DMin Course - PW 813

NT Testament Exegesis & Sermon Design

Dr. John Alsup

Exegesis Notes - 1 Corinthians 1.10-18



A. Comparison of texts:

v. 10: - you be made complete in mind and in the same judgment (NASB)

- that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought (NIV)

- you must get along w/ each other, you must learn to be considerate of one another, cultivating a life in common (Peterson)

v. 11: - Chloe's people (NASB)

- Chloe's household (NIV)

- Chloe's family (Peterson)

- quarrels among you (NASB & NIV)

- fighting among yourselves (Peterson)

v. 12: - I of (NASB)

- I follow (NIV)

- I'm for (Peterson)

v. 13: - Christ divided (NASB & NIV)

- Messiah chopped up in little pieces so we can each have a relic of our own (Peterson)

v. 17: - not in cleverness of speech, that the cross should not be made void (NASB)

- not w/ words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power (NIV)

- didn't send me to do it with a lot of fancy rhetoric of my own, lest the powerful action a the center - Christ on the cross - be trivialized into mere words (Peterson)

v. 18: - foolishness (NASB & NIV)

- sheer silliness (Peterson)

B. Textual Criticism: v. 10 - "please",_,_suggests a strong and urgent plea; carries more weight than a request and slightly less than a command. This is probably due to the urgency of the situation for Paul and this letter is written with strong feelings and emotions concerning the issues in the Corinthian church.

"divisions" - _(where we get the English word, "schism") which means to tear or rent; it's not used in the same way we usually use the word to describe partisan dissension. This would also explain why Paul would use ,_"knit together," i.e., knit together something that had been torn apart.

"but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment" (NRSV) - can also be rendered, be in agreement when you speak. A similar wording was used in Aristotle's Politics III iii 3, "The Boeotians said the same thing as those of Megara and became quiet" - which means that they came to an agreement and settled the war. (Anchor Bible Commentary).

v. 13 - "Christ has been divided" - __s, pass. or middle form of _-_to divide or apportion; not same as , rather divided into pieces.

v. 17 - "words of human wisdom" (NIV) - _,_"wisdom of speech," Paul possible refers to the wisdom of the world, since in following verses he contrasts the wisdom of the world - __ - with the wisdom of God - __.

C. Rough Translation:

10 Now I beseech you, brethren, through the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that you all say the same thing, and that there be no ripping apart among you, but that you may be joined back together in unity of mind and understanding. 11 For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe's household, that there is bickering among you. 12 Now I mean this, just because each of you are saying things like, "I belong to Paul," and "I belong to Apollos," and "I belong to Cephas," or "I belong to Christ." 13 Has Christ been dealt out among you? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I give thanks that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one can say you were baptized in my name. 16 But I also baptized the household of Stephanas; for the rest I don't know of any others I baptized. 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the good news, not in words of wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be made vain. 18 For the word of the cross is to the ones who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.


A. Genre: This is a letter to the church of Corinth (as one commentary stated, "we are literally reading some else's mail."). It is obviously written to this church to address two issues of concern, which in turn can be categorized into several other issues. Perhaps the two overriding issues are 1.) the behavioral/ethical problems of the people and 2.) their rejection of Paul's apostleship and therefore his authority. The behavioral/ethical issues have been identified to be at least eleven different problems. His correctives are not merely a desire to submit to his authority (though many commentators might argue for this point), but he also gives the people a sincere plea to submit to the gospel of Jesus Christ, of which he is an apostle. He also crafts this letter with deliberate theological themes - eschatology, theological ethics, and theology of the church. So, in some ways it's much more than just reading someone else's mail.

B. Personal interaction/questions & observations: The language Paul uses is revealing of the situation at Corinth. The word for "divisions" means to tear apart, the same word Matthew uses in 27.51, to describe the veil of the temple being torn at Jesus' crucifixion. So these are not just petty disagreements. When you rip a cloth or a piece of fabric, it's never the same again. It is no longer whole. It can be sown back together but scars remain. Paul seems to be suggesting that the bickering that is a part of them can lead to just such a split, a potentially irreparable situation. Those of us in the United Methodist itinerant system know well the tension of pastoral allegiances. I have seen how churches have sometimes been stressed, pulled, or even split about their pastoral changes. But I don't think this is the only issue at play here. I think Paul is trying to address the root cause of the problems. If it were based solely on the allegiance issue, then it would be nothing more than a popularity contest. Paul, I think, is trying to see what might be at play here within the people's thinking about who leads their church and why. As we continue to read the following texts, and the rest of the letter, Paul deals with issues much deeper like the meaning of the gospel, what it means to be Church, and ethical/moral behavior. He addresses them not with simple cause and effect solutions, but with theological foundations of what it means to be a part of the Church of Jesus Christ. Therefore this letter is filled with exhortations, correctives, instruction, teaching, and apologetics.

C. Organization: In this pericope, Paul first exhorts them not be torn apart, but to live in unity. This means not just a physical cohesiveness, but a unity of mind, thought, and purpose. He then clarifies his role as their former minister and others who've ministered there as well. Their allegiance is not based on who there favorite minister is. He connects it with their baptism, which calls them to remember that they entered into the community not in his name, but in Christ's name. All enter into the church through Christ as signified in baptism. And finally, he states why he was sent as an apostle - to preach the gospel, not in worldly terms, but in the wisdom of God.


A. Immediate context - preceding/following pericope: This section comes after the opening of the letter where Paul is appealing to his apostleship and affirmation that the church belongs to Christ, the raison d'etre for both he and the church. The pericope immediately after deals more with the paradox of God's wisdom vis-à-vis the wisdom of the world. And not just a juxtaposition of the two, but he talks about it in the realm of where they live, i.e., the tensions of living as Jews and Gentiles in a Hellenistic world.

B. Organization of the whole: This text is the beginning of the letter and the way Paul begins it sets the stage for the way he addresses the church throughout. His immediate theologizing of the issues is the norm throughout the letter. This for me is an essential part of being the church. Within this letter we find a theology of the church, a theology of eschatology, and a theology of ethics. And the theme of paradox is one that continues not only through this letter, but is also found in 2 Corinthians as well (especially 12.1ff). Another aspect that remains is his appeal to his apostleship (also present in 2 Corinthians).

C. Issues of authorship: As "we read Paul's mail," we are not reading just another letter, but a response to a church in trouble. The timeless nature of this letter continues to inform us on every turn in the church, both as clergy and as laity. The timelessness is not one that is prescriptive as much as it is informative. That is, Paul's letter continues to inform us theologically - while some of our issues are identical, others may be different - about what it means to be the church.


A. Primitive Christianity: The setting for this letter is one of the early Gentile churches to which Paul was called to minister. This letter is thought to be possible fragments of other correspondences, and the one we call the Second Letter to the Corinthians is more likely a third transmission, the truer second letter having been lost.

B. Old Testament & Judaism: From Acts 18 we know that there was a Jewish community in Corinth. There is no indication of the size of this community, but archeological remains of a synagogue inscribed with "Synagogue of the Hebrews" has been excavated there.

C. Hellenistic World: This is the setting of the audience. Corinth was located on the Isthmus of Corinth, linking the Aegean and Ionian Seas. It was therefore a wealthy center of commerce, due to its convenient location. Corinth was known for - among other things - its sexual immorality, some of which was related to cultic religious practices. The culture was influenced by Greek philosophy, art, literature, and religion. By most indications, the majority of Paul's community in Corinth was Gentile. This is the setting that Paul is up against, which at times becomes a "resocialization" of his converts. In some ways their worlds are turned upside down. Perhaps his use of paradox is the best way to convey this radical change in life and worldview.


A. Summary of salient features: If we're honest, we see that this context is not too far removed from our own. People in our churches - both in the local and denominational levels - often identify with a certain cause or person or both. As a result we place labels on each other. This creates distance between "us" and "them." This way we don't have to deal with them. Paul provides a response to such a mindset, and specifically, he gives the theological reasons why the church should not function in such a way. Therefore the key question/statement in this pericope is found in verse 13, "Has Christ been divided?" This rhetorical question begs an answer and of course, we know the answer is a resounding, "no!" The following questions about being crucified and baptism reveal the absurdity of his question. Paul's underlying theology behind this question then reaches its logical conclusion - dissension in Christ's church is never the appropriate way to function, because it is not consistent with what it means to exist in unity in Christ's name.

B. Smooth translation: A smooth translation of this text might be this: If you are truly a part of the church of Jesus Christ, then act that way. Don't give in to petty quarrels that have the potential of tearing part (literally) the church. Remember that because you belong to Christ as affirmed in your baptism, then that is what brings us together. The church is not about ownership of this person or that, but it is about preaching the gospel, not in worldly wisdom, but in the cross of Christ.

C. Hermeneutical bridge: Paul's call then for unity - even of having the same mind - affirms diversity without promoting uniformity. Unity in our faith in Christ allows us to have one mind, one purpose, one Lord. Paul further develops this in the letter. As we encounter problems in our churches, in some ways we have to do a "resocialization" of our members as to just what it means to be a part of the church.


A. Description of audience: This sermon is appropriate in any congregation. It is a safe assumption that every community of believers have struggle at one time or another with strife, differences, mixed allegiances, and control issues. It is also spurious to always assume these problems originate from the laity. Laity and clergy alike are not immune to dissensions and false pretenses that can erode the unity of a church. This text needs to be preached.

B. Intended goals for the address: My goal would be to proclaim the gospel of Christ's church, a church that is centered in him and whose aim should always be unity of mind and spirit.

C. The Address:


Balz, Horst and Schneider, eds. Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament: Vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1981).

Brueggemann, Walter, et al. Texts for Preaching: A Lectionary Commentary Based on the NRSV - Year A. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995).

Fee, Gordon. The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The First Epistle to the Corinthians. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987).

Hays, Richard B. Interpretation: First Corinthians. (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1989).

Marshall, Alfred. NASB-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1987)

Orr, William F. and Walther, James Arthur. The Anchor Bible: 1 Corinthians. (New York: Doubleday & Company, 1976).

Peterson, Eugene. The Message.