Insights on 1 & 2 Corinthians

Insights on 1 & 2 Corinthians

by Charles R. Swindoll


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Corinth, a diverse, cosmopolitan city sitting at a strategic center of commerce for both Greece and the wider Roman Empire, was known for its decadence and wealth. In his commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians, Chuck Swindoll explores how Paul took the Corinthian church to task for taking on the character of the city instead of the character of Christ. As Chuck shows, the message of Paul to the Corinthians is greatly needed by the Church today.

The 15-volume Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary series draws on Gold Medallion Award–winner Chuck Swindoll’s 50 years of experience studying and preaching God’s Word. His deep insight, signature easygoing style, and humor bring a warmth and practical accessibility not often found in commentaries.

Each volume combines verse-by-verse commentary, charts, maps, photos, key terms, and background articles with practical application. The newly updated volumes now include parallel presentations of the NLT and NASB before each section. This series is a must-have for pastors, teachers, and anyone else who is seeking a deeply practical resource for exploring God’s Word.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781414393711
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Publication date: 05/09/2017
Series: Swindoll's Living Insights New Testament Commentary Series , #7
Pages: 504
Sales rank: 591,275
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

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Swindoll's Living Insights New Testament Commentary 1 & 2 Corinthians

By Charles R. Swindoll

Tyndale House Publishers

Copyright © 2017 Charles R. Swindoll, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4143-9371-1



We catch the first glimpse of the riches of the church in Corinth in the greeting of the book (1:1-9). Here we learn of the writer and his recipients (1:1-3), the original riches of the church (1:4-7), and then the promised reward for their endurance (1:8-9). When we see the depths to which the church had declined even in the midst of such spiritual wealth, however, this positive description serves merely as a solemn preamble to a sobering tragedy.

Starting with Spiritual Riches


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

2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:

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

4 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed ain you, 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Sosthenes.

2 I am writing to God's church in Corinth,* to you who have been called by God to be his own holy people. He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus,* just as he did for all people everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.

3 May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

4 I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus. 5 Through him, God has enriched your church in every way — with all of your eloquent words and all of your knowledge. 6 This confirms that what I told you about Christ is true. 7 Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8 He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. 9 God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

The life of Edgar Allan Poe is one of the most tragic of all American writers. Within a brief span of forty years he literally went from riches to rags. Raised by foster parents who loved him deeply, he received an education that matched his genius in his field of interest. He attended private schools in England, studied at the University of Virginia, and even spent a period of time as a cadet at West Point.

In his heyday, few rivaled Poe's genius as a literary critic, editor, poet, and author of short stories, especially his dramatic thrillers. Most of us have read his spine-tingling tales, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Tell-Tale Heart, and The Raven. Indeed, Poe's works have left their mark on American literature and life.

Yet the mark left by his lifestyle is another tale worth telling. Losing his young bride to tuberculosis, Poe descended into a deep pit of despair, which he attempted to assuage through drugs, alcohol, and the occult. Depression and insanity plagued his short life, eventually leaving him unconscious in the gutter of a windswept street in Baltimore. He never regained consciousness, and four days later he died.

Poe began his life with brilliance, giftedness, opportunity, fame, and riches. Yet the end of his life overflowed with bitterness, poverty, moral depravity, and spiritual destitution. From prestigious bard to penniless bum — that was the tragic tale of Edgar Allan Poe.

This ruinous journey from riches to rags happens not only to individuals but also to churches. The church at Corinth stands as a tragic example. Its rich beginning made it seem invincible: a dynamic and diverse membership gilded with spiritual gifts at a crossroads of commerce and culture that poised them for a powerful impact in world missions. Yet like Poe, within a brief period of time the church at Corinth declined into mediocrity and chaos, as the weight of sin pulled its members deep into the mire of shame.

— 1:1-3 —

As is typical in his epistles, Paul identifies himself in the opening of the letter, reminding the Corinthians of his position as an apostle of Jesus Christ (1:1). No doubt just the mention of his name, "Paul," would have caused the believers in Corinth to flash back to years before, when he helped them take their first baby steps in the faith. They knew him quite well; so why would Paul need to remind them that he had been "called (kletos [2822]) as an apostle"? The occasion of this letter would necessitate a series of severe criticisms, rebukes, words of strong admonition, and detailed instructions. By reminding the Corinthians that he was not only their founding pastor of yesteryear but also an apostle of the universal church, he would firm up his authority at a time when it most likely would be resisted.

The apostle Paul had seen the resurrected Christ with his own eyes and received his apostolic commission directly from the Savior Himself (Acts 26:13-19), who confirmed it also to the prophet Ananias (Acts 9:15). Afterward, Paul had the authority and power to heal, to discern good and evil, and to speak boldly, free from doctrinal error (Acts 9:22; 13:9-10; 19:11-12; 1 Cor. 2:13). As an apostle, Paul answered to no higher human authority, only to God directly. He manifested a healthy independence. He valued God's favor far more than the favor of men (Gal. 1:10).

In his greeting, Paul also includes "Sosthenes our brother" (1 Cor. 1:1); the Greek text says simply, "Sosthenes the brother." We can't be sure what role Sosthenes played in writing 1 Corinthians. Some believe he served as Paul's secretary, called an amanuensis, who wrote Paul's dictated words. The name appears in Acts 18:17 as "the leader of the synagogue" in Corinth. If this is the same person, he obviously had been converted to Christ and later joined Paul in Ephesus. In any case, the Christians in Corinth knew this man by name. Throughout the letter, Paul mostly refers to himself in the first person singular, "I," indicating that he meant the letter to be understood as coming from him, not from Sosthenes or from both of them as a ministry team.

Following a style typical of ancient epistles, Paul next identifies the recipients of the letter (1 Cor. 1:2). He first calls them "the church of God" (1:2). The Greek word for church, ekklesia [1577], refers to an "assembly." It can sometimes mean a general social or political assembly (Acts 19:32, 41), but from the tip of Paul's pen that generic term for an ordered gathering carries significant theological weight. It most often refers to a local membership of a church in a particular city — the people of a specific congregation (Rom. 16:1; 1 Thes. 1:1; Rev. 2:1, 8, 12, etc.), but it can also indicate the "regional church" made up of all the believers and local churches in a named region (Acts 9:31; 1 Cor. 16:19). The term is also used for the entirety of Christianity spread throughout the whole world (Eph. 1:22-23; 3:10; Col. 1:18, 24). Clearly, the church in Paul's mind is not brick and mortar, stained glass, pipe organs, and padded pews, but the body of people saved through faith in Christ and called together to live in community with one another. In fact, at its root the Greek word ekklesia means "called out." In application to the church, the idea is of a special group called out from the world to be part of a new corporate body under the headship of Christ. So, in a very real sense, we bring the church with us when we enter our places of worship; and we take the church with us when we return to the world. We believers are the church.

Paul also addresses the Corinthians as "sanctified in Christ Jesus" (1 Cor. 1:2). This means they were "set apart by God to be his holy people." For the sake of clarity, theologians speak of "justification" as the past, one-time event of our salvation; "sanctification" as the ongoing transformation that continues throughout a believer's life; and "glorification" as the future consummation of our salvation when we are resurrected in glorified, imperishable bodies. Though the Bible clearly portrays these past, present, and future aspects of salvation, it does not always use consistent language to describe each of these phases. Paul uses the term "sanctification" (1:2) to refer to the initial, unrepeated "setting apart" of people in the eyes of God, also called "positional sanctification." The result of this permanent setting apart is that believers are now "saints by calling" (i:2). Related to "sanctified," the saint is one who is devoted, consecrated, pure, and holy in God's eyes, uniquely set apart for His use regardless of the saint's practical holiness from day to day.

Paul acknowledges that his letter to the Corinthians would have a much broader application to "all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours" (1:2). Because every believer throughout the world is part of the same universal body of Christ and because the Holy Spirit that spoke through Paul's letter to the Corinthians speaks to all believers of every age, Paul's words to the local church in Corinth are able to transcend the geographical and historical boundaries in which they were originally written. In other words, this letter is as much for you and me in the twenty-first century as it was for the Corinthians in the first.

Paul reveals the Corinthians' deepest needs: "grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (1:3). Though this is a common greeting in Paul's epistles (Rom. 1:7; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; etc.), the blessing of "grace" and "peace" would have had particular meaning for Christians and for the Corinthian church in particular. Paul is not referring to the saving grace that transferred them from spiritual death to spiritual life (as in Eph. 2:8-9; Col. 1:13), nor to the eternal peace a saved sinner has with God through justification by faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1). The "grace and peace" Paul mentions should have brought to mind those virtues of the Christian life that must be present to maintain church harmony. As the rest of this letter will demonstrate, Paul wants the Corinthians to be known as gracious saints who lived at peace with one another.

In the next section (1 Cor.1:10-17), we'll see exactly why the Corinthian Christians especially needed a measure of grace and peace from the hand of God. Yet before reprimanding them for the things they did wrong, Paul first praised the troubled church for the things they did right.

— 1:4-7 —

A well-known principle of interpersonal communication skills says that whenever we need to confront or correct someone, we should begin by pointing out the things we appreciate about that individual. For expert communicators, this kind of approach flows naturally because they have a genuine concern for the person's well-being. It shouldn't surprise us to see this wise, tactful approach exhibited in the writing of the apostle Paul. In view of Paul's sincere estimation of the spiritual goodness of the church in Corinth, one commentator writes:

Paul looks at the Corinthian church as it is in Christ before he looks at anything else that is true of the church. That disciplined statement of faith is rarely made in local churches. The warts are examined and lamented, but often there is no vision of what God has already done in Christ. If the first nine verses of this letter were excised from the text, it would be impossible for any reader to come to anything but a fairly pessimistic view of the church at Corinth.

Paul isn't just blowing smoke when he lists the five positives of the church in Corinth. As the church's founding apostle, Paul had spent considerable time teaching, preaching, training, and shepherding those new believers. He knew many of their strengths firsthand, and he had learned of their more recent failures and shortcomings only by word of mouth. So, before launching into his letter of strong rebuke, Paul writes, "I thank my God always concerning you" (1:4), and then proceeds to name some things about the Corinthian church for which he was very grateful.

First, the Corinthians were genuinely saved (1:4). The basis of Paul's gratitude is grace (charis [5485]) — the goodness and favor God lavished on the Corinthians even though they could never earn it or repay it. Whereas the "grace and peace" from God and Christ mentioned in 1:3 refers to the ongoing grace needed to live the Christian life, the "grace of God" in 1:4 is something that had been given to the Corinthians in the past. The Greek grammar indicates that this particular gift of God's grace was given "in Christ Jesus." This means that Paul had full confidence that the Corinthians had genuinely experienced God's unmerited saving grace, receiving His gift of salvation by trusting in Jesus Christ.

Second, the Corinthians were liberally endowed (1:5). Not only were they saved, but they also were endowed with eloquence and knowledge. They knew the gospel of Jesus Christ. They understood it clearly and could articulate it effectively. If you or I lived in that day and stepped into a meeting of the church in Corinth, we could count on a well-presented message from God's Word. In fact, Paul uses the word "enriched" to describe their condition. This term often refers to monetary wealth, but here it refers to spiritual riches. Imagine having the apostle Paul as the founder of your church. Then suppose Apollos, a man "mighty in the Scriptures," continued the work among you. What if Peter himself contributed to your spiritual growth along the way? That's what we would call spiritual riches!

Third, the Corinthians were securely established (1:6). Paul says, "The testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you." Confirmed means "established," "made sure," "authenticated." Elsewhere in the New Testament the same Greek word refers to the miraculous signs and wonders that God used to confirm the gospel preached by the apostles (Mark 16:20; Heb. 2:3). Paul had personally spent a year and a half of his life establishing a firm foundation for their faith (1 Cor. 3:10). This is the real tragedy of Corinth. It's not as if they had never heard the apostolic testimony concerning Jesus Christ. In fact, they had heard it from the best, and Paul had personally authenticated the earlier soundness of their faith.

Fourth, the Corinthians were spiritually gifted (1:7). Don't miss the "so that" at the beginning of the verse. That little connective refers to the result of the previous verse. As a result of the Corinthians' genuine saving faith, they did not lack any spiritual gifts. That must have been something to behold! Not a single gift was absent, and the positive tone of this section suggests that they had at times been exercising those gifts properly.

Fifth, the Corinthians were prophetically alert (1:7). As they exercised their spiritual gifts, Paul says they were also "awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ." They knew Christ's coming could occur at any moment, so they were engaged in an urgent ministry in light of that prophetic reality. Because eternity drew nearer every day, they lived in earnest anticipation of that moment when they would see His face (compare Rom. 8:19, 23; Phil. 3:20).

— 1:8-9 —

The kind of vitality that characterized the Corinthian church results in two rewards that Paul mentions in 1:8-9. The first reward deals with the believer's future: Christ "will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1:8). Despite our current status as unrelenting sinners, in eternity we will be blameless. The word means to be beyond accusation. This will occur "in the day" Christ returns — that is, at the very time of His coming. We know from other Scriptures that this coincides with the believers' resurrection, when our earthly bodies, subject to sin, suffering, and death, will be miraculously transformed into perfect, immortal bodies like Christ's resurrection body (Phil. 3:21; 1 Thes. 4:16-17; 1 Cor. 15:51-54). In our new, glorified state, nobody in heaven or in hell will be able to hold anything over our heads. We will be perfect and blameless before Him (Jude 1:24).


Excerpted from Swindoll's Living Insights New Testament Commentary 1 & 2 Corinthians by Charles R. Swindoll. Copyright © 2017 Charles R. Swindoll, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Author's Preface, vii,
The Strong's Numbering System, ix,
Introduction: 1 Corinthians, 3,
Opening Greeting and Prayer (1 Corinthians 1:1-9), 15,
Rebuking Divisions and Folly (1 Corinthians 1:10-3:23), 24,
Correcting Ills and Immorality (1 Corinthians 4:1-6:20), 65,
Strengthening Family and Fellowship (1 Corinthians 7:1-10:33), 103,
Ordering Church and Worship (1 Corinthians 11:1-14:40), 155,
Concerning Death and Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-58), 217,
Concluding Instructions and Warnings (1 Corinthians 16:1-24), 258,
Introduction: 2 Corinthians, 279,
The Crucial Concerns of Ministry (2 Corinthians 1:1-3:18), 287,
The Ministry of Reconciliation (2 Corinthians 4:1-5:21), 329,
The Realistic Portrait of Ministry (2 Corinthians 6:1-7:16), 369,
The Self-Sacrificial Ministry (2 Corinthians 8:1-9:15), 402,
The True Apostolic Ministry (2 Corinthians 10:1-13:14), 434,
Endnotes, 487,
List of Features and Images,

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