1 Corinthians - Read Epistle and Study Bible Verses Online (2024)

Summary of the Book of 1 Corinthians

This summary of the book of 1 Corinthians provides information about the title, author(s), date of writing, chronology, theme, theology, outline, a brief overview, and the chapters of the Book of 1 Corinthians.

Corinth in the Time of Paul

The city of Corinth, perched like a one-eyed Titan astride the narrow isthmus connecting the Greek mainland with the Peloponnese, was one of the dominant commercial centers of the Mediterranean world as early as the eighth century b.c.

No city in Greece was more favorably situated for land and sea trade. With a high, strong citadel at its back, it lay between the Saronic Gulf and the Ionian Sea, with ports at Lechaion and Cenchrea. A diolkos, or stone road for the overland transport of ships, linked the two seas. Crowning the Acrocorinth was the temple of Aphrodite, served, according to Strabo, by more than 1,000 pagan priestess-prostitutes.

By the time the gospel reached Corinth in the spring of a.d. 52, the city had a proud history of leadership in the Achaian League, and a spirit of revived Hellenism under Roman domination after 44 b.c. following the destruction of the city by Mummius in 146 b.c.

Paul's lengthy stay in Corinth brought him directly in contact with the major monuments of the agora, many of which still survive. The fountain-house of the spring Peirene, the temple of Apollo, the macellum or meat market (1Co 10:25) and the theater, the bema (Ac 18:12), and the unimpressive synagogue all played a part in the experience of the apostle. An inscription from the theater names the city official Erastus, probably the friend of Paul mentioned in Ro 16:23 (see note there).

1 Corinthians Author and Date

Paul is acknowledged as the author both by the letter itself (1:1-2; 16:21) and by the early church fathers. His authorship was attested by Clement of Rome as early as a.d. 96, and today practically all NT interpreters concur. The letter was written c. 55 toward the close of Paul's three-year residency in Ephesus (see 16:5-9; Ac 20:31). It is clear from his reference to staying at Ephesus until Pentecost (16:8) that he intended to remain there somewhat less than a year when he wrote 1 Corinthians.

The City of Corinth

Corinth was a thriving city; it was at the time the chief city of Greece both commercially and politically. See map and diagram, p. 2355.

    1. Its commerce. Located just off the Corinthian isthmus (see map, p. 2288), it was a crossroads for travelers and traders. It had two harbors: (1) Cenchrea, six miles to the east on the Saronic Gulf, and (2) Lechaion, a mile and a half to the north on the Corinthian Gulf. Goods were transported across the isthmus on the Diolkos, a stone road by which smaller ships could be hauled fully loaded across the isthmus, and by which cargoes of larger ships could be transported by wagons from one side to the other. Trade flowed through the city from Italy and Spain to the west and from Asia Minor, Phoenicia and Egypt to the east.
    2. Its culture. Although Corinth was not a university town like Athens, it was characterized nevertheless by typical Greek culture. Its people were interested in Greek philosophy and placed a high premium on wisdom.
    3. Its religion. Corinth contained at least 12 temples. Whether they were all in use during Paul's time is not known for certain. One of the most infamous was the temple dedicated to Aphrodite, the goddess of love, whose worshipers practiced religious prostitution. About a fourth of a mile north of the theater stood the temple of Asclepius, the god of healing, and in the middle of the city the sixth-century b.c. temple of Apollo was located. In addition, the Jews had established a synagogue; the inscribed lintel of it has been found and placed in the museum at old Corinth.
    4. Its immorality. Like any large commercial city, Corinth was a center for open and unbridled immorality. The worship of Aphrodite fostered prostitution in the name of religion. At one time 1,000 sacred (priestess) prostitutes served her temple. So widely known did the immorality of Corinth become that the Greek verb "to Corinthianize" came to mean "to practice sexual immorality." In a setting like this it is no wonder that the Corinthian church was plagued with numerous problems.

Occasion and Purpose

Paul had received information from several sources concerning the conditions existing in the church at Corinth. Some members of the household of Chloe had informed him of the factions that had developed in the church (1:11). There were three individuals -- Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus -- who had come to Paul in Ephesus to make some contribution to his ministry (16:17), but whether these were the ones from Chloe's household we do not know.

Some of those who had come had brought disturbing information concerning moral irregularities in the church (chs. 5-6). Immorality had plagued the Corinthian assembly almost from the beginning. From 5:9-10 it is apparent that Paul had written previously concerning moral laxness. He had urged believers "not to associate with sexually immoral people" (5:9). Because of misunderstanding he now finds it necessary to clarify his instruction (5:10-11) and to urge immediate and drastic action (5:3-5,13).

Other Corinthian visitors had brought a letter from the church that requested counsel on several subjects (see 7:1 and note; cf. 8:1; 12:1; 16:1).

It is clear that, although the church was gifted (see 1:4-7), it was immature and unspiritual (3:1-4). Paul's purposes for writing were: (1) to instruct and restore the church in its areas of weakness, correcting erroneous practices such as divisions (1:10 -- 4:21), immorality (ch. 5; 6:12-20), litigation in pagan courts (6:1-8) and abuse of the Lord's Supper (11:17-34); (2) to correct false teaching concerning the resurrection (ch. 15); and (3) to answer questions addressed to Paul in the letter that had been brought to him (see previous paragraph).

1 Corinthians Theme

The letter revolves around the theme of problems in Christian conduct in the church. It thus has to do with progressive sanctification, the continuing development of a holy character. Obviously Paul was personally concerned with the Corinthians' problems, revealing a true pastor's (shepherd's) heart.


This letter continues to be timely for the church today, both to instruct and to inspire. Christians are still powerfully influenced by their cultural environment, and most of the questions and problems that confronted the church at Corinth are still very much with us -- problems like immaturity, instability, divisions, jealousy and envy, lawsuits, marital difficulties, sexual immorality and misuse of spiritual gifts. Yet in spite of this concentration on problems, Paul's letter contains some of the most familiar and beloved chapters in the entire Bible -- e.g., ch. 13 (on love) and ch. 15 (on resurrection).

1 Corinthians Outline

  • Introduction (1:1-9)
  • Divisions in the Church (1:10;4:21)
    • The Fact of the Divisions (1:10-17)
    • The Causes of the Divisions (1:18;4:13)
      1. A wrong conception of the Christian message (1:18;3:4)
      2. A wrong conception of Christian ministry and ministers (3:5;4:5)
      3. A wrong conception of the Christian (4:6-13)
    • The Exhortation to End the Divisions (4:14-21)
  • Moral and Ethical Disorders in the Life of the Church (chs. 5-6)
    • Laxity in Church Discipline (ch. 5)
    • Lawsuits before Non-Christian Judges (6:1-11)
    • Sexual Immorality (6:12-20)
  • Instruction on Marriage (ch. 7)
    • General Principles (7:1-7)
    • The Problems of the Married (7:8-24)
    • The Problems of the Unmarried (7:25-40)
  • Instruction on Questionable Practices (8:1;11:1)
    • The Principles Involved (ch. 8)
    • The Principles Illustrated (ch. 9)
    • A Warning from the History of Israel (10:1-22)
    • The Principles Applied (10:23;11:1)
  • Instruction on Public Worship (11:2;14:40)
    • Propriety in Worship (11:2-16)
    • The Lord's Supper (11:17-34)
    • Spiritual Gifts (chs. 12-14)
      1. The test of the gifts (12:1-3)
      2. The unity of the gifts (12:4-11)
      3. The diversity of the gifts (12:12-31a)
      4. The necessity of exercising the gifts in love (12:31b;13:13)
      5. The superiority of prophecy over tongues (14:1-25)
      6. Rules governing public worship (14:26-40)
  • Instruction on the Resurrection (ch. 15)
    • The Certainty of the Resurrection (15:1-34)
    • The Consideration of Certain Objections (15:35-57)
    • The Concluding Appeal (15:58)
  • Conclusion: Practical and Personal Matters (ch. 16)

From the NIV Study Bible, Introductions to the Books of the Bible, 1 Corinthians
Copyright 2002 © Zondervan. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

1 Corinthians - Read Epistle and Study Bible Verses Online (2024)


What is the main message of the Epistle to the 1st Corinthians? ›

The main message of 1 Corinthians is the power of God's grace, and the importance of following the will of God. Paul emphasizes the “name of our Lord Jesus Christ” throughout the letter, reminding the Corinthians that everything they do should be in his name.

What are two major lessons Paul teaches the Corinthians in his first letter to them? ›

Paul enumerates various immoral tendencies of the Corinthian Christians. He cautions them to condemn sexual immorality within the church. Membership in the community of the faithful, he teaches, means that the church faithful must adjudicate moral matters amongst themselves, chastising and expelling sinners.

What are the main points of 1 Corinthians 1? ›

1 Corinthians 1–11.

Paul warns against divisions within the Church and emphasizes the importance of unity among Church members. He warns members against sexual immorality, teaches that the body is a temple for the Holy Spirit, and encourages self-discipline.

How do you spell 1st Corinthians? ›

1 Corinthians - Read Epistle and Study Bible Verses Online.

What is the key verse in 1 Corinthians? ›

God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." 1 Corinthians 10:31: "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."

What are the three themes of the book of 1 Corinthians? ›

1 Corinthians challenges believers to examine every area of life through the lens of the Gospel. Specifically, Paul addresses divisions among believers, food, sexual integrity, worship gatherings, and the resurrection.

What does Corinthians say about a woman? ›

Women, on the other hand, are to serve in the home, in teaching other women, in private evangelism, in caring for others, and in many other important functions. So, I Corinthians 11:4 teaches that the order of authority is God, Christ, man, woman. The roles God wants each to fill require this arrangement.

Does Paul permit a woman to sleep with a man? ›

Paul realizes that celibacy is a great feat for the Corinthians, so he says that each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband when it comes to sexual relations. He says this because he knows a cure to widespread sexual exploitation is necessary for the Corinthians.

What is the problem of the Corinthians church? ›

Among the myriad problems in the Corinthian church were: claims of spiritual superiority over one another, suing one another in public courts, abusing the communal meal, and sexual misbehavior. Paul wrote to demand higher ethical and moral standards.

What lessons can we learn from 1 Corinthians? ›

Paul's letter to the Corinthians reminded them of three things: They are all on the same team (as followers of Christ), As followers of Christ, they should be of the same mind and in the same judgment, Christ is their leader.

How would you summarize the book of 1 Corinthians? ›

In this letter to the church at Corinth, Paul covered a number of different issues related to both life and doctrine: divisions and quarrels, sexual immorality, lawsuits among believers, marriage and singleness, freedom in Christ, order in worship, the significance of the Lord's Supper, and the right use of spiritual ...

What is 1 Corinthians telling us? ›

The global message of 1 Corinthians is that the gospel of Jesus Christ is relevant to every dimension of church life. To a church facing many problems, Paul writes of God's empowering grace and the need to know Christ alone and him crucified.

What are some interesting facts about 1 Corinthians? ›

Quick Facts:

1 and 2 Corinthians are, by content, Paul's most practical epistles. 3. In 1 Corinthians, Paul uses the title “The Lord Jesus Christ” six times in just the first ten verses, emphasizing Christ's Lordship.

Who is Paul talking to in 1 Corinthians? ›

Letters of Paul to the Corinthians, either of two New Testament letters, or epistles, addressed by St. Paul the Apostle to the Christian community that he had founded at Corinth, Greece.

What is the conclusion of the book of 1 Corinthians? ›

Paul closes this letter with a blessing of the grace and the love of Christ to the true church of Corinth. May his final words also by mine: “My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen.”

What is the main purpose of the first letter to the Corinthians? ›

Paul wrote 1 Corinthians letter to correct what he saw as erroneous views in the Corinthian church. Several sources informed Paul of conflicts within the church at Corinth: Apollos, a letter from the Corinthians, "those of Chloe", and finally Stephanas and his two friends who had visited Paul.

What were the two main reasons Paul originally wrote 1 Corinthians? ›

Final answer: The two main reasons Paul originally wrote 1 Corinthians were to address divisions and conflicts within the Corinthian church and to address issues of immoral behavior and sexual immorality.

What are two issues addressed by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians? ›

Then, while answering questions sent from Corinth, he addresses matters of immorality, marriage and celibacy, the conduct of women, the propriety of eating meat offered to idols, and the worthy reception of the Eucharist.

What is the message of the epistle? ›

In the Bible, much of the New Testament is made up of epistles sent from leaders in the early church to other believers. These epistles are phrased in the form of instructions for how to live appropriately as followers of Christ in the hostile social and cultural environment in which they found themselves.

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