1 Corinthians


2. Thesis, 1:10

The unity of the church


Having concluded his greeting and thanksgiving to God for the Corinthian believers, Paul now outlines the central concern of his letter to the church at Corinth, namely, the maintenance of fellowship within the congregation.


i] Context: See 1:1-3.


ii] Background - Party spirit in Corinth: As Barnett notes "reading these words is like listening to someone speaking on a phone, but we cannot work out who they are talking to, or for that matter, what exactly is being discussed." We are not at all sure of the problem that existed in the Corinthian church. On the surface it seems that parties had developed in the church and were now at each other's throat. It may be that there were multiple parties in Corinth, "status-groupings", Thiselton: a group supportive of Paul himself; a charismatic libertine group of enthusiasts aligned with Apollos, although not actually lead by Apollos; a legalist / nomist group aligned with Peter, but again, not actually lead by Peter; a Christ party made up of ascetics, possibly just a reference to other "loyalty-groupings", Thiselton. Of course, the situation may be as simple as a two-way split between those who follow a local charismatic leader and those who follow Paul. With this scenario Paul's references to Apollos, Peter and Christ simply serve as a literary device to identify the style of these enthusiasts / ascetics and so reduce the possibility of a personal affront.

Welborn suggests that Paul's first letter to the Corinthians is about "a power struggle, not a theological controversy." There may be some truth to this, yet the quarrels are about ideas. In chapters 1-4, Paul focuses on "wisdom" (most likely world views, "knowledge", which are not well grounded in the gospel); "boasting" about the "correct position" was the order of the day. As part of the quarrels, Paul found himself under attack, along with his particular understanding of the gospel. He therefore sets out to deal with the undermining of his apostolic authority. The Christian church in Corinth is Pauline, founded by him and under his authority, and he is not willing to accept the change in theological direction which has spawned sexual immorality, idolatry, court cases, individualism, and even questions concerning the resurrection of the dead. So, in chapters 1-4 Paul sets out to reestablish his apostolic authority with the Corinthian church.

In passing, it is worth noting that many of the theological controversies and thus divisions evident in the Christian church today are prompted by a devaluing of Paul. Many teachers will affirm the gospels, affirm the grace of God in Christ, but devalue Paul as old school, even sexist, homophobic, ...... Yet, Paul serves as the inspired exegete of Jesus and so to devalue Paul is to devalue Christ.


iii] Interpretation:

This verse serves as the "thesis statement of the entire discourse", Witherington, Conflict and Community. The thesis is nicely put by Cassirer -


You are all to speak with one voice.

There should be no dissensions among you.


Paul will go on in v2-3 to explain why he makes this appeal for unity, namely that he has received a report about strife in the church, strife driven by party-spirit - the claim to "belong" to Paul, Apollos, Cephas, or Christ. Paul makes his appeal, parakalw, "I appeal [to you]", not in his own name, but in the name of, and thus under the authority of, the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul appeals to the believers in Corinth to leghte, "speak" the same things, or as the NIV has it, "that all of you agree with one another in what you say." Rather than a theological individualism which pursues a particular path; "I belong to Peter", or "I belong to Apollos". The Corinthians must strive to settle on the core beliefs that define a Christian community, ie., that they be kathtismenoi, "knit together", in tw/ autw/ noi, "the same mind", and th/ auth/ gnwmh/, "the same opinion." Paul wants the Corinthian believers united in their Christ-focused beliefs rather than present as a divided community with minister-focused beliefs.


iv] Exposition: A simple exposition may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 1:10

Unity in the church. On the issue of divisions in the church, Paul could command the obedience of the Corinthian believers, but instead he encourages a response prompted by their standing under Christ. His "appeal" is that they "agree with one another - perfectly united in mind and thought". Paul is calling here for a unity of opinion under the gospel. The Corinthians have divided theological opinions which are focused on different teachers, possibly without their approval.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument.

parakalw "I appeal to" - i encourage, appeal to, exhort, implore, entreat... Probably best in the sense of "I ask", rather than "beg / beseech / appeal."

adelfoi (oV) "brothers" - "brothers and sisters", NRSV.

dia + gen. "in" - through. Instrumental, expressing means, "by means of"; "by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ", Barclay. None-the-less, agency makes better sense; "through the name."

tou onomatoV (a atoV) gen. "the name" - The "name" represents the person and all that the person stands for. Often used of exercising authority for that person; "by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ."

tou kuriou (oV) gen. "of [our] Lord" - of the lord [of us jesus christ]. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, identifying the possession of a derivative characteristic; "the name that belongs to our Lord Jesus Christ."

hJmwn gen. pro. "our" - The genitive is adjectival, relational, although more appropriately idiomatic / subordination; "over us."

iJna + subj. "that" - that. Here introducing an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing Paul's "appeal".

to auto leghte "all of you agree" - you speak the same thing. "Be at peace / make up the difference", is a common expression of the day. "All to be in agreement in what you profess", NJB.

mh h\/ "so that there may be no [divisions] / and that there be no [divisions]" - [and divisions] not be [among you]. Serving to form the second object clause / dependent statement expressing Paul's "appeal", "that there may not be schisms", as TNIV, but possibly a purpose clause, "in order that", as NIV.

en + dat. "among [you]" - in [you]. Expressing space, metaphorical; "to not allow yourselves to be split up in parties", Phillips.

de h\te subj. of verb to-be "but that you may be" - but you may be. Forming a third object clause / dependent statement expressing Paul's "appeal".

kathrtismenoi (katartizw) perf. pas. part. "perfectly united" - united, restored, mended, made complete. With the subj. verb to-be h|te the participle forms an unusual periphrastic perfect expressing a union that is achieved, but also ongoing. "You may be refurbished", Garland.

en + dat. "in" - in [the same mind and] in [the same thought]. Usually treated as local, expressing space / sphere, "having the same mind and the same judgment", Cassirer, yet an adverbial sense is to be preferred expressing the goal toward which the action is directed; "with the same mind-set and with the same consent", Thiselton. The two nouns, nouV, "mind" and gnwmh, "thought" take many meanings and this has prompted numerous translations like "in your general attitude to life and in each particular decision", Barclay, or "common temper and attitude", Moffatt, but best, "united in your beliefs and judgments", NJB.


1 Corinthians Introduction


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