Understanding The Bible
Clarence E. Mason's "1 Corinthians"
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BY THE AUTHOR
Dr. Clarence E. Mason, Jr.
Philadelphia College of Bible
INTRODUCTION: The apostle’s greeting and confidence 1:1-9
- Salutation 1-3
- The writer and his authority 1
- The addressees and their standing 2
- Opening benediction 3
- Thanksgiving 4-9
- Cause for the thanksgiving 4-7
- Confidence of the thanker 8-9
- DEALING WITH REPORTS 1:10-6:20
- Church disorders (and their rebuke) 1:10-4:21
- God’s wisdom versus man’s 1:10-4:7
- Man’s wisdom divides the Body 1:10-17
Rebuke of party spirit.
- 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.
- God’s wisdom humbles 1:26-31
God’s calling is designed to abase human pride in human wisdom.
- God’s wisdom discerns and distinguishes 2:1-3:4
Christianity is Spirit-revealed, not the product of man’s thought.
- Paul trusted God’s wisdom as atone powerful 2:1-5
- 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.
- 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.
- 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”).
- God’s wisdom evaluates our service 3:9-4:7
- The one foundation on which we build 3:9-20
(See Addendum at close of 1 Corinthians notes on “The Judgment Seat of
There is real danger of defiling the temple (church) of God; hence, holy
living is needed.
- 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
- The utter folly and unfairness of man’s wisdom 4:8-21
- 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
- Man’s wisdom forgets the one (Paul) to whom, under God, they owed
- Man’s wisdom makes judgment necessary 18-21
- Social irregularities (or moral evils) and their rebuke 5-6
- The lust of the flesh and its discipline 5
- The case of incest 1
- Scathing rebuke of their indifference 2-8
- Clarifying previous
- Final command 13b
- Litigation between brethren rebuked and forbidden ft: 1-8
- Amazement at their carnal conception of things 1
- “Brethren, we shall judge the world, and angels!” 2-3
- The way to settle difficulties between brethren 4-8
- 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
- Our bodies have been sanctified 9-11
- Our bodies are for the Lord 12-14
- Our bodies are members of Christ 1.5-18
- Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit 19a-b
- Our bodies are God’s property 19c-20a
- God should be glorified in and through our bodies 20b
(20c is to be omitted as an interpolation; the body is the subject.)
- ANSWERS TO INQUIRIES 7:1-16:4
- Social irregularities (and their rebuke) 7:1-11:1
- Answers to questions concerning marriage, etc. 7
(The Christian teaching on marriage, divorce, separation, celibacy, etc.)
- 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
(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.
- Specific instructions to govern definite problems of married and
single saints 10-40
- Christ’s instructions through the Spirit on divorce and separation
(Mt. 19:3-12): NORMAL cases 10-11
- The wife is not to desert (lit., “separate herself from”) the
Parenthesis: If a separation has occurred (despite this
instruction), she is to remain unmarried or preferably be reconciled
(Note: She has done the leaving.)
- 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.)
Paul is enforcing here is that it is God’s design and intention that
married people live together. If separation or divorce has occurred,
- 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.
- Instruction to a believer married (previous to conversion, 1 Corinthians
7:39) to an unbeliever 12-16
- The believing husband is not to divorce
- The believing wife is not to divorce (same word) her
unbelieving husband 13
- The vast difference between the Law and the gospel 14
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.
- 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:
- Simply permits separation, i.e., the believer
owes no marital duties to the unbelieving
- 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.
- 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
- 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!)
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!
- 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
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)!
- Spiritual advice of a godly man to widows 39-40a
- 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.
- The answer to questions concerning Christian liberty 8:1-11:1
Is it expedient? Is it profitable? 1 Corinthians 10:23)
- The law of love and idol’s meat 8
- Love superior to knowledge 1-3
The important thing is not illumination that puffs up, but love that
- “We know that idols are nothing in themselves” 4-6
- “We know that meat is nothing in itself” 7-8
- 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.
- Paul’s own example of waiving rights (self-restraint) for others’
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.
- Paul’s own right to unlimited freedom 1-18
- Paul relinquished his rights for love’s sake 19-22a
Paul submitted to the Jews in order to be able to preach in the
- Four reasons for relinquishing his rights 22b-27
- To save souls 22b-23
- To win reward 24-25
- To be an example 26a-27b
- 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
Why miss the point of why we’re here”
With death, or Christ’s
return, so near?”
C. E. Mason, Jr.
Israel’s example of failure a warning to us 10:1-14
Outward relationship to God not enough: “all...many” 1-5
It is essential to keep a careful guard 6-12
God will help us overcome temptation if we do not heedlessly expose
ourselves to it 13-14
Application and conclusion 10:15-11:1
Partakers of the Lord’s Supper cannot be idolaters 10:15-22
Consideration for others: the deciding principle 10:23-11:1
Brotherliness is higher than personal desire and limits freedom
The principle in practice 10:25-30
The glory of God and the salvation of souls
is the goal to be sought in all of our actions 10:31-11:1
- Church disorders (and their rebuke) 11:2-16:4
Directions for proper conduct in public worship 11:2-14:40
Propriety on part of men and women as to headdress customs 11:2-16
The headship of Christ and man 2-3
The practical application of this principle to men and women 4-15
“If you disagree, you disagree with custom of all the churches” 16
Mother watching parade:
“Everybody’s out of step but Johnny!”
- Proper conduct at the Lord’s Table 11:17-34
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.”
- The proper method and meaning of celebrating the Lord’s Supper 23-26
SEE "Special Note On Varying Views
Concerning The Lord's Supper"
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.
No “Love Feast” or any other least is to precede the Lord’s Supper
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.
Guide to evaluation of gifts of the Spirit and their proper
use to avoid abuse12-14
A diversity of gifts for one body
with many members 12
“Try the spirits” 1-3
Do not be deceived by Satanic imitation.
Many gifts but a sovereign Spirit 4-11
Many members but one Body 12-18
Every member (gift) is necessary to the Body’s welfare 19-26
But, though all are necessary, it is not necessary for one person to
possess all the gifts 27-30
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
The only motive which makes the exercise of gifts spiritually
profitable to other members of the Body 13
All worthless, if love is lacking 1-3
A glorious portrait of Jesus our Lord 4-8a
All gifts will pass with time 8b-ll
Of earth’s greatest trio, love is the greatest 12-13
Of all the gifts, prophecy (which edifies all) is pre-eminent 14
the much-sought gift of tongues seems childish 1-20
Indeed, the gift of tongues has a special dispensational application
to unbelieving Israel 21-22a
Prophecy, rather than tongues, is the Spirit’s usual gift
to convict unbelieving Gentiles through the Church 22b-25
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.
challenge to obedience in these things 36-40
The proper belief concerning the resurrection and rapture of the
The fact and time of the resurrection 1-34
The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is an integral part of the
gospel message 1-11 All the apostles stand together on this foundation.
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
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).
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.
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
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).
The method of the resurrection and the “mystery” of the rapture 35-53
The individuality and perfection of the resurrection body 35-49
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.
Individuality in the new body
-- without uniformity 39-41
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.
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.
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).
The triumph of the resurrection is an incentive to thanksgiving and
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).
Personal plans 5-9
Concerning Timothy, Apollos, and Stephanas, and men of their kind
Greetings from others 19-20
Paul’s personal greetings and benediction 21-24
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