Understanding The Bible
Clarence E. Mason's "1 Corinthians"

Dr. Clarence E. Mason, Jr.
Philadelphia College of Bible


INTRODUCTION: The apostle’s greeting and confidence 1:1-9

  1. Salutation 1-3
    1. The writer and his authority 1
    2. The addressees and their standing 2
    3. Opening benediction 3
  2. Thanksgiving 4-9
    1. Cause for the thanksgiving 4-7
    2. Confidence of the thanker 8-9
    1. Church disorders (and their rebuke) 1:10-4:21
      1. God’s wisdom versus man’s 1:10-4:7
        1. Man’s wisdom divides the Body 1:10-17
          Rebuke of party spirit.
        2. God’s wisdom saves 1:18-25
          The cross was at a place called Golgotha = “the place of a skull.“ There are no brains in a skull. Hence, the cross is the end of man’s vaunted wisdom. It is the wisdom of God.
        3. God’s wisdom humbles 1:26-31
          God’s calling is designed to abase human pride in human wisdom.
        4. God’s wisdom discerns and distinguishes 2:1-3:4
          Christianity is Spirit-revealed, not the product of man’s thought.
          1. Paul trusted God’s wisdom as atone powerful 2:1-5
          2. Paul asserts that God’s wisdom alone reveals what man’s wisdom is incompetent to discern 2:6-13

            The usual avenues of knowledge—“eyes, “ “ears,“ “heart” (reasoning processes) -- are ineligible to enter the sphere of spiritual truth. These things arc revealed by God. Only the Spirit-taught understand this wisdom. Verse 13 should read “interpreting spiritual things (neuter) to spiritual people” (masculine), cp. v.6.
          3. God’s wisdom distinguishes three classes of people 2:14-3:4
            The “natural man” is, literally, the “soulish man,“ the unregenerate man of the five senses; it describes man as he is as the result of Adam’s sin. The “spiritual man” is a saved man who is being taught by the Holy Spirit (“we have the mind of Christ”). The carnal (“fleshly”) man is a saved man who is walking after the flesh (old nature). This produces perpetual babyhood and prevents growth to maturity.
        5. God’s wisdom alone can fit us for Christian service 3:5-8
          Anybody can “sow” and “water,“ but only God can perform the miracle of life (“give the increase”).
        6. God’s wisdom evaluates our service 3:9-4:7
          1. The one foundation on which we build 3:9-20
            (See Addendum at close of 1 Corinthians notes on “The Judgment Seat of Christ.“)
            There is real danger of defiling the temple (church) of God; hence, holy living is needed.
          2. Men must not be evaluated by human standards 3:21-4:7
            The proper attitude toward God’s workmen is here stated. They are to be received gratefully as God’s gifts to the Church (3:21-23), and their work is to be left to their Master’s judgment as to degree of faithfulness (4:1-7).
      2. The utter folly and unfairness of man’s wisdom 4:8-21
        1. Man’s wisdom evades the stigma of the cross 8-13
          God’s wisdom pours contempt on all our pride. How ridiculous are they, seeking to reign before the time! This is the day of suffering, not of reigning.
        2. Man’s wisdom forgets the one (Paul) to whom, under God, they owed all 14-17
        3. Man’s wisdom makes judgment necessary 18-21
    2. Social irregularities (or moral evils) and their rebuke 5-6
      1. The lust of the flesh and its discipline 5
        1. The case of incest 1
        2. Scathing rebuke of their indifference 2-8
        3. Clarifying previous instructions 9-13a
        4. Final command 13b
      2. Litigation between brethren rebuked and forbidden ft: 1-8
        1. Amazement at their carnal conception of things 1
        2. “Brethren, we shall judge the world, and angels!” 2-3
        3. The way to settle difficulties between brethren 4-8
      3. Correcting misconceptions concerning the body 6:9-20
        The Corinthians’ thinking had been strongly influenced by pagan views of the body. Stoics viewed the body as essentially evil. Hence, they beat it, sought to repress it, and sought a solution through asceticism. On the other hand, Epicureans said the body did not affect the spirit (essentially pure). So, let the body enjoy itself with no restraint. “Eat, drink, and be merry.”

        In contrast, Paul states the Christian doctrine of the sanctity of the body:
        1. Our bodies have been sanctified 9-11
        2. Our bodies are for the Lord 12-14
        3. Our bodies are members of Christ 1.5-18
        4. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit 19a-b
        5. Our bodies are God’s property 19c-20a
        6. God should be glorified in and through our bodies 20b
          (20c is to be omitted as an interpolation; the body is the subject.)
    1. Social irregularities (and their rebuke) 7:1-11:1
      1. Answers to questions concerning marriage, etc. 7
        (The Christian teaching on marriage, divorce, separation, celibacy, etc.)
        1. General instructions to single and married saints 1-9
          (1) General proposition 1, 7a
          The highest plane of life is to be found in living above nature and natural desire (cp. Matthew 19:12; also see Luke 20:35, which is the ideal state).
          (2) Concession in view of circumstances at Corinth 2-6 Honor and fairness in marriage relations, 3-5.
          (3) Conclusion: God deals with us as individuals 7b-9 Each has his ability, or lack of ability, of God.
        2. Specific instructions to govern definite problems of married and single saints 10-40
          1. Christ’s instructions through the Spirit on divorce and separation (Mt. 19:3-12): NORMAL cases 10-11
            1. The wife is not to desert (lit., “separate herself from”) the husband 10

              Parenthesis: If a separation has occurred (despite this instruction), she is to remain unmarried or preferably be reconciled (Note: She has done the leaving.)
            2. The husband is not to divorce (lit., “send away”) his wife 11b
              (Note: Paul here is giving us a general summary of Christ’s teaching on the subject. Paul has not the time nor is it to the point here to add the exception our Lord Himself made which permits divorce and remarriage (see Matthew 19:9). The subject of Matthew 19:9 is not simply what constitutes ground for divorce but for divorce and remarriage: Christ says remarriage after any other cause for divorce is adultery.)

              What Paul is enforcing here is that it is God’s design and intention that married people live together. If separation or divorce has occurred, seek reconciliation.
          2. Paul’s instruction through the Spirit on divorce and separation: ABNORMAL cases 12-40
            These are cases not covered by the Law, which, of course, said nothing about a non-covenant people’s marriages, Jews were not to marry non-Jews according to the Law. But the gospel had now overflowed Jewish boundaries. These new situations required authoritative settlement. The inspired apostle does this here.
            1. Instruction to a believer married (previous to conversion, 1 Corinthians 7:39) to an unbeliever 12-16
              1. The believing husband is not to divorce his unbelieving wife 12
              2. The believing wife is not to divorce (same word) her unbelieving husband 13
              3. The vast difference between the Law and the gospel 14
                Under the Law, a Jew married to a non-Jew became unclean ceremonially himself -- and any children as well. Under the gospel, on the contrary, when a married person becomes a Christian, the unbelieving partner and children become ceremonially clean. This does not mean they are saved, but through the presence of the believer in that home, God looks upon it as a Christian home, and the external benefits and privileges of the gospel (such as, results of prayer for home’s needs, etc.) are shared by whole home through the believer’s faith and relation to God. Each member of the home must be individually born again (v. 16), but they are placed under influences favorable to that much needed end. Of course, this verse in no sense implies any personal relation to the church on the part of unbelievers in the home.
              4. But if the unbelieving partner is unwilling to stay, what then? 15
                Let him or her go! God has not called us to a life of wrangling but to a life of peace. A believer is released from the bonds of marriage in such cases. The word is literally “not fettered or enslaved.” There are three views held by godly men about the verse:
                1. Simply permits separation, i.e., the believer owes no marital duties to the unbelieving deserter.
                2. Permits divorce but not remarriage, forcing the literality of v.39 without allowing for any exception such as our Lord made in Matthew 19:9.
                3. Permits divorce and remarriage, treating this as a second exception (like Matthew 19:9), involved in the gospel overflowing merely Jewish circumstances .

                  Whatever is meant, it is not referring to desertion generally, but desertion for the specific reason that one has become a Christian since he was married. Even here, the law of love toward a weak conscience should prevail.
              5. The crowning incentive to keep on living with an unbelieving partner, even if it involves suffering 16 , (cp. 1 Peter 3:1, “That they might be won” for Christ -- saved!)

                Parenthesis: 17-24
                A reiteration of the principle that God deals with us as individuals (sec II, A, 1, a, (1), vv.7-9). Abide in your condition when called, if you can abide in it with God!
            2. Spiritual advice of a godly man concerning unmarried daughters under parental control 25-38
              This is the division’s heading and extent, if the customary translation is the correct one. If, however, J. N. Darby is correct in his translation of vv. 35-38, those verses refer to an unmarried man’s attitude toward “his (own) virginity” (v.36) and not to a Christian father’s attitude toward “his virgin (daughter).“

              Thus, if Darby is correct, vv. 35-38 would be a discussion of the relative advantages of a young man marrying or remaining unmarried, just as vv. 25-34 would be a discussion of the same question in relation to a young woman.

              In any event, whichever view is right, the section might be entitled: “To marry or not to marry!” The apostle reverts to his original proposition (v.7a) that the highest plane of life is to forego marrying for Christ’s sake and to give one’s whole time and energy to prayer and Christian service (vv.32, 35), which is obviously impossible if one takes upon him or her the responsibilities of married life (vv. 28, 33, 34). This is a challenge to sacrifice for Christ’s sake! Most of us are satisfied with doing “well” (v.38a)! But many forms of Christian work need those who arc willing to do “better” (38b)!
            3. Spiritual advice of a godly man to widows 39-40a
            4. A challenge to their boasted “illumination” 40b
              The “I” in “I also have the Spirit” is emphatic. This should settle the needless dispute over whether or not these are the prejudiced remarks of a crabby old bachelor or widower. No, this is “strong meat.” Not all can live above nature, and each has his gift of God (v.7), but blessed are they who are willing to forego marriage comforts for the Kingdom of God’s sake (Matthew 19:12)!

              However, this does not mean that man-made laws of celibacy are right. They are not, for they force men and women, by virtue of their position, to live abnormally (for most of them), thus ignoring Paul’s basic principle of God’s gift and leading to each individual (v. 17) and making it a sin for a minister to marry when God says he does well (v.38) and doesn’t sin (v.28). Marriage is honorable in all things (Hebrews 13:4). And it is a type of Christ’s relation to the Church (Eph. 5:30-32).
      2. The answer to questions concerning Christian liberty 8:1-11:1
        (Key: Is it expedient? Is it profitable? 1 Corinthians 10:23)
        1. The law of love and idol’s meat 8
          1. Love superior to knowledge 1-3
            The important thing is not illumination that puffs up, but love that builds up.
          2. “We know that idols are nothing in themselves” 4-6
          3. “We know that meat is nothing in itself” 7-8
          4. Consideration for the weaker brother is everything 9-13
            Paul has laid the foundation and goes on to show that what they know is not as important as what they do with what they know, i.e., how they apply their knowledge.
        2. Paul’s own example of waiving rights (self-restraint) for others’ sake 9
          Paul gave up things to which he had a perfect right in order not to stumble his brother. To insist on one’s own rights is to miss the whole point of the law of love.
          1. Paul’s own right to unlimited freedom 1-18
          2. Paul relinquished his rights for love’s sake 19-22a
            Paul submitted to the Jews in order to be able to preach in the synagogue.
          3. Four reasons for relinquishing his rights 22b-27
            1. To save souls 22b-23
            2. To win reward 24-25
            3. To be an example 26a-27b
            4. To avoid disqualification 27c

              In verses 22b-27, Paul takes us on a personally conducted tour of the Greek arena, where the original Olympic games are in progress. He shows us the athletes (runners, boxers, wrestlers), the race-course, the judges’ stand (bema), the prize (the victor’s wreath). Then he discusses the discipline of the body necessary to compete victoriously and the disqualification from the prize that results from breaking the rules.

              As we stand by the apostle’s side, we can almost hear him raise these thought-provoking rhetorical questions:

              “Why run the race, if not to win?
              Why lose the prize and, losing, sin?
              Why shadow box, and beat the air
              With ne’er a victor’s wreath to wear?
              Why take your eyes from Christ, our goal,
              And enter heaven with not one soul?
              Why miss the point of why we’re here”
              With death, or Christ’s return, so near?”
              C. E. Mason, Jr.
        3. Israel’s example of failure a warning to us 10:1-14

          1. Outward relationship to God not enough: “all...many” 1-5

          2. It is essential to keep a careful guard 6-12

          3. God will help us overcome temptation if we do not heedlessly expose ourselves to it 13-14

        4. Application and conclusion 10:15-11:1

          1. Partakers of the Lord’s Supper cannot be idolaters 10:15-22

          2. Consideration for others: the deciding principle 10:23-11:1

            1. Brotherliness is higher than personal desire and limits freedom 10:23-24

            2. The principle in practice 10:25-30

            3. The glory of God and the salvation of souls is the goal to be sought in all of our actions 10:31-11:1

        5. Church disorders (and their rebuke) 11:2-16:4
          1. Directions for proper conduct in public worship 11:2-14:40

            1. Propriety on part of men and women as to headdress customs 11:2-16

              1. The headship of Christ and man 2-3

              2. The practical application of this principle to men and women 4-15

              3. “If you disagree, you disagree with custom of all the churches” 16
                Mother watching parade:
                “Everybody’s out of step but Johnny!”

            2. Proper conduct at the Lord’s Table 11:17-34
              1. Rebuke of disorder preceding celebration of Lord’s Supper 17-22
                As the Passover Feast preceded the Lord’s Supper on the night of its institution by our Lord, a custom has grown up in the churches of having what was called a “Love Feast” (Agape) preceding the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

                The Love Feast had been degraded from its original purpose at Corinth and had become a gathering of mutually exclusive cliques who glared at each other or turned the cold shoulder. Also, some who were rich were actually guilty of gluttony and drunkenness! This was all the worse in the light of the fact that many there were poor people, unable to provide for themselves, who were looking on hungrily. What a feast of brotherly love! What a preparation for the Lord’s Table! No wonder Paul said: “I praise you not.”

              2. The proper method and meaning of celebrating the Lord’s Supper 23-26
                SEE "Special Note On Varying Views Concerning The Lord's Supper"
              3. To (habitually) partake in an improper manner can bring only judgment from God 27-32
                Moses was kept from the promised land for breaking a type of Christ’s death, and that only once (when lie smote the stone a second time). Will a believer in this age who dishonors the memory of that death, and that habitually, escape God’s rod?!

                Therefore, “scrutinize yourself “ -- discern what it is you are doing, confess your sin, and then partake, but not till then.

              4. No “Love Feast” or any other least is to precede the Lord’s Supper 33-34
                The Lord’s Supper is an act of spiritual worship and must be preceded only by that which is in harmony with it, i.e., prayer, praise, testimony, preaching, exhortation, etc.

            3. Guide to evaluation of gifts of the Spirit and their proper use to avoid abuse12-14

              1. A diversity of gifts for one body with many members 12

                1. “Try the spirits” 1-3
                  Do not be deceived by Satanic imitation.

                2. Many gifts but a sovereign Spirit 4-11

                3. Many members but one Body 12-18

                4. Every member (gift) is necessary to the Body’s welfare 19-26

                5. But, though all are necessary, it is not necessary for one person to possess all the gifts 27-30

                6. Two chapter themes 31
                  Chapter 14: “Desire greater (or higher) gifts, “ i.e., prophecy.
                  Chapter 13: “A still more excellent way, “ i.e., love, the proper motive.

              2. The only motive which makes the exercise of gifts spiritually profitable to other members of the Body 13

                1. All worthless, if love is lacking 1-3

                2. A glorious portrait of Jesus our Lord 4-8a

                3. All gifts will pass with time 8b-ll

                4. Of earth’s greatest trio, love is the greatest 12-13

              3. Of all the gifts, prophecy (which edifies all) is pre-eminent 14

                1. In comparison, the much-sought gift of tongues seems childish 1-20

                2. Indeed, the gift of tongues has a special dispensational application to unbelieving Israel 21-22a

                3. Prophecy, rather than tongues, is the Spirit’s usual gift to convict unbelieving Gentiles through the Church 22b-25

                4. An orderly church meeting is God’s plan 26-35
                  The gift of tongues must be regulated so as to edify all, or be omitted entirely. Women must avoid confusion.

                5. A concluding challenge to obedience in these things 36-40

          2. The proper belief concerning the resurrection and rapture of the Church 15

            1. The fact and time of the resurrection 1-34

              1. The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is an integral part of the gospel message 1-11 All the apostles stand together on this foundation.

              2. To deny a resurrection of the body involves a denial of the whole structure of our faith 12-19
                Without a resurrection, sin (which causes death) has gained the victory over God in this world, and Christ’s cross has failed to defeat sin.

              3. But His bodily resurrection is the pledge of ours 20-28
                Because sin was fully dealt with at the cross, the Prince of Life could not be held in its power (Acts 2:24; 3:15). Since all came under the sentence of death through the first man Adam, the work of Christ, defeating the work of Adam, makes necessary the resurrection of all. However, this will not take place at one time, but each man will rise in his own “order” (this word is a military word and might be translated regiment or battalion), as follows (see chart below):

                Christ, the Captain of our salvation, arose from the dead (1).
                “They that arc Christ’s” will rise “at His coming. “
                This flexible phrase will include both (2) the Church, which rises to meet the Lord when He comes to the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18) at the end of the Church age, and (3) saints of Old Testament ages and Daniel’s 70th week will rise at the coming of the Lord to the earth to set up His kingdom (after the tribulation). Then “cometh the end “ -- battalion or resurrection -- at the end of the thousand year reign. We know this from v.26 compared with Revelation 20:5, 14. These are the wicked dead, and constitute the second resurrection.


    1. This assurance alone gives us courage to take the places (by public baptism) in the ranks of Christ’s army of those who have fallen in the fray 29-34

      Still following the military figure above, the apostle argues that, if there were no resurrection, it certainly would be foolish to join the Lord’s army, taking the place of those who have died futilely -- perhaps as martyrs. But if there is a resurrection, one can and should believe in Christ and join the ranks of His witnesses (v.58).

    1. The method of the resurrection and the “mystery” of the rapture 35-53

    1. The individuality and perfection of the resurrection body 35-49

    1. Continuity with the old body-without exact duplication 35-38 The relationship is that of seed to harvest. The seed that is sown is not that which comes up again, but it disintegrates and is reformed by the Lord’s power. It is not, therefore, necessary that all the cells and parts of the body be regathered and reconstituted in exact duplication. Something else rises than that which was sown, but nothing would rise if nothing were sown. This gives us guidance concerning the bodies of babies and of those with deformities, or bodies ravaged by disease and accident. Every body will be raised mature and perfect -- sec (c) below.

    2. Individuality in the new body -- without uniformity 39-41

      However, the bodies of believers will not be run off an assembly line -- all alike. Each will have its individuality suited to the past and in accordance with the Lord’s purpose.

    3. The glorious perfection of the new body -- incorruptible -- powerful -- spiritual 42-49

    Here is a body that will never get tired, be sick, or die. Also, with (a) above we conclude that there will be no “babies” in heaven. God loves them too much to keep them in eternal immaturity. They will be in perfect maturity of spirit, mind, and body, just as there will be no old or mutilated people. All the ravages of sin’s power will be removed.

    1. Changed “in the twinkling of an eye!” 50-53
      The “corruptible” are those whose bodies have corrupted in death. The word “mortal” refers to believers still living but in “dying” bodies. Both will be changed at the Lord’s return and shall receive bodies as discussed above. Observe that it is the believer’s body that is in view in v.35 and thereon. The unbeliever’s body is not discussed here or elsewhere in Scripture, although we know it will be a special body suited to “the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:11-15).

    1. The triumph of the resurrection is an incentive to thanksgiving and service 54-58

    1. The proper method of gathering the gift for Jerusalem saints 16:1-4

    How to give to missions and any other Christian work (sec 2 Corinthians 8-9).

    CONCLUSION 16:5-24

    1. Personal plans 5-9

    2. Concerning Timothy, Apollos, and Stephanas, and men of their kind 10-18

    3. Greetings from others 19-20

    4. Paul’s personal greetings and benediction 21-24



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