The Expository Files

"Let Him Who Glories, Glory in the Lord"

1 Corinthians 1


There were big problems in the church at Corinth and Paul gets to those problems immediately. But first there is gratitude. I'm talking about Paul's statements to them in verses 4-9:

4 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus,
5 that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge,
6 even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you,
7 so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ,
8 who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.


As many problems as these people had; as corrupt as things were - still, it was appropriate for Paul to be thankful for the good. These people were recipients of the grace of God in Jesus Christ. These people had been enriched by teaching and spiritual blessings. The testimony of Christ had been confirmed among them through the work of men like Paul. Gifts had been distributed among them for their edification.

One way to look at all this is -- in terms of knowledge and spiritual advantage, these were rich people! In 4:8 Paul said, "You are already rich," and in 2 Cor. 8:9 - "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich." God had been faithful to them; had called them into the fellowship of His Son. These were good things and it was appropriate for Paul to express gratitude and stress the benefits and blessings the Corinthians had received. The main idea here is, you have all you need and you have been richly blessed!

It could not be argued that the members of this church had not been taught... that ignorance was justified and therefore they had all these problems. Paul was thankful they came short in no gift, and they had been so enriched and had such advantages. Here's what we need to learn from all this: people may have great advantage; good teaching; great teachers; yet, in spite of their advantage, they still have the potential to make wrong choices and do wrong things! And we are about to see how wrong things were in Corinth.

Paul Addresses The Problem Of Division; these are verses 10-17:

10 Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
11 For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe's household, that there are contentions among you.
12 Now I say this, that each of you says, "I am of Paul," or "I am of Apollos," or "I am of Cephas," or "I am of Christ."
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius,
15 lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name.
16 Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas. Besides, I do not know whether I baptized any other.
17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.


The division in Corinth was wrong; the kind of division in this church exalting men through envy and rivalry. This was wrong! Paul - in this passage - was pleading with them to see how wrong this was; how they needed to be united, to speak the same thing, so that there would be no divisions among them. They needed to be "perfectly joined together," but this was not the case in Corinth.

There were contentions in the church. Paul had learned of this and he wrote to them plainly about it. Now in verse 12 we have a picture of what this was like -- this separation or division. Some preferred Paul over Apollos, or Cephas over Paul. They had their favorite men and this immature, carnal attachment to their favorite men DIVIDED THE CHURCH!

I do not believe this problem was caused or promoted by the men mentioned in verse 12. The corrective rebuke is not directed to these men but to those in the church who formed these rival parties. This was division; it was wrong and all of them should have directed their loyalty to Christ, who is the head of the church. What should have been, and what ought to be is described over in the last verse of this chapter: "he who glories, let him glory in the Lord."

In verse 13 - three questions, and all of them have an obvious negative response: NO!

CHRIST IS NOT DIVIDED - when we obey the gospel, we are "baptized into one body," (1 Cor. 12:13); Eph. 4:4 declares that there is "one body." So, to be baptized into the one body of Christ then become a participant in division and strife is contrary to the relationship you've entered into! The body of Christ is not something that has been, or can be cut in pieces and parceled out to human leaders. It would be entirely corrupt and false to talk about: "Paul's body of Christ... the Apollos body of Christ... and somebody else's part of the body." Is Christ divided? No.

Was Paul crucified for you? Now the point is this: It is like Paul is saying: "I am not your Redeemer. Christ is! All of you ought to be loyal to Him - not any of us!" (You can be grateful to men and supportive of their good work, but loyalty belongs to Christ, to Deity!)

Were you baptized in the name of Paul? Well of course not. There is the account of the conversion of the Corinthians in Acts 18; many of the Corinthians "hearing, believed and were baptized." But they were NOT baptized into the name of Paul or by his authority; or as an expression of allegiance to Him. These questions were designed to get the people to stop and think about their situation, their attitude, their immature party spirit. THIS DIVISION WAS WRONG. "Let him who glories, glory in the Lord."

Consider these next few verses

14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius,
15 lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name.
16 Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas. Besides, I do not know whether I baptized any other.
17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.

Let me ask you to think about this: In the New Testament, what significance is placed on the baptizer? Now we know: the act of baptism must be immersion. We know: the person being baptized must believe in Christ, repent and be baptized for the remission of sins. But what significance does the New Testament place on the baptizer?

NONE! God doesn't tell you to follow the person who baptized you! God doesn't tell you to form a group or party made up of all those who were baptized by a particular person. WHO BAPTIZED YOU is not vital! The act and your faith and disposition in regard to it is vital ... but not the baptizer.

Now this is why Paul says what is written in verses 14 to 17. Paul is playing down the role of men; and in this case, the role of the baptizer. This is not an argument against baptism. This is an argument against the attitude that forms a party or affirms loyalty to a person because they baptized you. Do you see what this is about? The priority in Paul's work was to preach the gospel. Baptism is essential in one's response to the gospel, but Paul's focus and priority was to preach the gospel, not just baptize people to gain a following for himself.

NEXT, IN VERSES 18-25 - the emphasis is - THE GOSPEL MESSAGE.

1 Cor. 1:18-25

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
19 For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent."
20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom;
23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness,
24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.


In obeying the gospel -- becoming a Christian, and then a part of a local church - we are not responding to any man; we are responding to a message; God's message! Now, we may feel a special fondness or gratitude for those who taught us, or had a good influence on us and we may have a high regard for the person who baptized us (provided their continued influence is for good).

We may really love some teacher, elder or preacher and honor them for their good work. But we must not lose sight of this: When you obey the gospel, you are responding to God, to Christ, to the message of the cross ... and that's what this passage is about. Another way to say this is - the power lies in the message, not the messenger! Some may hear the gospel and regard it as just "so much foolishness." But these people are perishing in their sin. But there are others who hear the message of the cross; they regard it as the message of God -- they respond to the message, not the messenger, AND THEY ARE SAVED... not because of the man who taught them, but because of the message they heard!

Men may have a high regard for themselves or for other men, and consider certain men to be wise and prudent - therefore worthy of loyalty. God isn't impressed by all of that, and Paul quotes Isaiah to the effect that man cannot outwit God. God said, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent." The whole emphasis here is this message (the gospel) is God's message; the power is in the message because of God.

So don't get distracted by men, by messengers or by human wisdom. It is the gospel that saves. Even though those who are perishing consider it to be foolish; to us, who are being saved, it is the power of God working in us.

THIS SECTION, VERSES 26-31, IS ABOUT THE CHOICES OF GOD, and the emphasis remains the same.

1 Cor. 1:26-31

26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.
27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;
28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are,
29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.
30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God; and righteousness and sanctification and redemption;
31 that, as it is written, "He who glories, let him glory in the LORD."


Here's the question: What should impress me? Not the messenger. Not anything about any man who is considered wise or prudent or any party or group. What should impress me is - This is God's message; He made the choices about His message and His plan and so - LET HIM WHO GLORIES, GLORY IN THE LORD!

Now God has made various choices about His will, His plan of salvation. It does not become us to make judgments about the choices of God. Men of the world may consider the things of God to be foolish. What should impress me is GOD'S GRACE, GOD'S MESSAGE, GOD'S SON AND GOD'S PROMISES .... and let him who glories, glory in the Lord.

Do you see what their problem was? Paying too much attention to men. Being more impressed by the messenger than the message. Forming groups of loyalty toward their favorite preacher - acting like they were baptized into the name of some man. This was their problem - and what they need to do is set forth plainly in verse 10 and verse 31 (read again).


By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 6.6; June 1999






 

 

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