 14:37 contains no indications that the command for women to be silent
was a temporary restriction. All the evidence points to this Lords command in 14:37 is
a specific divine command of the Lord possessing permanent validity.
Sometimes it is argued that Christians who uphold this command have fallen prey to
legalism, as if this command no longer has any place in the Christian life. This view
operates with a definition of command that is too narrow. Gods commands cover the
entire counsel and will of God as expressed in both Law and Gospel. Christians are to
observe all things that [Jesus has] commanded (Mt 28:20). In other words, the Church
treasures the whole Word of God, both Law and Gospel. When one criticizes Christians
as being legalistic when they keep the Lords command, then one criticizes Christ. Do we
also criticize Christ when he gave the commands to do this in memory of me (Lk
22:19) and go therefore and make disciples, baptizing teaching (Mt 28:19-20)?

14:38 This Command Must Be Recognized

Paul solemnly warns anyone who refuses to recognize this as the Lords command that
he is not recognized by God (14:38). Losing Gods recognition, in a broad sense, may
mean losing ones salvation. Whether one loves the Lords can be seen from his attitude
toward the Lords commandment (Jn 14:23-24).

14:39-40 Conclusion
Paul concludes this section by changing the tone with the use of brothers (14:39). His
final admonition echoes his starting point in 14:1 by way of an inclusion: they should
strive to prophesy and not forbid speaking in tongues (14:39). But the overriding
consideration should be for what promotes propriety and good order (14:40). Tonguespeakers should not dominate worship services and interpretation must be provided
(14:27-28), too many prophets should not speak (14:29-33a), and women should adopt a
quiet, subordinate role in the worship service (14:34). The self should take a back seat to
the congregation and worship should be carried out in loving, orderly and edifying

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

Excursus: The Ordination of Women
The Gospel of Christianity has brought freedom, honor and respect for women
around the world. For centuries women have been treated more like property than with
courtesy and affection. Jesus set the pattern by submitting to his mother (Lk 2:51), by
healing women, by conversing with women, by teaching women the Word of God. Paul
commends husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up
for her (Eph 5:25). Thus scripture elevates women as equal members in the body of
Whereas the OT honors women as equal members of the worshipping community, it
came to pass that women were relegated to an inferior status in only being allowed to
enter the forecourt of the temple. Rabbis did not teach the Torah to women.
At the opposite extreme of Judaism was the Greco-Roman culture of Pauls day. Women
had no prohibitions against being priestesses. In the Demeter cult in Corinth women
played an important role.
The apostolic teaching concerning women in worship was countercultural from both
Jewish and Greco-Roman culture. The command that women be silent in worship is
inspired by the Holy Spirit and runs counter to the spirit and wisdom of this world (2:12).

The Scriptures Are the Basis for Deciding the Issue

Most agree that the issue must be decided on the basis of scripture. Most also
agree that the results of this biblical study will depend upon the principle of interpretation
used. The problem is that some do not see this as terribly important. Others believe that it
is important, that every way of interpreting scripture is equally true. Higher-critical
methodologies take a critical view toward the authority, truthfulness and clarity of parts
of the Bible. Is it the Word of God or does it contain the Word of God? Is the Bible clear,
harmonious, and consistent or does it have divergent strands that lead sometimes to
diametrically opposed conclusions?
The question then is, whether to let Scripture interpret Scripture or let culture interpret
Scripture. Those who are of the critical slant see it as interpretation by proof-texts vs.
interpretation by the Gospel. Does a central [generic] gospel or do individual texts prevail
in making decisions? So a bias is immediately raised, for if one is Gospel based and
good, then the other must not be Gospel based and therefore bad.
Foundational texts have served as the churchs basis determining its teaching and
practice. When one appeals to proof texts, one should never do so without considering its
context. And one must ask, What is wrong with appealing to individual texts? Jesus
constantly appealed to individual texts from the OT as the foundation of his teaching (see
Mt 4:1-13 where three times Jesus said, It is written). When texts speak to a specific
issue then its ok to use them. When Luther wrote about Baptism, he didnt appeal to

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

some general Gospel, but to texts that deal specifically with Baptism (Mt 28:19; Titus
3:5-8; Rom 6:4).

Applying the Scriptures Today: Bridging the Gap between the Bible and
the Modern World
Advocates for the ordination of women see a big gap between the culture of the
first century and today. They say that the biblical texts are time conditioned and
culture bound. They would say that to have ordained women would have been harmful
to the churchs mission then, but it would be helpful today.
Of course we must be careful in what we apply to the church today. For instance, OT
ceremonial laws have been fulfilled in Christ and the civil law applied only to Israel as a
nation. But the Ten Commandments still do apply. Jesus and his disciples constantly
confirmed them. Some things in the NT do not apply today either. One example is foot
washing. Jesus used it as an example of love; he did not mandate it. The command
associated with it was to love one another. In our modern culture, love is expressed in a
different way then it was in Jesus day [although some ways of showing love are still the
same]. Customs, such as a womans head covering, vary, but the principle of male
headship and female subordination (11:3) remain in effect. We have no authority to
abrogate the command of our Lord.
Cultures do vary, but there are some things that cultures of every age have in common.
All people have the same desires, weaknesses, aspirations, and so forth. Deep down all
share a common humanity.
And the same Word of God is addressed to all. The same Word that was addressed
to people in biblical times is addressed to us today. From the divine perspective there is
only one horizon. Gods people across all generations have a corporate personality. Thus
Moses could speak to Gods people forty years after the exodus as if they were all there
and had experienced it (Deut 5:2-3).

The Gospel
Some argue that the only link between the first and twenty-first centuries is the
Gospel. Both those for and against the ordination of women agree on the importance of
the Gospel. The Gospel is the central theme in 1 Corinthians where Paul speaks about the
issue of womens ordination.
The difference of opinion comes not on the central article of faith, the Gospel, but
on other articles of the faith. All the articles of faith are woven together into one tapestry,
but that does not mean that the color should be drained from any one article. Adherence
to the Gospel principle does not mean the reduction of other articles of faith (most
importantly in this case is the original order of creation, fall into sin, the Law, and the
doctrine of ministry) so that they collapse and cease to have any significance.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians is thoroughly Gospel centered and yet Paul discusses many issues.
Paul gave rules concerning expelling the wicked person and conduct of divine worship.
Paul has done this with fatherly concern (4:14-16). Paul has been called to be an apostle.
Each Christian is called to be a Christian. But not all Christians are called to be apostles,
not all are prophets, and so not all are pastors or teachers (1 Cor 12:29; Eph 4:11).
Women are not called to pastors and most men are not either. God has called the church
into being and he has the right to select who he wants to be his pastors and he has the
right to establish qualifications. Similarly in the OT, only the Levites were to serve in the
sanctuary and only the sons of Aaron were to be priests. God determines the order, for he
is not a God of disorder (14:33).

Creation and the New Creation

The relationship between the order of creation and the order of redemption is
another key topic when considering if women should be ordained. Some proponents of
womens ordination accord no significance to the order of creation. The new order in
Christ is not gradually transforming the old order of creation. The old order runs parallel
to the new order and will not pass away until Christ returns. The new order is a reality,
but it is a hidden reality, seen only by faith; it is hidden from sight. The present worlds
structure will not change until Christ returns.
When Jesus and Paul provide guidance for the proper ordering of marriage and
relations between the sexes, they go back to the order of creation set forth in the first
three chapters of Genesis. In Genesis God established order for his creation. That order
included men as the head. As men are the head of the family and church, so Christ is the
head of Gods family, the Church. To ordain women then shows disrespect for the gift of
order that God gave to the church. [It would seem that the ordination of women would
imply that there is some other head of the church other than Christ.]
Apostles and pastors represent Christ. But just because Christ was a man does not
necessarily mean that his representatives be male. Scripture does not develop this
argument. Rather, Scripture goes back to the order of creation (14:34; 1 Tim 2:12-14; cf.
1 Cor 11:3). Christs incarnation as a man is ultimately rooted in this divinely willed
order. A man (Adam) was the head of the old humanity; so, in the divine economy, a man
(the second Adam) is head of the new humanity (Ro 5:12-19). And because Christ chose
to follow (and fulfill) the old order of creation rather than overturn it, he chose only men
to serve as apostles and pastors and thus provide the leadership for his church.

The Relationship between 11:2-16 and 14:33b-38

One of the main issues that must be dealt with is the relationship between 1 Cor
11:2-16, where Paul seems to accept women praying and prophesying in worship, and
14:33b-38, where he forbids any speaking by women. Advocates of the ordination of
women (1) treat these passages as contradictory, (2) accept the more lenient passage, (3)

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

determine that 14:33b-38 is inauthentic, or (4) reduce 14:33b-38 as saying women should
not ask disruptive questions.
The following may be said in response. The thematic verse of 11:2-16 is the
statement of headship in 11:3. This goes along perfectly with 14:34. The passage in ch.
14 speaks directly to the issue of the ordination of women and therefore should receive
more weight than 11:5. And there are a number of solutions which do not assume a
contradiction between 11:5 and 14:34.
Some believe the Scriptures contradict itself and have discrepancies. But we
believe that the Scriptures are a unity and the Word of one primary author, the Holy
Spirit, who spoke through prophets, apostles, and evangelists. We believe that the
Scriptures have integrity, consistency, truthfulness, and the authority of God himself.
Five solutions are given. Notes were taken only on #4 and #5. They are the most
#4. A fourth interpretation is that in 14:34-35 Paul is prohibiting women from
speaking authoritatively in church. Teaching is an activity distinctly different from
praying and prophesying. So in 14:34-35 Paul permits women to prophecy and speak in
tongues, but he does not permit them to preach and teach. This would coincide with 1
Tim 2:12. They are charged with not taking charge of the public worship service. This
interpretation notes that when to speak is used in the NT, it normally refers to
Older women are told to teach younger women (Titus 2:3-4) and younger women
taught their children. Priscilla privately taught Apollos (Acts 18:26).
One difficulty with this view is that earlier in 1 Cor 14 Paul uses to speak in
connection with a tongue and prophecy (e.g., 14:2-6, 27-29). In which case, Paul would
be saying that women should not speak in a tongue or prophesy in church. But to speak
can refer to a variety of speaking. The kind of speaking must be determined by the
context. In 14:34-35 there are no modifying or qualifying words. Therefore the similar
passage in 1 Tim 2:11-12 sheds some light. In it, it is clear that women are not to assume
the role of authoritative speaking (pastoral preaching) in worship.
#5. This is the explanation preferred in the CC. This view takes to speak to
mean the same as it does earlier in ch. 14 where Paul says women should not speak in
tongues or prophesy in church. This reading of 14:33b-38 is that here Paul prohibits the
women from any authoritative preaching and teaching in worship services.
If this is the case, why didnt Paul make this clearer in 11:5 where he allowed
women to speak in tongues and prophesy? His pastoral approach in other parts of 1
Corinthians will help. For instance, in chs. 8-10 Paul dealt with food offered to idols. In
ch. 8 Paul lays the foundation suggesting that such a practice might be offensive to some.
Ch. 9 is a long explanation of a Christian giving up rights for the sake of the weaker

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

brother. But in ch. 10 he firmly forbids participation in cultic meals (10:14-22). Similarly,
in ch. 11 Paul appeals to headship, propriety, and decorum. In ch. 12 he lays a theological
foundation regarding spiritual gifts and follows it with an excursus on Christian love (ch.
13). He then concludes with a discussion of tongues and prophecy in ch. 14 with a
number of directives regarding the proper role of tongues, prophecy, and the
appropriateness of women holding teaching offices.
Not everything can be addressed at once. First he lays a foundation and then he
addresses the more difficult things.

Objections to the Lords Command

The apostles injunction in 14:34-35 encounters as much opposition today as it did
then. There are many objections. Six objections are dealt with here.

Galatians 3:28
Gal 3:28 is the most frequently cited text by the womens ordination movement.
While the argument may seem persuasive, when one looks at the context, it is obvious
that Paul is not speaking to the issue of ordination! The topic is instead the baptismal
identity of all believers as Gods heirs of the Abrahamic promise of eternal life in Christ
Jesus. It must be read in this context. If Gal 3:28 is the std for those who may be
ordained, then there is nothing to prevent children, homosexuals, the mentally
incompetent, etc. from being ordained. To that, womens ordination proponents say that
we must look to other passages, such as 1 Tim 3:2 (apt to teach). But that is precisely
the point. We look to other passages that speak directly to the issue of ordination and not
to passages that have nothing to do with it. Those texts are 1 Tim 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9.
They speak of a pastor being the husband of one wife and use masculine Greek nouns
and adjectives, thereby limiting the office to qualified men. That conclusion is
corroborated by 1 Cor 14:33b-38 and 1 Tim 2:11-14.

Justice and Human Rights

Our society has moved towards equal rights for women in the workplace and in
politics. This is seen as a simple matter of justice. Proponents would have the church
follow societys lead. But the church should not be shaped by the world; it should shaped
only by the Word. The headship of the man applies to the Christian home and the
Christian church and is in keeping of the Word of God and the Lords command (14:37).

They say that the ordination of women would serve as an important sign of
greater openness and inclusivity. The Gospel for sure is inclusive. Through Baptism all
share a oneness in Christ (Gal 3:28). This does not mean that all are called to the public

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

ministry. It is God who calls individuals into the pastoral ministry in accordance to his
Word. The church has no right to abolish any prerequisites that the Lord has established.
This argument unfairly brands those who do not accept womens ordination as
exclusive and narrow minded. Not everyone is fit for the ministry. The question then
becomes whether the criteria will determined by human reasoning or the Word of God.

The Giftedness of Women

The claim is often advanced that women should be ordained because they too
have been endowed with the Spirits gifts and should therefore be given an opportunity to
exercise them in the public ministry. Certainly every Christian, male or female, has been
endowed with a gift of grace. Christian women like Christian men have a station and
vocation in life-in family, church, community, and workplace. As with other Christians,
this gives women ample opportunity to speak and serve as Gods servants. But the gift of
the public ministry has not been given to them (nor to most men).

The Subordinationist Heresy

The words submit and subordinate occur many times in 1 Corinthians 14-15. It
also speaks of things that must take place in the proper order. The subordination that Paul
speaks of then is part of his divinely willed order. The headship of 11:3 implies
subordination of the woman to the man, the man to Christ, and Christ to God the Father.
Therefore it is no more demeaning for the woman to be subject to the man than it is for
the Son to subject to the Father. Conversely, the mans headship over the woman is no
more oppressive than Christs headship over the man and the Fathers headship over the
Son. This does not say that the Son is not fully divine and equal to the Father. Jesus said
both that I and the Father are one (Jn 10:30) and the Father is greater than I (Jn
14:28). Subordination can be either compulsory or voluntary. The Son voluntarily
submitted to the Father. In Pauls theology, men are never told to force a woman to
submit. When he speaks of women submitting, he always appeals to the women
themselves to submit voluntarily (14:34; Eph 5:22-24). Submission cannot be demanded
or forced, it can only be given.
Some are offended that Paul, a man, demands submission. But remember Paul speaks as
an apostle of Christ Jesus (1:1). The Gospel provides the motivation for men and women
to joyfully take their places in Gods appointed order, especially in the church. The
person of faith delights in Gods order (cf. Pss 1:2; 112:1; 119:16, 24, 35).

Prophetesses in the Old and New Testaments

References to prophetesses in both testaments have been taken as a warrant for
ordaining women. But the office of prophet is not the same as the office of pastor.
Prophets receive special revelation from God. None of the prophetesses are seen as
speaking in public in contrast to Jeremiah and Isaiah. The office of OT priest is the

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

closest to that of pastor because they had the responsibility of teaching the Torah (Word
of God) and administering the sacrifices (Sacraments). And all the priests were men.

The movement for ordaining women does not have its origin in the Scriptures, but
in the sociology and spirit of the modern age (cf. 1 Cor 2:12). It is an aberration from
Scripture and the universal doctrine of almost two millennia. Those who favor ordination
of women call it a step forward in faith, which means those opposed are seen as fearful
and hesitant in the faith. But as the Israelites went forward in the faith to cross the Red
Sea, they went forward at the command of God which was a clear word from the Lord.
As they obeyed, they were blessed with deliverance. But this is a call to go forward in
defiance to the Lords command. On this issue Christians must take their stand on the
Word of God as Luther did in his response to the papal bull. A church cannot place itself
above the Word of God and a clear command of the Lord.

15:1-58 The Word of the Cross Is the Basis for the

Congregations Hope
Introduction to Chapter 15
Pauls chapter on the importance of the resurrection is a treasure, like a pearl. But
as a pearl in an oyster grows because of an irritant, this chapter owes its origin to a
serious heresy: the denial of the bodily resurrection. Having attained all the spiritual
riches possible, some of the Corinthians did not believe in the resurrection of the body.
They had nothing to look forward to. For them the eschaton had already come. They had
no Christian hope. For them the spirit was greater than the body. They had not lost their
Christian faith, but this belief caused an infection which could deal a death blow (15:2).
Paul spells out in detail the implications of such a view.

15:1-11 The Risen Christ and His Eyewitnesses

15:1-7 The Resurrection of the Dead Is the Foundation of the Gospel
15:1-4 The Resurrection Is of First Importance
Paul opens this chapter with a gentle rebuke. There is one more area where the
Corinthians lack knowledge (cf. 10:1; 12:1; 14:38). So Paul recites in creedal form the
ABCs of the Gospel - the things that he delivered to them as the mothers milk of the
faith (15:3-4) the things that they first embraced. This same Gospel is what they owed

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

their present status as Christians to (15:1; cf. Ro 11:20) and their future salvation to
(15:2; 1:18).
The Gospel that Paul preached and delivered (15:1, 2, 3) was the Gospel that Paul
directly received from the Lord Jesus Christ. This Gospel that Paul faithfully transmitted,
he again lays out for the Corinthians in four clauses introduced by that: that Christ died
that he was buried that he was raised and that he appeared to many (15:3-8).
The heart of the Gospel is Christs death for taking away our sins (15:3). So in the
resurrection chapter Paul begins with the sacrificial death of Christ. Without his death, we
would still be in our sins (Jn 8:24). Christs death took place according to the
Scriptures. Is 53 is quoted frequently in the NT (e.g., Mt 8:1-7; Acts 8:32-33; 1 Pet 2:2225) and maybe in mind here too. But many other portions of the OT maybe in mind as
well (e.g., Psalm 22; 69; Zech 12:10; 13:7). (See the CC on Luke by Arthur A. Just also.)
That Christ was buried (15:4) is echoed in the ecumenical creeds. All testify to the fact
that Christ became a corpse, which was placed in a grave in the usual manner. But from
amongst the corpses, Christ has been raised (15:4). His resurrection took place on the
third day according to the Scriptures (15:4). Earlier Jesus said he must be killed and
rise on the third day (e.g., Mt 16:21), implying that he must fulfill his Fathers will as laid
down in the OT Scriptures. The apostles and evangelists found the Messiahs resurrection
foretold specifically in passages such as Pss 16:8-11; 110:1; Is 53:10-12 and more
broadly in other passages.
That it would happen on the third day seems to have its roots in Hos 6:2 and Jonah 1:17.
Jesus himself declared that Jonahs three days and nights in the belly of the fish as a
prophecy of his three days in the grave. In raising Christ on the third day, God also raises
all those who are in Christ. Baptism into Christs body (1 Cor 12:13) is Baptism into his
death and resurrection (Ro 6:1-11; Col 2:11-13).
15:5-7 Witnesses of the Resurrection
The final that clause supplies the evidence that Christ really had risen on the third day.
Christ presented himself alive to many people. So the churchs faith in the resurrection of
Christ rests on eyewitness testimony. OT law stipulated that legal evidence be
corroborated by the testimony of two or three witnesses (Deut. 17:6; 19:15). So important
is the resurrection that God supplied an abundance of witnesses.
First on the list is Peter who had denied Jesus. Then came the Twelve on Easter Sunday
evening and again a week later (used in the technical sense for those who were with Jesus
during his three year ministry). If two or three witnesses was enough then more than 500
was overwhelming. Some believe there may have been more than 500 witnesses at the
Great Commission since the apostles were usually accompanied by a larger group of
Jesus disciples (cf. Lk 24:33; Acts 1:14-15; 13:31). Anyone during Pauls day who was
still skeptical about the resurrection could ask one of the 500 since most were still alive
though some had fallen asleep in Christ (15:6). This euphemism for Christian death

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

should be preserved since it alludes to the resurrection. Next came James, Jesus brother.
At first James and his brothers did not believe (Jn 7:5), but they came to believe and
James became one of the leaders of the Jerusalem church (Acts 15:13; 21:18). Then Jesus
appeared to all the apostles (15:7). This group probably includes more than the Twelve.
Paul too was considered an apostle as we see in the next pericope (15:8-11).

15:8-11 The Risen Lords Appearance to Paul

Paul concludes his list of eyewitnesses to Jesus resurrection with himself. Paul
had not spent three years with Jesus like the other apostles. He had suddenly been thrown
into his apostleship. So without a gestational period he was prematurely born (5:8). He
suddenly became an eyewitness of the resurrected Christ and was sent out to the Gentiles
to tell them the Good News. He was the last of the eyewitnesses (5:8).
Paul considered himself to be the least of the apostles (5:9). The reason why was because
he persecuted the church. In attacking the saints, Paul attacked the Son of God himself
(Acts 9:4). Not only did Paul become a saint himself, but he also became an apostle. To
have persecuted the church and then be called as an apostle was pure grace (5:10). And
Gods grace was not without effect. Paul labored more than them all (5:10). Called by
the Servant, Paul labored long hours and endured great hardships for his Master.
The simple truth was that Paul labored harder than all the apostles (15:10). But in order
not to sound conceited, Paul quickly attributed his labors to Gods grace (15:10). Through
his grace in Christ, God was working through Paul to bring the Gentiles to the obedience
of faith. Pauls satisfaction in his work has been compared to the joy of a child who gives
his father a birthday present out of his fathers own money.
The other apostles came before him. He came late, in an untimely manner. Yet they all
preached the same Gospel of Christs death and resurrection (15:3-4). It matters not who
speaks, but that the Corinthians believe and retain the hope of resurrection to eternal life.

15:12-34 The Necessity of the Resurrection

15:12-19 How Can Some Say There Is No Resurrection?

Greek Skepticism toward the Resurrection

Paul has explained the fundamentals of the faith in detail. Now we see why. While Paul
preached the resurrection of the Christ, some in Corinth had counter ideas. Their ideas
were typical of Greek culture. Those on the Athenian Areopagus had mocked Paul for
preaching the resurrection (Acts 17:32). Greek poets, philosophers, and historians taught
that there was no hope of a resurrection. Most cultures, like the Greeks, believed that only

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

the soul survived death. Only Christians believed in the hope of the resurrection of the
In this way of thinking, the Corinthians apparently believed only in a spiritual
resurrection. And many believed that it had already happened (2 Tim 2:18). They
believed that they had faith and the Spirit and the Spirits gifts and were already enjoying
the resurrection in all its fullness (4:8). They had nothing to look forward to. They
certainly did not believe in the resurrection of corpses.

The Structure of Pauls Logic

The form of Pauls arguments is three links of if-then statements (15:12-15), which forms
a chain that leads to a three-fold conclusion (15:14-15) about the implications of the
Corinthians denial of the bodily resurrection. The three-fold conclusion is immediately
grounded in two more if-then statements (15:16-18), which leads to another three-fold
conclusion about the implications of the Corinthians error (15:17-18). It concludes in
15:19 with a devastating if-then summary statement. It looks like this:
15:12 . If Christ is preached as risen from the dead,
. . . . . .then how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead?
15:13 . If there is no resurrection of the dead,
. . . . . .then Christ has not been raised either.
15:14 . If Christ has not been raised,
. . . . . .then . . (1) . . . our preaching is vain;
. . . . . . . . . . . .(2) . . . your faith is vain;
15:15 . . . . . . . (3) . . . we are found to be false witnesses of God,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .because we witnessed against God that he raised the Christ,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .whom he did not raise if indeed the dead are not raised!
15:16 . For if the dead are not raised,
. . . . . .then Christ has not been raised.
15:17 . If Christ has not been raised,
. . . . . .then . . (1) . . . .your faith is futile;
. . . . . . . . . . . .(2) . . . you are still in your sins;
15:18 . . . . . . . (3) . . . then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
15:19 . If in this life only we have hoped in Christ,
. . . . . .then we are of all people most miserable!
The practical consequences, carried to its logical extreme, of a denial of the resurrection
are that Pauls preaching is a lie and the Christian faith is an empty deception that leaves
believers still in their sins.

Pauls Theological Argument

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

Paul says that if Christ has been raised then there must be such a thing as a resurrection
(15:12). Or said negatively, if there is no such thing as the resurrection, then Christ could
not have been raised either (15:13). This group, who denied the resurrection, struck at the
heart of the Christian message. If they were right, Paul was wasting his time and all
believers would be better off abandoning the faith (15:14). Furthermore, if they were
right, the apostles would be guilty of being false prophets, speaking against God instead
of for him (15:15).
In 15:17 Paul repeats 15:14. Here his sole focus is on what it means for believers if Christ
has not been raised. Even more, if Christ has not been raised, then not only are the living
still in their sins (15:17), but those who have fallen asleep did not go to be with Christ
(15:18). Rather, they are utterly lost (15:18). Apparently the Corinthians imagined that at
death the believers soul would escape the prison of the body to experience a more
blessed state. But Paul tells them that if Christ has not been raised then this is not the
case, instead they have perished.
Paul continues by saying that if the skeptics are right then they do not have the
forgiveness of sins in the present, nor the hope of eternal life in the future. All that they
believe in is just a delusion (15:19). Then they are more miserable than anyone else.

Practical Implications
For Paul, the resurrection of Christ is inseparably connected to the future
resurrection of Christians. Christs resurrection inaugurates Gods gift of salvation and
guarantees the resurrection on the Last Day.
Easter means that Christ has won the victory. At the same time, Gods people are not yet
full participants in that victory. That is the sure hope that we look forward to. The church,
and indeed the whole creation, looks forward to the renewal of creation and the
resurrection of the body. On that day, God will receive the full harvest of which Christs
resurrection was the firstfruit (15:20). Without this hope, the Gospel proclaimed by Paul
would collapse. Faith would be futile, sin and its consequences would remain, fellow
Christians who have died would have perished, and humanity should look upon
Christians as people who are wasting their time.
Paul has shown the Corinthians that their view of the resurrection leads to despair. Next
Paul will move them from despair back to hope.

15:20-28 Christ Has Been Raised as the Firstfruits

Leaving their hope-less view behind, Paul reaffirms a basic tenet of the faith:
Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep
(15:20). Not only did Christ rise, but so also will Christians who have died. Just as Israel
brought the firstfruits of their harvest to the Lord as a sign that the whole harvest

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

belonged to him (Lev 23:9-15), so Christs resurrection was the pledge that all who had
fallen asleep in him would be physically raised as he was.
Through Adams disobedience suffering and death came to all men (15:21-22). But
through the obedience of the second Adam, resurrection and life would come to all men.
(Later Paul spells this out more clearly in Ro 5:12-21). As Adams sin negatively affected
all humanity, so Christs resurrection positively benefited all of humanity. Luthers
analogy from birth was that after the head is born, the whole body follows easily.
To say that in Christ all will be made alive (15:22) is not universalistic. Only those who
have been baptized in Christ receive the resurrection to eternal life. Unbelievers too
will be raised bodily, but they will be raised to eternal death.
Paul goes on to encourage the Corinthians to be patient (15:23-24). The whole focus of
15:20-28 is on believers; Paul says nothing about unbelievers. The order of events is that
Christ was raised from the dead, followed by people living and then dying. Their bodies
rest in the grave for a period of time. Then when Christ returns on the Last Day, those
who belong to him will be raised to eternal life.
At the appointed time Christ will usher in the end of the age (15:24). Christ is like the
nobleman who journeyed to a far away country to receive a kingdom and then return (Lk
19:12). He has been given all authority. He fights against his enemies. He binds up the
strong man and plunders his goods (Mk 3:22-27). He then hands over his people to his
God and Father, having deposed all spiritual and temporal authorities and powers (15:24).
The Messiahs enemies are primarily Satan and his forces (spiritual). But every ruler and
every authority and power (15:24) may also include all human authorities that are
hostile to him. In 15:25 Paul freely quotes Ps 110:1 by inserting the word all. Now
Christ rules, even in the midst of his enemies. He will continue to rule until all his
enemies are defeated. Paul adds all and places it at the beginning of the sentence of
15:27 for emphasis.
Death is the last enemy to be destroyed (15:26). As long as people die, Gods good will is
not being brought to completion. But after all Christs people have been raised to life at
his second coming, there will be no more death (Rev 21:4); death will have been
Death is the enemy of Christians. It will not be done away with until the Last Day. Until
then Christians grieve at the death of loved ones. God never intended the pain and
separation of death. As an enemy, death has not yet been fully overcome. Death is an
enemy the same as the beast, the false prophet and the devil (Rev 19:20; 20:10, 14). It is
not a friend as those who advocate euthanasia and suicide call it.
Reflecting further on the defeat of all Christs enemies, in 15:27 Paul cites another psalm
in support of his argument. Ps 8 speaks of the dominion given to man/the Son of Man.
This citation continues the Adam typology of 15:21-22. Adam, holding a place of honor,

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

was given authority over all God had created. But his place of honor was corrupted by
sin. So now the Second Adam reigns over all things in the new creation (cf. Heb 2:8). His
resurrection proves that God has subjected all things, even death, to him. (See the parallel
passage in Phil 3:21).
There is one who is not subordinated to Christ and that is the Father. He never loses his
super ordinate position (15:27b). Once his victory is won, the Son of God will hand over
the kingdom to his God and Father (15:24a) and submit to the Fathers authority
(15:28). Having come into this world to do his Fathers will, when his mission is fully
accomplished, he will submit voluntarily to the one who sent him.
Some misunderstand this subordination in thinking that the Son is inferior to the Father.
But it is similar to the Athanasian Creed, which distinguishes between the Sons
inferiority to the Father with respect to his manhood and his equality to the Father with
respect to his Godhead. Chemnitz, in writing about the subordination in terms of Christs
human nature, says that this subordination will continue not only after the resurrection,
but also after the Last Day after he hands over the kingdom to God.
This theme of the Sons subjection to the Father reflects their distinctive roles in carrying
out the divine plan of salvation. The Father sent the Son; the Son subordinated himself in
willing obedience to the Father, who sent him; and finally, at the glorious consummation
of his mission, the Son will deliver the kingdom into the hands of his Father. In no way
does this distinction in roles detract from the Sons eternal divinity or his full equality
with the Father (cf. Jn 1:18; 5:19; 10:30; 14:11). Nor does it mean that at the
consummation the Son will relinquish his dominion. Christs kingdom, in conjunction
with the Fathers, will never end (Lk 1:33; Eph 1:21; Rev 22:3).

15:29 Why Baptisms for the Dead If There Is No Resurrection?

Since the beginning of the chapter Paul has been preaching the bodily death and
resurrection of Christ and what his victory over death means for all believers. In 1 Cor
15:28, Pauls argument closed on a doxological note, praising the all-conquering Son and
the Father to whom the Son will submit. Now Paul suddenly switches his focus from
Christ to the Christian. The practice he is about to mention makes no sense if the dead are
not raised.
There are dozens of suggestions of what this obscure passage means.
(1) Most scholars believe Paul is speaking of a vicarious form of baptism in which living
Christians were baptized on behalf of persons who had already died.
(2) Some believe it to be a metaphorical baptism. In this case, it is not people who are
being baptized. Instead, he is speaking about those being destroyed (referring to the
apostles) on account of (the resurrection of) the dead?
(3) A related interpretation is that Paul is speaking about Christian baptism, but the
dead, refers not to deceased persons, but to the living apostles.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

(4) Another point of view is that the dead must be taken adjectivally: those who are
being baptized for their [own] dying bodies.
(5) Some have a different understanding of on behalf of. Luther suggested baptized
over the graves. He suggested it to be regular Christian Baptism and that the practice of
baptizing over the graves was to strengthen the faith of the Corinthians in the reality of
the bodily resurrection. This would be a way of teaching the Corinthians who had a hard
time with the concept of the bodily resurrection.
(6) Lenski believes it is regular Christian baptism and the dead are deceased Christians
only. Their example of baptism, a godly life, and death with a sure hope provide the
motive that prompts the living to desire and to receive baptism for the same blessed
Both Luther and Lenski make the connection between Baptism and hope of the
resurrection of the dead. The Nicene Creed makes this connection as well: I
acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins and I look for the resurrection of the
dead and the life of the world to come.
The Corinthians apparently believe that Baptism was necessary for salvation (as Peter
taught in 1 Pet 3:21). Paul has spoken of Baptism as the Sacrament of incorporation into
Christs body (12:13). But no where does Paul or anyone else speak of a vicarious
baptism that is effective for the dead.
Paul does not censure the group for this practice. But neither does he approve of it. He
merely asks, in effect: What would be the point of these baptisms if the dead are not
raised? (15:29). In his epistles to the Romans and Colossians Paul expands on the
significance of Christian Baptism as a connection to Christs death so that the baptized
will be raised to new life, which starts now, but is not fully realized until the resurrection.
See the change of past tense to future tense in Rom 6:5 (6:6-23).

15:30-34 Why Endanger Oneself for the Gospel If There Is No

Paul now uses himself and his colleagues as a further example. If the dead are not raised,
then the apostles would have to reconsider their whole way of life, this self-denying
lifestyle makes no sense (15:30). On many occasions Pauls life was in peril (2 Cor
11:32-33; Acts 23:12-15). Pauls whole ministry was a catalogue of hardship, opposition,
and persecution (2 Cor 4:7-18; 6:3-10; 11:23-33). He could testify of the great dangers he
went through each day as well as the great pride he had in the Corinthians for the grace
that had been poured out on them (15:30).
What comes most vividly to mind as he writes are his recent and present dangers in
Ephesus (15:32). He compares what befell him there to fighting wild beasts. He must be
speaking figuratively, for if he were condemned to fight wild beasts in the arena, he either
would have died from it or he would have at least mentioned it in one of his letters. Most
likely the wild beasts (15:32) Paul has in mind were hostile Jews who threatened his

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

life from the beginning of his ministry in Ephesus and continued to hound him later (see
16:8-9 and 2 Cor 1:8; also see Acts 21:27; 24:19).
Again Paul asks in effect: What is the point? If the dead are not raised, what good does it
do me to live in daily fear of my life? (5:32). It would make far more sense, he
continues, to get the most out of life, like the Israelites in Isaiahs day who saw the
Assyrians at the gates of Jerusalem, but instead of weeping over their sins said to one
another: Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die (Is 22:13). This is the reaction of
those who are without hope and without God in the world (Eph 2:12).
It seems that their lack of hope in a future resurrection was one reason why so many in
Corinth had a lax attitude about moral matters and needed stern warnings (15:34; see
also, e.g., ch. 5; 6:8-11,18). This lack of hope led them to associate with pagans and
pagan worship (chs. 8, 6, and 10). Paul quotes a pagan poet to indict them: evil
associations corrupt good habits (15:33). Even a pagan could see that.
Finally, Paul commands the Corinthians to sober up and stop sinning (15:34). Too
many of them were high on spiritual gifts (chs. 12 and 14) and insufficiently concerned
with sound teaching on the resurrection (ch. 15). In order to shame them and bring them
to their senses, Paul has to tell them: Some [of you] have ignorance of God (15:34).
Those who are truly knowledgeable know that God was a God of righteousness and
holiness. Pauls words are reminiscent of Jesus words to the Sadducees: You err because
you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God (Mt 22:29). Since the Corinthians
took such pride in their knowledge, Pauls statement that some were ignorant was a direct
affront to their pride. Paul is calling them to repentance with the strongest possible

15:35-58 The Resurrection Body

15:35-44a Analogies about the Resurrection Body
The Greek mind would be inclined to ask how a corpse, reduced to dust and
ashes, could be raised to life again. To them it would seem like sheer nonsense. Pauls
response stresses both the continuity of the resurrected body with the believers earthly
remains, and their remarkable transformation into a glorified, spiritual body. It is the
same body, yet glorified. As the firstfruits (15:20, 23), Jesus is the pattern for all
believers. His body was raised with its nail marks, testifying to the continuity with his
body. But his body was also transformed into a glorious spiritual body. This is what the
Lord will do with believers bodies as well.
Pauls argument in the remaining part of the chapter falls into three parts: First, from the
created order we anticipate the resurrection (15:36-44a). Second, he points to Christ as
the second Adam who is the prototype for the new creation (15:44b-49). Finally, he
concludes with our victory over death in Christ and encourages the Corinthians to stand
firm in the faith (15:50-58). Thus the Corinthians should be aware that they have not

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

reached their full spiritual existence. And that existence includes their bodies. Their
bodies have a glorious future in Christ. The doctrine of the resurrection of the body
affirms and complements the doctrine of creation. Our created bodies, corrupted by sin,
will be given new life through faith in the One who is the resurrection and the life (Jn
Pauls response includes a very sharp fool in 15:36. The questions are not innocent;
rather, they come from deep skepticism that mocks the idea of a resurrection (cf. 2 Pet
3:4). How could a decomposed body rise again? Such a question is similar to those who
say there is no God (Pss 14:1; 53:1); they too are fools. The question shows an
ignorance of God and his power (15:34). The emphasis of Pauls answer is on you
(15:36), emphasizing your experience. His answer also echoes that of Jesus (see Jn
12:24). A seed must die before it is made alive. In 15:37 Paul develops his thought. A
seed that is planted does not resemble the plant that it will become. There is continuity
between them, but it takes on a completely different shape and form. The same will be
true for the believers body. Luther says that a farmer sowing seed is a beautiful picture of
Gods method of resurrecting the dead. Thus a cemetery is not a heap of the dead, but a
field full of kernels, which will grow and blossom more beautifully than anyone can
There is a mystery about the whole process which points to the generous and almighty
hand of God. If human beings cannot fathom how God causes a seed to grow, how can
they fathom the resurrection of the body? All this happens as God determines (15:38). It
is his will to give each believer a new body.
Now Paul moves to living creatures (15:39). God has created a great variety of animals.
Each has its own distinctive physical constitution (flesh) which places it in an entirely
different order from the others. Paul then moves up the scale from the earthly bodies
(15:40) to the heavenly bodies the sun, moon, and stars (15:40-41). The heavenly
bodies have a brilliance that is different from any of the earthly bodies. And they too have
great variety.
Could anyone doubt that the Creator, with his proven capacity to form such a variety of
bodies, would be able to find a suitable new form for the believers resurrected body?
The word heavenly foreshadows what Paul will say later of Christians resurrected
bodies. They too will enjoy the glory of being heavenly (15:48) when thy have been set
free from the corruption and weakness of earthly bodies and will bear the image of the
Man from heaven (15:42-49).
Paul returns to the analogy of the seed and plant (15:35-38) and uses it as a framework
(15:42-44a) to contrast the wretched condition of the earthly body that is sown to the
glorious condition of the heavenly body that will be. The four short sentences evoke the
rhythms of seedtime and harvest. [This is the order God provided from the beginningdays, weeks, years and seasons (Gen 1:14; 8:22). The planting of the earthly body in

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

death and its resurrection to new life is part of Gods order. Death did not exist in the
beginning, but after it did, God provided an orderly way for it to be restored.]
The first sentence (15:42b) provides the pattern and is primary, for Paul picks up the
terminology of corruption and incorruption again in 15:50, 53, 54. The body that is
sown in the ground is decaying. But this process will be gloriously reversed when it is
raised imperishable (cf. Ro 8:21). The believers body will be like that of his Lords body.
Despite trying to beautify the body, death and decay bring dishonor to the body (15:43a).
But dishonor will be changed into radiant glory.
The body of believers will never be subject to the weakness, illness, and weariness that
it was on this earth. It will be raised with power. Jesus said, They will be like the angels
(Mt 22:30).
The natural body has limitations and, because of sin, is subject to death. The natural body
is part of the tug-of-war between the Spirit and the sinful flesh. While the natural body of
believers has the Spirit residing within it, the risen, spiritual body will be wholly
enlivened and pervaded by the Spirit. The life of the spiritual body is nourished,
preserved and found completely in God.

15:44b-49 Application of the Analogies: It Is Raised a Spiritual Body

This section reflects on the role of Adam and is balanced by reflections on the role
of Christ as the second Adam.
Paul assures that as sure as there is a natural body, there will be a spiritual body (15:44).
Paul goes back to and quotes Gen 2:7c. To his quote Paul adds the words first and
Adam (15:45a). This sets up the Adam-Christ typology. Paul develops this typology in
more detail in his epistle to the Romans (Ro 5:12-21).
Paul balances his quote from Gen about the first Adam with his own words about Christ
who he describes as the last Adam and the life-giving Spirit (15:45b). There is only
one other human being who has had as much or more impact on humanity as Adam; and
that is Jesus. Whereas the first Adam was a life-receiving human, the last Adam is the
life-giving Son of God. As his risen and ascended body is enlivened by the Spirit, so he
will pour out the life-giving Spirit on the bodies of believers.
Paul now underlines the proper historical order: Adam precedes Christ; the natural body
precedes the spiritual body (15:46). But why? Some believe he was addressing some kind
of misunderstanding. Perhaps there was beginnings of the Jewish (Philo of Alexandria) or
early-Gnostic philosophy that the spiritual was superior to the physical (which was
despised by some). In this comparison, the first Adam was made of dust (stressed by
position) and because of his sin was condemned to return to dust. But the second Adam

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

was from heaven (stressed by position), came down to earth, and, once his mission was
accomplished, returned to heaven.
Adam is the head of the whole human race. All people who followed him were born in
his image. Therefore, all are subject to death and will one day return to dust. By the same
token, Jesus is the man of heaven (15:48). All those who are incorporated into his body
(12:13) by baptism are people of heaven (15:48). They enjoy the great confidence
expressed in Johns first epistle: When he appears we will be like him, for we will see
him as he is (1 Jn 3:2; cf. Phil 3:20).
In the last comparative sentence of Adam and Christ, Paul switches to the first person
plural we (15:49). By doing this the apostle applies 15:44b-48 to all Christians giving
assurance of the blessed destiny in store for us. In doing so, he also anticipates the first
person plurals of 15:51-52.
The first part of the comparison reaffirms the theme of human frailty and corruption that
was developed in 15:42-48. He uses the metaphor of a garment. The garment of human
flesh is subject to corruption, dishonor, and weakness (15:49) of the fallen human
nature. We are all like Seth condemned to dust because of Adams sin (Gen 3:14-19).
That which is born of flesh is flesh (Jn 3:6).
But Paul reassures that just as sure our lives our stamped by frailty and decay, so surely
we will wear the image of the man of heaven (15:49). The image of God once worn
by Adam can be restored only by Christ who is the man from heaven (15:47-49). In
Romans Paul explains that those whom God foreknew, he also foreordained to be
conformed to the image of his Son (Ro 8:29). This conforming takes place through
reading and hearing the Scriptures in faith: We all, beholding the Lords glory with
unveiled faces, are being conformed to his image from glory to glory, which comes from
the Lord, who is the Spirit(2 Cor 3:18). That same connection between Gods glory, the
image of Christ, and the work of the Spirit, through whom God brings about the glorious
transformation to eternal life, is evident in 15:42-49. The Christians body will be raised
in glory (15:43). We will fully bear the image of the man of heaven (15:49), and so
our eschatological state will be spiritual (15:44, 46).

15:50-58 The Mystery of the Transformation

15:50-57 Our Corrupt, Mortal Bodies Will Be Clothed with

Incorruption and Immortality
Paul has been responding to the skeptics of the resurrection by contending that there are
many kinds of bodies. No one should imagine that the almighty Creator of the immense
variety of earthly and heavenly bodies would be limited to resuscitating our bodies in the
same form in which they were buried. The body that will be raised will not be the same
flesh (15:39) but radically different (15:39, 41).

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

Paul now sums up his argument: This [is what] I am saying, brothers (15:50). Since
humanity fell into sin, flesh and blood marks our perishability, limitations, and
weaknesses. Thus flesh and blood in 15:50a parallels corruption in 15:50b and is part
of the order of things that come first (15:46), under the headship of Adam, the man of
dust (15:47-49). But they have no place in the coming eschatological order under Christ.
To inherit Gods kingdom, one must be born, not of flesh, but water and the Spirit (Jn
3:5). Only after the corrupted flesh and blood has been washed, sanctified, and
justified (Ro 6:11) and clothed with incorruptibility, glory, and power, will he be able to
enter his heavenly inheritance.
Twice in 15:50 Paul uses the word inherit. This underlines the fact that believers
receive eternal life purely as a gift. Just as the Israelites received the land of Canaan as an
inheritance, so believers receive new spiritual bodies and enter the kingdom as Gods
gracious gift (cf. Mt 25:34; 1 Pet 1:4). This inheritance is the express will of the testator.
Those who participate in the new testament of Christs blood have the promises of a share
in the resurrection and in the heavenly inheritance guaranteed by Christs death and
With the exclamation see! (15:51) Paul signals that he is about to say something
important. He is about to tell them a mystery, something that can only be known by
divine revelation (15:51; cf. 2:7; 13:2;14:2; and also Ro 11:25-36). In 1 Thess 4:15-17
Paul is concerned with those who have died before the Parousia (Christs return at the
End). Here Pauls concern is those who are still alive when Christ returns. If the living
cannot enter the kingdom of God in their corrupted flesh and blood, what will be their
fate? The pronouns Paul uses (we) do not necessarily mean that Paul believed that Christ
would return during his lifetime. He may simply be identifying himself with those
Christians who will be alive when Christ returns.
Note the divine passive in 15:51. It is implied that God is the one who will change us into
another. For him who formed and created all the different kinds (15:39-41), it is not
difficult to change us into a form that is acceptable for entry into his kingdom. For the
Corinthians this was indeed a great mystery, for they believed they had reached heaven
on earth. They had no idea that God had such great plans for their bodies.
Paul uses colorful language to describe how instantaneously our bodies will be changed.
And the transformation will happen as the last trumpet sounds its triumphant blast. The
trumpet in the OT heralds Gods victorious campaign against his enemies and the
salvation of his people. The trumpet at Mt. Sinai signaled Yahwehs descent on the
mountain and his proclamation of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 19:13, 16, 19; 20:18).
Later two silver trumpets were used as Israel marched against her enemies. They were
blown also on days of rejoicing in Gods redemption (Num 10:1-10). When God subdues
the last enemy, death, and confers redemption on all believers, it will be fitting that this
great moment be heralded by a trumpet blast (cf. Mt 24:31; 1 Thess 4:16).
The trumpet blast will rouse the dead and they will be changed from corruptible to
incorruptible. And we who are alive will also be changed (15:52). This transformation

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

is necessary (15:53). Gods plan to restore creation is laid out in Scripture and therefore
must be fulfilled (15:53). According to that plan, there must be continuity between Gods
original creation and our new recreated bodies. This perishable body of dust, which is
weak and afflicted (cf. 2 Cor 12:7-10) must be endued with life and immortality through
the Gospel (2 Tim 1:10). The Christian will wear a new suit.
Thus when Gods kingdom comes in all its glory, the one who enters must be clothed
with a new outfit. This immortal outfit is graciously conferred by God on all believers.
They will be freed from their mortal bodies when death is swallowed up by life (2 Cor
5:1-4). When this happens Isaiahs prophecy will come true (15:54, drawing on Is 25:8).
Because of what Christ did, there will be no more death (Rev 21:4; cf. 2 Tim 1:10; Heb
Paul sings a taunt song over his defeated enemy in 15:55, saying in essence: Where,
death, is all your power now? Where, death, is your ability to cause people so much
pain? His words are freely adapted from Hos 13:14.
Death therefore can no longer harm Christians. Yet why is it so painful? Paul explains in
15:56 that it is the power of sin that makes death a bitter enemy (15:26), which rules
the human race with an iron hand. The separation of the body and soul in death is an
assault on our humanity. Humans are not essentially a body only or a soul only, but both,
joined together. The wages of sin is death (Ro 6:23). Sin entered the world through
Adam, and since then, all people sin. Therefore all people die. Yet Christians do not die
in their sins. Christians are reckoned as sinless for Christs sake and therefore death
cannot hold him.
In addition to sin, the other power that drives the engine of death is the Law (15:56). The
Law is good (Ro 7:12). It shows us our sins (Ro 7:7). But the Law also stimulates sin (Ro
7:8-11). The rearing of sin in turn arouses Gods wrath (Ro 2:12; 4:15). Thus the Law
empowers sin, making it into a curse (Gal 3:13) and a deadly force. Luther says that God
is able to awaken [sin] effectively through the Law. [So sin is there in each of us and by
causing it to rear its ugly head, God makes clear what our condition is and our need for a
Savior.] Its like Gods footstep on the grass that arouses the serpent.
Death rules the human race because the Law is present and sin is the transgressing of the
Law and the penalty for transgressing the Law is death. Before the Law it was not
possible for Adam and Eve to transgress the Law. But once the first command was given
(Gen 2:16-17), the devil was able to launch an attack by tempting them to transgress the
will of God. Thus sin came into existence when Adam and Eve violated the Law and the
result was death (Gen 2:17; 3:19).
Despite all this, Paul says that these evil forces are doomed: God has been victorious over
them. By his resurrection Jesus conquered death. And just as death can no longer harm
Christ, so it cannot permanently harm those who are in Christ. The benefits of Christs

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

victory have been transferred to us. Thus God gives us the victory through our Lord
Jesus Christ (15:57); cf. 1 Jn 5:4). Therefore, thanks be to God!

15:58 A Final Appeal: Be Steadfast!

If Christ has risen and your bodies will also arise, what kind of people ought you to be?
(1 Pet 3:11). As beloved brothers in Christ, Paul exhorts them to be steadfast (wording
similar to Col 1:23) and immovable (15:58). He is concerned for them because of their
skepticism about basic doctrines like the resurrection. These should provide them with a
firm anchor. Instead their skepticism has led to instability (cf. Eph 4:14).
Christian hope [of the resurrection] should foster fruitful service of Christ and the brother.
Paul calls the Corinthians to be always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that
your labor (see 15:10) is not in vain (see 15:10) in the Lord (15:58). They are to imitate
the apostles own pattern. They are not to be lazy as frequently happens when Christians
lose their eschatological vision (cf. 1 Thess 4:11-18; 2 Thess 3:6-13). The hope of the
Gospel should energize them to labor diligently in their vocations serving others.
The final phrase is significant. Labor done in the Lord (15:58) is never in vain. The
fruit of such labor may not be perceived, but the Lord sees the labors of his servants and
each faithful servant will receive the commendation of his Lord and the eternal reward by
grace (3:10-15).

16:1-24 Conclusion
16:1-4 The Collection for the Saints in Jerusalem
In this closing chapter, Paul turns to a number of issues in which the Corinthians can
show themselves as steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord
The collection for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem (Ro 15:26) was a
broad interchurch project, involving churches in Galatia, Macedonia, and Achaia.
The Corinthians had asked for clarification on the collection project. The collection was
for those saints in Jerusalem that had become impoverished (16:3). Why they had fallen
into poverty is a matter of speculation. (There is no evidence that their communal living
described in Acts 2:44-45 and 4:32-37 was the cause as some suggest.) All we know for
certain is that the church had a large number of widows (Acts 6:1-6) and had suffered
from famine (Acts 11:27-30).
Paul explains how they should handle this collection. The first day of the week they were
to set aside some money as best they could. They were to give what they could spare.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

They were not to impoverish themselves in doing so (2 Cor 8:13-14). Yet Paul does not
appeal only to the wealthier members, he appeals to everyone to participate in accordance
to their ability.
If they set aside a little each week, then by the time Paul gets there, they would have a
large amount and there wouldnt be any need for Paul to apply pressure or beg for money
(2 Cor 9:3-5).
When Paul arrives he will supply the congregations chosen representatives with letters of
recommendation (16:3) to the church in Jerusalem. This was regular business practice in
the ancient world. Each person probably carried a letter of personal recommendation
from Paul. The money would be entrusted to these representatives. Paul would not touch
it and it would be fitting that the Gentile gift would be delivered by Gentiles.
Paul may or may not accompany the delegation (16:4); he is undecided. Paul is probably
waiting to see if the Corinthians think it is proper.
There may be a lesson on giving here. No big campaigns or gimmicks to raise money.
Just set aside money each week as the Lord prospers them. Be consistent and purposeful.

16:5-9 Pauls Travel Plans

Pauls discussion of the collection (16:3-4) led him into his travel plans. He goes into
more detail here (16:5-9). Paul will not be able to visit the Corinthians right away, but
when he does he will travel over the land route through Macedonia as he did on his
second missionary journey. Paul plans to stay in Ephesus until Pentecost. He then plans to
travel through Macedonia (Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea) during the summer and early
fall. And then come to Corinth where he would like to stay for the winter. After writing
this epistle, his anxiety for the Corinthian church prompted him to formulate a plan to
visit the Corinthians first, and then visit them again after his time in Macedonia. Thus
they would have a double favor (2 Cor 1:15-16). Upon more mature consideration,
however, Paul reverted to his original plan outlined here. He traveled from Ephesus to
Macedonia, and then spent three months in Corinth (Acts 20:2-3).
Paul wished to spend a couple of months with the Corinthians (16:6), but it was up to the
Lord (16:7). At other times, God had blocked Pauls plans and directed him elsewhere
(Acts 16:6-7). If the Lord permitted him, Paul wished to give the Corinthians an
opportunity to supply him with what he needed for the next stage of his missionary workfood, money, companions (16:6). He had earlier refused help from the Corinthians to
make clear that the Gospel was free of charge (ch. 9), but now he offers them an
opportunity to share in his ministry.
For the time being and until Pentecost Paul informed them that he would stay in Ephesus
(16:8). God had indeed opened a great and effective door, which is the reason why Paul

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

had worked there for three years. The Word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed
(Acts 19:20).
The other side of the coin is that wherever great opportunities for the Gospel arise, there
great opposition also arises (16:9). The incident at the Ephesian theater (Acts 19:23-40)
gives us a good idea of the volatile situation in Ephesus. In the last ch. Paul described the
attacks of his opponents as the attacks of wild beasts (15:32; cf. 2 Cor 1:8). Pauls
experience parallels that of the Lord Jesus. His ministry was fruitful, but he always faced
many opponents. The same is true of faithful pastors today. Being a Christian is not easy
and is sometimes dangerous. Yet where the greatest risk is may also be the place of
greatest opportunity for proclaiming the Gospel.

16:10-12 Concerning Timothy and Apollos

16:10-11 Timothy
Timothy, who was coming to them, was engaged in the Lords work (16:10). If they
create difficulties for him, they would be obstructing the Lords work. Paul had concerns
for Timothy because he had a timid disposition which caused physical ailments (1 Tim
5:21-23; 2 Tim 1:6-8; 2:1, 3, 15; 4:1-2). Timothy was young. A couple of years later Paul
urged him, Let no one despise your youth (1 Tim 4:12). If some did not like this letter,
they might be inclined to take it out on Timothy since he was Pauls representative. Paul
wishes to forestall these attacks (16:11). Instead the Corinthians should give him a warm
welcome and send him on his way back to Paul in peace (16:11). This means then that
Timothy will be reporting back to Paul. This may determine if Paul returns with a stick,
or in love and a spirit of gentleness (4:21).
There can be several readings of 16:11. Several Christian brothers may have
accompanied Timothy. Acts 19:22 only mentions Erastus. Some unnamed brothers may
have accompanied him. Or Timothy may be expected to return with brothers from the
Corinthian church. Another understanding is to connect with the brothers (16:11) with
Paul and not Timothy. In this case, Timothy would represent the larger church. If they
mistreated him, not only Paul, but other brothers would learn of it.

6:12 Apollos
Paul now comes to the sixth and final topic previously raised by the Corinthians: the
question of when they should expect a visit from Apollos. By Paul calling Apollos
brother, we see that there is no rivalry between them. Paul considered Apollos a faithful
servant of God who had watered the Corinthian congregation which Paul had planted

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

Since Paul uses the past tense it was not at all [his] will Apollos was probably no
longer with him in Ephesus. If he had been, Paul probably would have sent a greeting
from him in 16:19-24.
We dont know why Apollos was unwilling to visit Corinth at the present time. He may
have been busy with other matters. Or he may have feared his popularity with one of its
factions may have caused further divisions. Whatever the reason, Paul assures them that
he would come as soon as he found a suitable opportunity.

16:13-14 Marching Orders

Paul now moves swiftly to conclude his epistle. He gives five crisp commands to his
hearers. The first five commands use imagery from warfare and urge the Corinthians to
be ready for battle and act courageously at all times. Like ancient Israel in the desert (e.g.,
Num 1:3), the church is an army on the march.
The first admonition is to be watchful (16:13), the opposite of asleep or drunk. Watch
for the day of the Lord and watch out for the devil, false teachers, and temptations.
Prayerful watching characterizes the Christian life (Mk 14:38; Ro 16:17-20; Col 4:2; Rev
3:2, 3; 16:15).
The second admonition is to stand in the faith (16:13). The opposite is to fall from the
faith (10:12). Christians are to stand their ground not giving an inch as he stands in the
Lord and contends for the Gospel.
The third and fourth admonitions are to be manly, be strong (16:13). Similar
admonitions are found in the OT preceding Israels holy wars. Israel was to fight and
conquer the Canaanites, confident that the Lord would fight for them and keep his
covenant promises. Gods people are to enter the battlefield in a manly fashion, letting the
Lord strengthen them in the inner man (Eph 3:16).
The fifth and final imperative urges the Corinthians: Let all you do be in love (16:14).
Paul has spoken much about love in 1 Corinthians. He has promoted love in the face of
divisive, arrogant, and inconsiderate tendencies within the congregation. Everything
Gods people do in the work of the Lord should bear the imprint of that love.

16:15-18 Recognize Stephanas and Others Like Him

This paragraph serves as a letter of recommendation for Stephanas, Fortunatus, and
Achaicus, who would bear 1 Corinthians back to Corinth. Paul urges the congregation to
continue to hold these men in high honor for their service.
The household of Stephanas was the firstfruits of Achaia (16:15). In 15:20 Christ was
called the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. The term looks forward to a great

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

harvest. Apparently Stephanas converted and brought his entire household to Baptism
(1:16). The whole family, then, together with the servants, set themselves to the service of
the saints. To set themselves means that they ordered (16:15) their lives and routines to
function as a unit which served one great purpose. This ordering may be similar to a
pastors family providing for the work of the ministry.
Since they have given their lives to serving the church, it is only proper that the
congregation subordinate themselves to them. Pauls words reflect his earlier letter to the
Thessalonians. In 1 Thess 5:12-13 (cf. 1 Tim 5:17; Heb 13:17) Paul urged to hold in high
regard those who labored in Christs name.
Paul adds a personal expression of joy that Stephanas and his two companions,
Fortunatus and Achaicus, had been able to spend some time with him (16:17). Fortunatus
and Achaicus were probably slaves or freedmen who were attached to Stephanas
household and had received spiritual formation under his tutelage. This delegation had
brought him a little bit of Corinth filling his need for love, fellowship, and
encouragement of the saints among whom he had spent eighteen months of his ministry.
They had refreshed Pauls spirit (16:18), as undoubtedly they had done to the church in
Corinth as well. Therefore the Corinthians should recognize such outstanding men.

16:19-24 Greetings, Anathema, Maranatha, Benediction

16:19-21 Greetings
The greetings serve as another gentle reminder that the Corinthians are not an isolated
group free to go their own way; they belong to the wider community of the church
universal, which extends to them its warm affection and solidarity.
Asia refers to the Roman province of Asia. It comprised the western third of what is
today Turkey. Ephesus was its largest and most influential city. During Pauls three year
stay in Ephesus the word of the Lord radiated throughout the province (Acts 19:10) to
Colossae, Laodicea, Hierapolis (Col 4:13) and no doubt other centers. All the churches
send their greetings to their older sister in Corinth.
Special greetings are given by Priscilla and Aquila. They had been Pauls hosts and
fellow tent makers in Corinth (Acts 18:2-3). They had come from Rome to Corinth after
the Christians had been expelled by emperor Claudius. After Pauls eighteen month
ministry in Corinth, they accompanied him as he sailed for Syria. Paul left them in
Ephesus (Acts 18:18-19), where they played a prominent role in the young church and
opened their home for worship. Later we find them back in Rome (Ro 16:3-5; 2 Tim
4:19), with the church gathering in their home.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

The greeting from all the brothers was probably from all the brothers of the church of
Ephesus, every Christian in the city.
Just as their fellow Christians in Asia express their warm affection for the Corinthians, so
the Corinthians should show that same affection to one another. They should put behind
them the friction from the past and greet each other with a holy kiss (16:20). The
practice of greeting with a kiss has its roots in the OT. Paul uses the term holy kiss to
distinguish it from an erotic or romantic kiss and perhaps also from the kiss of a Judas.
This kiss became part of the congregations response to the reading of Gods Word; it
became a regular part of the churchs liturgy. It is theorized that the letter was read to the
congregation, the holy kiss was exchanged, and then Holy Communion took place. There
seem to be some remarkable parallels between 16:20-24 and elements of later liturgies.
Paul finishes the letter with his own writing (16:21-4). This adds a personal touch to a
letter that was most probably in his secretarys (Sosthenes, 1:1) handwriting. But it also
certified that the letter genuinely came from Paul. Paul wrote in 2 Thess 3:17: This is the
mark in every letter of mine; it is the way I write.

16:22a Anathema
In issuing this strong injunction in the form of an anathema (16:22a), Paul seems to be
casting his eye back over all the sorry divisions and disobedience to the Lord that have
been the burden of his epistle. The divisions, worldly pleasures, false gods, and desire for
spectacular spiritual gifts all amounted to human pride and love of self rather than love
for the Lord. Paul may have in mind Ps 31:23: He [the Lord] repays fully him who acts
proudly. It may be that Paul is urging a preliminary judgment against those who refuse
to obey (cf. 2 Thess 3:14-15).
In our day, there is a doctrine of inclusivism. But it is clear here that the Christian
community is not infinitely inclusive. Those who reject Jesus cannot be a part of the
community. In fact, they destroy the community. They are more concerned about
themselves than they are the Lord.

16:22b Maranatha
While those who do not love the Lord are subject to judgment, those who do love the
Lord pray for his coming. They have nothing to fear because the Lord preserves the
faithful (Ps 31:23). The psalmist continues in 31:24: Be strong and let your heart be
courageous, all you who hope in the Lord. Pauls cry of Come Lord Jesus is a cry
from the heart in his native Aramaic. It is a cry to the risen Lord Jesus to bring about the
consummation sketched in 15:20-28.

Notes from Concordia Commentary on 1 Corinthians

Paul has concentrated on the Christian eschatological hope throughout his letter. Now in
this one word, Maranatha, he emphatically looks to that hope again. The Corinthians
have not reached heaven yet; the best is yet to come. Every Lords Supper anticipates the
end, as the church proclaims the Lords death until he comes (11:26).
This prayer is voiced again in the last chapter of the Bible (Rev 22). The Spirit and the
whole church say, Come! (Rev 22:17). Jesus response is that surely I am coming
soon. And Johns response is a firm Amen, come, Lord Jesus (Rev 22:20). The whole
church looks forward to the grace that will be brought at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1
Pet 1:13).

16:23-24 Benediction
The epistle ends as it began, with a word of grace (16:13). Christians live by grace alone
as they wait for the final gracious deliverance. Everything the Corinthians (and all
Christians) have is by grace alone.
Despite some harsh words in his epistle, Paul ends with words of love. He is their father
in Christ and they are his children in Christ. In this final expression Paul models what he
has just preached: Let all you do be in love (16:14).
Fittingly, the name of Jesus becomes the last word in an epistle devoted to restoring the
churchs faith and fellowship in him (cf. 1:9).