members of the body of christ

A Summary of 1 Corinthians

I have taken the most important teachings from the book of 1 Corinthians, and paraphrased them to make the easier to understand. Please note that although this content deals with most of 1 Corinthians, it does not do so in its entirety. I suggest you read 1 Corinthians in your Bible in addition to this text.

Background to 1 Corinthians

The Apostle Paul wrote 1 Corinthians to the church at Corinth. Corinth was a hub of worldwide commerce and where Paul founded a church (Acts 18:1-17). Its culture was degraded, and it practiced idolatrous religion. Paul reveals the problems, pressures, and struggles of a church called out of pagan society. He addresses a variety of issues in the Corinthian church such as factions, lawsuits among believers, immorality, questionable practices in the church, abuse of the Lord’s Supper, and teaches about spiritual gifts.

Christ the Power and Wisdom of God

The world’s “wisdom” prevents people from finding or knowing God. God has chosen (what to the world is foolishness), a message that saves those who believe it. Jews request a sign, and Greeks “wisdom”. The message of Christ crucified is a stumbling block to the Jews, and foolish to the (intellectual) Greeks. Christ is both the power and wisdom of God. God’s “foolishness” is wiser than man’s “wisdom” and God’s “weakness” is stronger than the “strength” of man,

God does not call many wise or noble people (by the world’s definition). Instead he chooses what the world perceives as foolishness to put the so-called “wise” to shame. He chooses the weak things of this world to put the mighty to shame so that no one will boast of their own wisdom or strength. Instead they will only boast of Christ working in and through them, the one who gives them the strength and wisdom they need to live a Godly life. To those who believe and are being saved, Jesus is the wisdom of God. He alone is our righteousness, sanctifier, and redeemer.

The Gospel is preached, not using persuasive words which is according to human wisdom, but as a demonstration of the Holy Spirit and God’s power. This is so that we do not place our faith in people, or the wisdom of this world, but in the power and wisdom of God.

The wisdom we (believers) speak, is not the wisdom of this age, nor according to the rulers of this age (who are coming to nothing). We speak the wisdom of God, which is hidden to the world, which was ordained before the ages, for our glory. The rulers of this world did not know it, because if they did, they would not have crucified Christ.

God reveals His wisdom and truth to us through His Spirit. No one can know or understand the things of God except by the Spirit of God – who reveals God’s truth to men.

As believers, we have not received the spirit of this world, but the Spirit which is from God, so that we can understand the things freely given to us by God. We therefore speak according to what the Holy Spirit has taught us, and not according to human wisdom. The natural (carnal) man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolish to him.

The wisdom of God also cannot be known to the natural man because it can only be discerned spiritually (i.e. by the power of the Holy Spirit).

Avoid Wordly Wisdom

Because the “wisdom” of this world is foolishness to God, it is better that we believers be regarded as fools for Christ, in order that we may become wise.

Stewards of the Mysteries of God

As believers, we are servants of Christ, and faithful stewards of the mysteries of Christ. It is required of stewards that they be found faithful.

Immorality Defiles the Church and must be judged

Those who are found guilty of sexual immorality in the church, must be delivered to Satan for the destruction of the flesh so that their spirits can be saved.

A little bit of sin in the church affects the whole church, just as a little bit of leaven in bread affects the whole loaf of bread. [Leaven or yeast is a corrupting agent that changes the shape of the dough – which becomes bread. A small amount of leaven or yeast, cause a big transformation in the dough; and so too in our spiritual lives]. Therefore the leaven in the church must be purged so that it does not corrupt the whole church. Believers are not to feast on the old leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Believers are not to keep company with those who are sexually immoral, covetous, extortioners, or idolaters. This describes those in the church who claim to be Christians yet live as the unbelievers do. As Christians we do not judge those outside the church because God has already passed judgement on all who sin and who do not turn from it. Instead, we are to judge those within in the church who live in this way, and put them out of the church.

Do not sue the brethren

If one Christian has something against another, they must not go to the law before the unrighteous. Instead they must place the matter before the saints to pass judgement. The church must appoint wise men from their midst who are able to judge the matter. If there are no wise men in their midst, it is to the shame of that church. Instead of taking the matter to the law, it is therefore better rather to let yourself be cheated.

The unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, not sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the Kingdom of God.

For the believer everything is lawful, but not everything is helpful (beneficial). The righteous are not to allow themselves to be brought under the power of anything that will harm their spiritual life. Our fleshly bodies are members of Christ. We should therefore not take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot. Anyone who joins with a harlot becomes one with her, just as those who are joined to Christ become one with Christ. Those who commit sexual immorality do so against their own bodies.

Because we have been bought with a price (i.e. the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross of Calvary), our bodies are no longer our own. They are temples of the Spirit of God who now lives within us. Therefore we must glorify God in our bodies and spirits because we belong to Him.

Conscience and Liberty in Christ

Concerning conscience and liberty in Christ, those who are strong in their faith must not let their freedom in Christ become a stumbling block to believers who have a weaker conscience, or who are weaker in their faith.  Our knowledge or Christian maturity should not create a problem for a fellow believer for whom Christ also died. In doing so, we sin against a weaker brother, wounding their conscience, and sin against Christ.

A Pattern of Self Denial

Paul asserts that those who preach the gospel are entitled to be paid for the work they do. Even a farmer does not muzzle the ox while it treads the grain. Those who preach the gospel shall live from the gospel. Paul however chose to not exercise this right. Instead, he chose to present the gospel of Christ without charge, so that he would not abuse his authority as an apostle.

In doing so he could not be manipulated by men, leaving him free to be a servant of all so that he could reach even more people with the gospel message. He was free to be all things to all men, in order to win some, or as many as he possibly could, for the cause of Christ.

Old Testament Examples

Our spiritual forefathers drank too of the Spiritual Rock that followed them (Christ). Yet, God was not pleased with most of them. As a result many of them perished in the wilderness. Their stories have been recorded as a warning to us today, that we should not lust after evil things as they did.

As believers, we are not to become idolaters, commit sexual immorality, nor tempt Christ, nor complain. Their examples are for our admonition. We should therefore also be careful how we conduct ourselves because we can also fall as they did.

The Lord’s Supper

The only sacrament that Christians are commanded by Jesus Himself to keep, is the Lord’s Supper (also known as Holy Communion). In doing so, we proclaim the Lord’s death until He returns.

But whenever we do so, we must examine ourselves carefully. If we partake of it in an unworthy manner, we bring judgement upon ourselves. This includes repenting of known sin in our lives and forgiving others as the Lord forgives us. It may also include asking forgiveness from others against whom we have sinned.

Spiritual Gifts: Unity in Diversity

The spiritual gifts in the church are given by the Spirit of God. There is diversity in these gifts, and differences in ministry. The same spirit of God works in and through them all and for the benefit of everyone in the church. There is therefore unity and diversity in the Church at the same time. Just as our human bodies have many members, so too the Church. By the same Holy Spirit, we are baptized into one body, being made to drink of the same Spirit.

But the body is not one; it is many. It is made up of many components (people with various gifts). Just as with our human bodies we cannot say that the hand does not need the foot, so too in the Church the various members of the body of Christ are interdependent on one another. Just as a human body cannot function with only one member, the church also cannot function without every member of the body doing their part. Even the weakest and hidden parts of the body are essential to the proper functioning of the whole body.

It is God who sets the various members in place as He pleases, so that the church can function effectively, and for the benefit of all. Therefore, every member of the body of Christ should have the same care for one another. There should be no schisms. If one member suffers, everyone suffers, or if one is honored, everyone rejoices with them.

God has appointed:

  • Apostles
  • Prophets
  • Teachers
  • Workers of miracles
  • Those who operate in the gifts of healing
  • Those who speak in tongues and can interpret them

The Greatest Gift

Even though God has appointed these wonderful spiritual gifts to His church, if we practice them without having love, it is worthless. Even though we understand all mysteries, have all knowledge, have all faith, give everything we have to the poor, or our bodies to be burned, it profits us nothing.

Love is:

  • Longsuffering
  • Kind
  • Does not envy
  • Does not parade itself
  • Is not puffed up or proud
  • Rejoices in truth
  • Does not seek its own gain
  • Is not provoked
  • Thinks no evil
  • Bears all things
  • Believes all things
  • Hopes all things
  • Endures all things
  • Never fails

While even spiritual gifts will fail, the only things that will not fail are:

  • Faith
  • Hope
  • Love

The greatest of these is love.

Prophecy and Tongues

Every believer should pursue love, spiritual gifts, and especially the gift of prophecy. He who prophecies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophecies edifies the church. Tongues must be interpreted so that the whole church can understand what has been spoken in a heavenly language. It is pointless speaking in a tongue unless it is done by revelation, knowledge, prophesying, or teaching. The words that are spoken must be understood by those who hear them just as a musical instrument is played with distinctive notes that make sense to those hearing it. Those who speak in a tongue may also have the ability to interpret the tongue, but this is not necessarily so. Others in the congregation may also be able to do so. It is generally better in a church to speak five words with understanding so that others may be taught, rather than speak many words in an unknown tongue. Tongues are a sign to unbelievers, but prophesying is only for those who believe.

In church everything must be done in an orderly manner. The various members of the body exercise their spiritual gifts as the Lord leads them. Everything must be done for the benefit of the whole church. Therefore, if one speaks in a tongue, only two or three at most should do so, and each in turn, and one person should interpret. But if there is no one in the congregation who has the ability to interpret the tongue, then the one who wants to speak in a tongue must rather keep silent and use his gift to speak to himself, and to God in order to avoid confusion.

In the same way, everyone who has the ability, can prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and be encouraged. The spirit of the prophets is subject to the prophets (self-control), because God is not the author of confusion.

There should be prophesying and speaking in tongues in church gatherings, but always in an orderly manner and decently.

The Risen Christ, Faiths Reality

The gospel message is that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and then rose from the dead on the third day. He was then seen by Cephas first then by the twelve disciples, and then by over five hundred brethren all at once. If Christ has not risen from the dead, then the gospel message is meaningless and those who preach it are false witnesses. Furthermore their words and faith are empty. But Christ has risen.

Through the death and resurrection of Christ, the last enemy (death), has been destroyed. Because death came through man (the first Adam), so the resurrection of the dead also came by one Man (the last Adam – Jesus).  As in Adam all died, so in Christ all will be made alive. The time will come when Jesus will deliver the Kingdom of God to the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power, when all his enemies are under His feet. But the last enemy that will finally be destroyed, is death.

Our earthly bodies that have died in corruption will be resurrected in incorruption (by the resurrection power of God). What dies as a natural body will be resurrected as a spiritual body. There is a natural body and a spiritual body.

The first Adam became a living being, but the last Adam (Jesus) became a life-giving Spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then comes the spiritual.

The first man was of the earth, made of dust; but the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust. As is the heavenly man, so also are those who are heavenly. As we also have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man, Christ.

Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, nor can corruption inherit incorruption. Instead of dying, we who believe, will in an instant be transformed from corruptible to incorruptible, from human bodies to spiritual bodies, temporal to eternal, and death will finally be overcome.

In this way all believers have the final victory over the power of sin and death through Jesus Christ. Therefore those who labor in God’s work must remember that they do not labor in vain in the Lord.

Final Exhortations

Believers must stand fast in their faith, and be brave and strong. They must do everything in love and submit to one another in love.

Those who do not love Jesus Christ are cursed.