ESVEC Scheduled Volumes?

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DAL | Forum Activity | Posted: Sun, Mar 14 2021 11:25 AM

How many total volumes are scheduled for the ESV Expository Commentaries? I have 7 and preordered the future 2 volumes on Deuteronomy-Ruth and Matthew-Luke for a total of 9 volumes. Will there be other volumes for Genesis-Numbers or will they split them in two Genesis-Exodus and Leviticus-Numbers? Also Psalms and Proverbs and the Major Prophets are missing in the series.  I can’t seem to find any information about that online.


Posts 8392
DAL | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Mar 14 2021 11:32 AM

Never mind! Here’s what I found looking more closely:

“The first 7 of 12 expected volumes to be released through 2021, this commentary series features the full text of the ESV Bible passage by passage, with crisp and theologically rich exposition and application.”

That means there will be Genesis-Leviticus, Psalms-Song of Songs and Isaiah-Ezekiel for a total of 12 volumes ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ‘Œ 


Posts 1563
PL | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Mar 14 2021 12:25 PM

This looks like a promising series. Do you like it DAL? Can you post some longer samples beyond the short snippets on the Logos website?

Posts 8392
DAL | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Mar 14 2021 3:11 PM

Hebrews Sample


1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Section Overview: Prologue: God’s Last, Best Word in the Son

In Greek, the prologue to Hebrews is one artfully constructed sentence of seventy-two words. It introduces the sermon’s central hero and previews his mission of revelation, reconciliation, and rule. The prologue identifies Christ as the Son of God, the agent of God’s eschatological revelation. Then a brief participial phrase, “after making purification for sins” (Heb. 1:3), encapsulates the sermon’s central point (cf. 8:1): the priestly ministry of the Son in sacrificing himself to cleanse sin-stained people and usher them into God’s presence. The prologue concludes with the Son’s kingly enthronement “at the right hand of the Majesty on high” and with a contrast between the Son’s superior name and the subordinate role of angels, the theme of the sermon’s first movement (1:5–2:18).

Section Outline

I. God’s speech (1:1–2a)
A. God formerly spoke to our fathers through prophets (1:1)
B. God has now spoken to us in a Son (1:2a)
II. Messianic sonship: the Son was appointed heir of everything (1:2b)
III. Divine sonship (1:2c–3b)
A. In relation to the universe: the Son created the ages (1:2c)
B. In relation to God: the Son embodies and displays God’s glory (1:3a)
C. In relation to the universe: the Son sustains everything (1:3b)
IV. Messianic sonship (1:3c–4)
A. The Son descended as priest to purify our sins (1:3c)
B. The Son ascended as king to the heights (1:3d–4)
1. The Son sat down at the majestic God’s right hand (1:3d)
2. The Son became superior to angels (1:4)


1:1–2a Hebrews opens with the God who speaks, a theme that pervades the sermon (2:1–4; 3:7, 15–16; 4:2, 12–13; 6:13; 11:3; 12:25–27). When the living God speaks, his voice is heard in Scripture and in preaching (3:7); “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard” (2:1).
This prologue contrasts the messengers through whom God has spoken throughout biblical history. It opens with a contrast between human prophets who spoke God’s Word to Israel and the Son in whom God has spoken “in these last days.” It concludes with a contrast between the Son and angels, who delivered the law to the prophet Moses. Thus the prologue introduces the first two movements of the sermon, which show that, as God’s spokesman, Christ is superior to angels (1:5–2:18) and to Moses (3:1–4:13).
The first two clauses are balanced to demonstrate both the continuity (one divine speaker) and the differences between God’s self-revelation in the OT and the NT. The Greek word order shows the parallels:

At many times and in many ways

long ago
God spoke
to the fathers
by the prophets
in these last days
he has spoken
to us
by his Son

God’s OT speech came in many installments and modes: visions, dreams, riddles, and clear “mouth-to-mouth” self-disclosures granted to the patriarchs, Moses, and his prophetic successors (Num. 12:6–8, cited in Heb. 3:2, 5; cf. Hos. 12:10). The piecemeal, multiform character of God’s speech to Israel differed from his singular word spoken in the Son in these “last days.” Hebrews reasons that the plurality of agents and modes in the OT implies imperfection and incompleteness. There had to be many priests in the order of Levi and Aaron because death prevented them from continuing in office (Heb. 7:23), whereas Jesus holds his priesthood permanently and needs no successor (7:16, 20–21, 24). The many animal sacrifices offered in the tabernacle could not cleanse worshipers’ consciences, as Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice has now done (10:1–4, 10). So also, whereas OT revelation came piecemeal over a millennium or more, NT revelation came in one installment, complete in the Son and conveyed by those who heard him (2:3–4).
Like other NT texts (Acts 2:17; 1 Cor. 10:11; 1 Pet. 1:20), Hebrews announces that the “last days” foretold through the prophets have arrived with the incarnation of the Son (cf. Heb. 9:26). God had promised to intervene decisively in history to save and to judge in “the last days” (e.g., Num. 24:14; Isa. 2:2; Jer. 23:20; Dan. 10:14; Hos. 3:5). Christ’s life, death, and resurrection have launched those “last days,” delivering believers from the “present evil age” (Gal. 1:4). “The powers of the age to come” already operate in the Christian community (Heb. 6:5), yet believers still wait for Christ to “appear a second time” to consummate salvation (9:28).

1:2b–4 Christ is the Son of God in two senses, both of which are indispensable to his revelatory and redemptive mission. The prologue opens and closes with his messianic sonship as the incarnate God-man who followed a path of faithful suffering into glory (vv. 2b, 3c–4).
Behind and before Jesus’ messianic sonship is his divine sonship. Within the outer “envelope” describing his messianic sonship we find a description of divine sonship with respect to the universe (vv. 2c, 3b) and to God himself (v. 3a). As the divine Son, Jesus carries out his Father’s purposes in creation and providence. Foundational to his role as the universe’s creator and sustainer is the Son’s identity as the “radiance” of God’s glory and “exact imprint” of his substance (v. 3). The prologue’s chiastic (X-shaped) structure makes this the core truth that qualifies the Son to reveal the Father fully.2

1:2b With respect to his messianic sonship, at a moment in history the Son was “appointed heir of all things.” As the eternal divine Son, the Son is and always has been, with the Father and the Spirit, creator and owner of all things. Here, however, the focus is on appointment as messianic Son and heir, fulfilling Psalm 2:7–8: “You are my Son.… I will make the nations your heritage” (soon to be partially quoted in Heb. 1:5). The event foretold in Psalm 2:7–8 was the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 13:33; Rom. 1:4), and the reappearance of the terminology of “Son” and “heir/inherit” in Hebrews 1:3d–5 will elaborate on Jesus’ subsequent messianic accession to the status of heir to all that God has made.

1:2c–3b At the prologue’s center are three affirmations of the Son’s divine preexistence. As we have seen, the first and third pertain to his agency in the creation and preservation of the universe. Between them is a declaration of the Son’s eternal relationship to God the Father (v. 3a).
Like John 1:1–3 and Colossians 1:15–16, Hebrews affirms the Son’s agency in the creation of the world. The statement of the Son’s ongoing rule over the created order, whereby he “upholds the universe by the word of his power,” agrees with Paul’s statement that in Christ “all things hold together” (Col. 1:17). Yet the author’s word choice invites hearers to view the physical universe from a temporal perspective. The “world” (Heb. 1:2) that was created through the Son is literally “the ages” (aiลn; also in 1:8; 5:6; 6:5, 20; 7:17, 21, 24, 28; 9:26; 11:3; 13:8, 21). The referent here and in 11:3 is the spatial expanse of the heavens and the earth. But our preacher bypasses kosmos (used in 10:5), substituting “ages” to hint that the present heavens and earth are “wearing out” through successive ages (1:10–12; 13:8).
The incarnate Christ uniquely reveals the Father’s glory because he eternally “is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (v. 3a). He shares God’s divine being (John 1:1–3, 14; 10:30–33; Phil. 2:5–6; Col. 1:15; cf. 2 Cor. 3:18; 4:4–6; Rom. 9:5). As early as Origen (early third century AD), commentators have heard here echoes of Wisdom of Solomon 7:25–26, which characterizes God’s attribute of wisdom as an emanation of his “glory” and the “radiance” of his light. Unlike that intertestamental book, Hebrews (following Proverbs 8) applies these terms not to the personification of a divine attribute but rather to a divine person, distinct from yet equal to the Father. “Exact imprint” in extrabiblical Greek was the design on a coin that replicated the die from which it was cast, or the insignia in a wax seal that reflected the stamp impressed into it. Through the images of “radiance” and “exact imprint” Hebrews captures Jesus’ claim that “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

1:3c The prologue takes a decisive turn at “After making purification for sins,” returning to Christ’s messianic sonship and focusing on the priestly mission necessitating his incarnation. Hebrews 2:5–18; 4:14–5:10; 10:5–10 will show why the Son’s assuming human nature was necessary to his priestly ministry in empathy, sacrifice, and intercession. This first glimpse of the sermon’s central theme (8:1) shows the result of Christ’s death: the purification of believers’ consciences (9:14) so that we may approach God in worship (10:19–22).

1:3d–4 Jesus’ reward for his messianic obedience, culminating in his sacrifice for sinners, was his resurrection, ascension to heaven, and enthronement “at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” This allusion to Psalm 110:1 complements the allusion to Psalm 2:8 in Hebrews 1:2b, since the following series of OT passages in Hebrews 1 will open with Psalm 2:7 and close with Psalm 110:1, which will also reappear throughout the sermon (Heb. 8:1; 10:12; 12:2). The more excellent “name” that Christ “inherited” through his redemptive mission is the title “Son” (Ps. 2:7), addressed to him at his resurrection from the dead (cf. Acts 13:33). Angels replace the human prophets with which we began for two reasons: (1) angels delivered the law to the prophet Moses (Heb. 2:1–4), and (2) the divine Son became “lower” (Ps. 8:5) than angels through his incarnation in order to save his siblings, the offspring of Abraham.


The preacher to the Hebrews exhorts his hearers to hold fast to their confidence in Jesus (10:35–39), “the apostle and high priest of our confession” (3:1). Such endurance can come only from a deepened grasp of the majesty of the Son in whom God has spoken his final, finest word. This sermon will fix our eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of faith (12:2). Faithfully confessing the identity of Christ is a matter of spiritual life or death! This opening sentence refutes Christological heresies that deny the full deity of the Son (adoptionism, Arianism, etc.). Later sections of Hebrews will expose the error of denying his true humanity (docetism, Apollinarianism, etc.).
The Son’s threefold mediatorial office (prophet, priest, king) guides our response. He is the definitive spokesman sent from God, so we must hear and heed his voice in the Scriptures as they are read and preached. He is the priest whose sacrifice purifies our defiled consciences, so through him we may and must draw near to God’s throne of grace. He is the king enthroned at God’s right hand, so we rejoice in his royal victory over the Devil (2:14) as we are the fulfillment of God’s promise to the priest-king at his right hand: “Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power” (Ps. 110:3).

Johnson, D. E. (2018). Hebrews. En I. M. Duguid, J. M. Hamilton Jr., & J. Sklar (Eds.), Hebrews–Revelation (Vol. XII, pp. 30–34). Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

Posts 8392
DAL | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Mar 14 2021 3:17 PM

Sample from 1 Corinthians:

Section Overview

First Corinthians 1:10 begins the letter’s body (1:10–15:58). This section (1:10–4:21) addresses the first of ten major issues: dividing over church teachers. It is common for sermons and commentaries to divide this unit into multiple sections. That is not wrong, but it makes it harder to remember that this is a single unit responding to one main issue. It is long—Paul devotes more words to this issue than to any other (cf. Introduction: Theology of 1 Corinthians: figure 2.1). But it is helpful to work through the unit together without dividing it up into separate parts.

Paul provides three major reasons the Corinthian Christians should not divide over church teachers:

(1) The gospel requires the church to be unified—not divided over its teachers (1:10–17).
(2) God’s wisdom contradicts worldly wisdom (1:18–2:16). The divisive Corinthians do not sufficiently understand what the gospel of a crucified Messiah entails. The opening paragraph begins with “For” (1:18) because 1:18–2:5 explains the end of 1:17, namely, why proclaiming the gospel with words of eloquent wisdom empties Christ’s cross of its power. The reason is that God’s wisdom contradicts worldly wisdom: its message is a crucified Messiah (1:18–25); its followers are low-status people (1:26–31); and Paul proclaimed the message unimpressively (2:1–5). Thus the gospel’s content, recipients, and heralds are foolish to the world. The themes of wisdom (vs. folly) and power (vs. weakness) are prominent throughout 1:18–2:5. Paul contrasts true wisdom and power with what the world considers wisdom and power. He then explains that God has now revealed his wisdom only to persons with the Spirit (2:6–16).
(3) People with the Spirit should not boast in church teachers (3:1–4:21). The proud and divisive Corinthians do not sufficiently understand the role of church teachers, so Paul teaches about teachers.

Section Outline

II. Issues Paul responds to based on reports about the Corinthians and a letter from the Corinthians (1:10–15:58)
A. Dividing over church teachers (1:10–4:21)
1. The gospel requires the church to be unified—not divided over its teachers (1:10–17)
2. God’s wisdom contradicts worldly wisdom (1:18–2:16)
a. Its message is a crucified Messiah (1:18–25)
b. Its followers are low-status people (1:26–31)
c. Its herald (Paul) proclaimed the message unimpressively (2:1–5)
d. God has now revealed his wisdom only to persons with the Spirit (2:6–16)
3. People with the Spirit should not boast in church teachers (3:1–4:21)
a. Rebuke: Christians who divide over church teachers are behaving immaturely—like people who do not have God’s Spirit (3:1–4)
b. Reason: church teachers are merely God’s servants (3:5–9)
c. Warning: church teachers must take care how they build God’s church (3:10–15)
d. Warning: God will destroy anyone who destroys God’s temple (3:16–17)
e. Exhortation: do not boast in church teachers (3:18–23)
f. Rebuke: do not presumptuously judge church teachers (4:1–5)
g. Rebuke: the apostles—not the Corinthians—model God’s wisdom (4:6–13)
h. Fatherly appeal and warning: imitate Paul, who plans to return (4:14–21)


1:10–17 Paul appeals to the Corinthian church to be united and not divided over their teachers (v. 10). He appeals to them because Chloe’s people reported to him that the Corinthians were quarreling over which teacher to follow (vv. 11–12). Such quarreling is foolish (v. 13). Paul is grateful he baptized so few of them because fewer of them can therefore schismatically follow him as the one who baptized them (vv. 14–16). This is important, because Christ commissioned Paul not primarily to baptize but to preach the gospel in a Christ-exalting way that contradicts worldly wisdom (v. 17).

1:10 This sentence expresses Paul’s main argument in 1:10–4:21. Paul transitions from affirming the Corinthians in the previous paragraph to gently confronting them. His basis for appeal is that they share the same “Lord Jesus Christ,” which connects to the previous section (cf. 1:2, 3, 7, 8, and esp. 9). This “name” is the ultimate one; Paul does not appeal by “the name of Paul” or others (cf. vv. 12–13, 15).

He expresses the same appeal three ways in a chiasm:

(A) positively: “that all of you agree”
(B) negatively: “that there be no divisions among you”
(A′) positively: “that you be united”

“All of you agree” and having “the same mind and the same judgment” do not mean that Christians must agree on everything without exception. The context restricts this to not schismatically holding rival opinions over church teachers (vv. 11–15). There should “be no divisions among you.” The church must be unified on what the gospel is and what it entails.

1:11 This sentence states the reason Paul appeals to the church in Corinth. Paul has learned some grim news about what is happening back in Corinth: the church is engaged in rivalry by contentiously taking positions regarding which church teacher they follow. “Quarreling” (Gk. eris) is a work of the flesh (cf. Gal. 5:20, where “strife” translates eris). Paul also mentions eris as a vice in 1 Corinthians 3:3; 2 Corinthians 12:20; Romans 1:29; 13:13; Philippians 1:15; 1 Timothy 6:4; and Titus 3:9.
Chloe was a woman whom the church in Corinth knew of but who was not necessarily a Christian. Her servants or employees who reported to Paul were almost certainly Christians, and they may also be the source of other reports Paul mentions (e.g., 1 Cor. 5:1; 11:18).
Paul continues to broach this issue gently by calling the Corinthians “my brothers.” He affectionately cares for them as fellow siblings in God’s family, the church (cf. 1:10 ESV mg.), and he continues to call them brothers throughout the letter.

1:12 Paul specifies the rivalry that concerns him. Church members are claiming to follow one teacher over others. The first three listed groups follow church teachers who have ministered to them (cf. Cephas—which transliterates the Aramaic name for Peter—in 9:5 and Apollos in 16:12), while the fourth group sanctimoniously claims to follow the Messiah himself: “I follow Christ” (cf. the first question in 1:13: “Is Christ divided?”).
These Corinthians are copying their worldly culture by dividing over teachers.11 Secular Corinthians who followed a professional public teacher were loyal exclusively to that teacher, and they quarreled with those who followed other teachers, arguing that their teacher was superior.12 The culture was socially stratified, which bred factions, especially with patron-client relationships.13

1:13 Paul continues his appeal from verse 10 by asking three rhetorical questions rebuking the factions in verse 12. The answer to each question is an emphatic “No.”14 The gospel itself shows why dividing over church teachers is wrong (cf. Introduction: Theology of 1 Corinthians). Emphasizing one English word in each of Paul’s questions helps to express his incredulousness: “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” The rest of the paragraph expands on this third question.

1:14–16 Paul baptized few of the Corinthians. He says “none” but then recalls some exceptions, which illustrates that identifying the baptizer is relatively unimportant. He is glad he did not baptize many of them, because that could have contributed to an “I follow Paul” division claiming to be baptized in Paul’s name.

1:17 Here Paul offers the reason for his statements in verses 14–15. Christ himself commissioned Paul. His mission includes both baptizing people and preaching the gospel (cf. Matt. 28:19–20), but Paul contrasts those activities (“not … to baptize but to preach the gospel”) to emphasize that heralding the gospel is his main calling. He is not demeaning baptism.15
What Paul says in the second half of 1 Corinthians 1:17 transitions to 1:18–2:5. Christ has sent Paul to herald the gospel in a particular manner (without worldly rhetoric) for a particular purpose (to not make Christ’s cross useless).
“With words of eloquent wisdom” is formally “with wisdom [sophia] of speech [logos].” The historical-cultural context of this clever, sophisticated, impressive, status-boosting oratory is especially significant for understanding chapters 1–4 (cf. comment on 2:1–5).

1:18–25 A crucified Messiah is what believers proclaim as wisdom and unbelievers reject as folly. The opening sentence (v. 18) is the thesis of 1:18–2:5.

1:18 On “For,” see Section Overview of 1:10–4:21. This sentence has two contrasting parts: (1) “the word of the cross” (primarily the message’s content, secondarily the act of faithfully heralding it) is folly to those who are on the road to perishing eternally, but (2) it is God’s power to those whom God is saving. In general, unbelievers think a crucified Messiah is silly, stupid, and absurd, but believers treasure the good news that Jesus, whom people mocked as king, reigned from a cross.16

1:19 This verse supports verse 18 by quoting Isaiah 29:14, where Israel claims to honor God but does not love him wholeheartedly (cf. Isa. 29:13). Sinful humans may think they are smarter than God and that God must explain and justify himself to them, but God demolishes such folly.17

1:20 Paul offers four rhetorical questions: the first three support verse 19 with sarcasm (God has confounded this age’s intellectual experts: Greco-Roman philosophers, Jewish law teachers, and brilliant orators), while the fourth is an inference from the first three (God has made worldly wisdom look foolish).

1:21 To explain the final rhetorical question in verse 20, Paul highlights how God made worldly wisdom look foolish through what he and others preached: a crucified Messiah. This pleased God because he wisely planned to save believers through what the “wise” world considered folly.18

1:22–24 To explain verse 21, Paul highlights two types of the worldly wisdom’s idolatry: (1) Jews expected the Messiah to deliver them powerfully from bondage and thought crucifixion signified that God had cursed the victim, so they rejected a crucified Messiah as revolting. (2) Greeks sought what they perceived to be rational and beautiful and thought crucifixion signified a criminal’s defeat, so they rejected a crucified Messiah as absurd and ugly. A crucified messiah is a seeming oxymoron—like civil war or open secret. Crucified connotes shame, weakness, failure, loss, scandalous evil; Messiah connotes grandeur, strength, success, victory, highest honor.19 But the crucified Messiah expresses God’s power and wisdom.
Paul calls believers “those who are called” (v. 24; see also vv. 1–2, 9). When God calls people in this sense (unlike Matt. 22:14), he powerfully enables them to respond and ensures that they will. This calling is effectual.20

1:25 The apostle explains the second half of verse 24 (which renames “Christ crucified” in v. 23) using a chiasm:

(A) Christ the power of God (v. 24c)
(B) and the wisdom of God. (v. 24d)
(B′) For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, (v. 25a)
(A′) and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (v. 25b)

In short, God’s “foolishness” is superior to any wisdom the world could offer, just as his “weakness” far exceeds the strength of men.

1:26–31 God chose mostly low-status people—not the elite.

1:26 Paul offers living proof to illustrate verse 25. At the time God sovereignly called the Corinthian believers, most of them were not wise, influential, or highborn by human standards. “Not many” (which is different from “not any”) qualifies that some of the Corinthians had high status.21

1:27–28 In contrast to verse 26 and as further proof of verse 25, God wisely chose the exact opposite kind of people from those whom worldly wise people would expect: uneducated, noninfluential, and disdained. God chose them in order to shame, confound, and invalidate the elite: the wise, influential, and highborn. This is how God has chosen his people throughout history: for example, skipping the patriarchs’ firstborns and selecting Israel (Deut. 7:6–8; 9:4–6).
Three times Paul says, “God chose.” God has sovereignly chosen people in such a way that he enables them to believe and ensures that they do.22

1:29 Paul next offers the purpose of the choosing he has described in verses 27–28: if God chose primarily those who are wise, influential, or highborn, they might proudly presume that God had chosen them because of their elite status. This is why God chose mostly low-status people—they cannot boast in themselves.

1:30 As a result of this choosing (vv. 27–28), believers are united with Christ Jesus because of God, not themselves.23
For believers, a crucified Messiah is “wisdom from God.” Instead of boasting in our wisdom, influence, or pedigree, we boast in Jesus, the true wisdom—our “righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” These three realities highlight aspects of how believers benefit from a crucified Messiah:

(1) Righteousness is God’s gift of a righteous status to sinful people. The imagery is from the law court. This gift is judicial (God’s legally declaring people to be righteous before him because they are in Jesus), not transformative (God’s morally making them righteous by gradually infusing righteousness into them). God imputes Jesus’ righteousness to the believer.24
(2) Sanctification is definitive (cf. comment on 1:2).
(3) Redemption is a concept from the world of commerce and slavery. Redemption in both the Greco-Roman and Jewish contexts commonly referred to freedom from slavery (after someone paid a price or ransom). In our case, we are enslaved to sin, and Jesus frees us from that slavery (by paying the price: his death).

1:31 Believers are in Christ Jesus (v. 30) so that—to borrow words from Jeremiah 9:23–24—those who boast must boast in the Lord (i.e., in Jesus the Messiah) and not in anything or anyone else.

2:1–5 Paul preached unimpressively. This paragraph raises many questions.25 For example, why did the Corinthians expect Paul to speak impressively “with lofty speech or wisdom” and “in plausible words of wisdom”? Why did Paul not speak with eloquence or human wisdom or wise and persuasive words? Does this imply that it is wrong to attempt to preach persuasively and powerfully?
To understand this paragraph, it is helpful to understand the historical-cultural context of the Greco-Roman world at that time. In many cultures today, people who excel at rhetoric are not nearly as popular as movie stars, the most successful music artists, or athletic superstars who play football or basketball. But in the Greco-Roman world of Paul’s day, people who excelled at rhetoric and philosophy were popular. They were called sophists. Debating others and giving flashy speeches was both a science and an art, a polished skill that required sharp wit, deep knowledge, impeccable logic, stylish use of words, and fiery passion, whether the topic involved politics, law, religion, or business. The most successful rhetoricians had devoted followers, loyal students who would pay handsomely in exchange for discipleship. The more convincing and moving was one’s rhetoric, the more paying students one would have. And the way one expressed oneself was at least as important as what one said. Style and substance both mattered immensely.
Sophists generally traveled around and gained followers who would pay them. And when a sophist entered a city, he would typically display his rhetorical abilities in order to gain social standing and attract students. Paul knew that the Corinthians expected him to do so when he entered Corinth. But if Paul mimicked the flashy and persuasive rhetorical styles of the day, he would risk impressing people with his style rather than powerfully communicating the gospel message.
Paul is certainly not opposed to persuading people. His entire ministry is all about persuading people, sometimes with winsome intelligence (as in Acts 17:22–31). (This passage should not encourage unprepared or lazy preachers!) But Paul refuses to follow the secular culture by relying on a result-driven, manipulative rhetorical style in order to establish his credibility as an orator; instead he focuses on conveying the message faithfully while relying exclusively on the Spirit’s power (not his rhetoric) to persuade people and transform them through the gospel.
The words describing Paul’s preaching in 1 Corinthians 1:17–2:5 are not words influential orators would use to describe their rhetoric. Instead, Paul describes his preaching with the metaphor of a herald. Instead of creatively persuading people with one’s own message, a good herald is a messenger who faithfully announces another’s message. Paul refuses to think, let alone say, “Behold me as I brilliantly persuade you to behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (cf. John 1:29).

2:1 This verse connects to Paul’s disavowal of “words of eloquent wisdom” in 1:17 in light of 1:18–31. It is difficult to determine whether the text should read testimony or mystery (cf. ESV mg.). Either way, Paul’s main idea is that he did not proclaim God’s message with eloquence or human wisdom.

2:2–4 Paul follows with three proofs supporting his statement in verse 1. First, Paul’s sole message was a crucified Messiah (unlike the sophists’). Second, Paul’s physical presence was unimpressive (unlike the sophists’). He did not swagger. “Weakness” probably refers to the sort of hardships Paul recounts in 4:11–13 or his physical illness (cf. 2 Cor. 4:10; 10:10; 12:7; Gal. 4:13–14). Third, the style and content of Paul’s speech was unimpressive (unlike the sophists’). The power of sophists was in themselves; the power of Paul’s preaching was in the Spirit. Paul’s style and content proved the Spirit’s power.26 The evidence of this was the converted Corinthians.

2:5 Here Paul spells out his reason for the type of speech he describes in verse 4, while also providing a literary bookend to 1:17–18.

2:6–16 God has now revealed his wisdom only to persons with the Spirit. After explaining why he did not speak “wisdom” to the Corinthians when he entered Corinth (vv. 1–5), Paul qualifies that he actually does impart a different kind of wisdom to certain people.

2:6–7 The recipients and nature of true wisdom differ from the wisdom in verses 1–5.
Recipients. Paul imparts wisdom not just to anyone but to “the mature,” a term elite orators applied to themselves. Paul uses the term to refer to all believers, who follow a crucified Messiah.
Nature. The wisdom Paul imparts is not what famous orators would impart: “a wisdom of this age.” Nor does he impart a worldly wisdom that grasps for power and prestige, which this age’s soon-to-be-forgotten leaders value. (“Rulers of this age” probably refers not only to political officials like Pontius Pilate but also to social leaders of the worldly culture, such as the influential orators Paul refutes in 1:18–2:5.) Instead, Paul imparts God’s wisdom, which is “secret [mystฤ“rion] and hidden”—or, to put it more formally, “hidden in a mystery” (NET). God’s wisdom is a mystery that he has hidden but is now revealing.
What Paul means by mystery is not what we usually mean by this term. For us, mystery typically refers to something that seems impossible to understand but that a genius like Sherlock Holmes might be able to solve (to use the genre of crime fiction as an example). But for Paul, mystery refers to something that we could never figure out ourselves but that God reveals. The only way we can know the content of the mystery is for God to reveal it. A mystery is something God had hidden but has now revealed. We learn about it only when God reveals it to us.27
The specific mystery Paul refers to in verse 7 is God’s wisdom that contrasts with human wisdom in 1:17–2:5, namely, the wisdom of a crucified Messiah. God has now revealed that mystery to believers, but it remains hidden to unbelievers. Compare 2 Corinthians 4:3: “If our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.”
Paul specifies the time and purpose of God’s decreeing that mystery:
Time: “before the ages.” The leaders of Jesus’ day thought they were being shrewd to execute Jesus, but they actually carried out what God “had predestined to take place” (cf. Acts 2:22–23; 4:27–28).
Purpose: “for our glory.” God has saved his people (past); he is saving his people (present); and he will save his people (future). “For our glory” refers to that future saving when God glorifies his people. It contrasts with those “who are doomed to pass away” (1 Cor. 2:6). God’s people, Paul says in Romans 8:17, are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

2:8 “The rulers of this age” (cf. v. 6) were unaware of the wisdom mentioned in verse 7. Otherwise they would have acted differently (cf. Acts 13:27).

2:9–10a God did not reveal his wisdom to this age’s rulers (cf. v. 8) but has revealed it to his people.
Verse 9 quotes a combination of OT texts, primarily Isaiah 64:4, to refer to the mystery in 1 Corinthians 2:7, namely, that which God has hidden in the past (and is still hiding from some people) and has now revealed to his people. This does not refer to a future time when God will reveal the eternal home he has prepared for his people (as in Matt. 25:34). The quotation contains four lines; the first three lines (“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined”) are the very things God has prepared (line 4).
The way God reveals his wisdom to his people is “through the Spirit” (not clever human rhetoric). Paul explains this in 1 Corinthians 2:10b–16.

2:10b God has revealed his wisdom to his people through the Spirit (v. 10a) because the Spirit searches out everything—including God’s deepest secrets (cf. Rom. 11:33).

2:11 Paul explains why the Spirit probes the “depths of God” (v. 10b) with a rhetorical question and concluding statement. The only one who can know a person’s thoughts is that person himself, namely, his spirit. Similarly, the only one who can know God’s thoughts is God himself, namely, his Spirit.

2:12 Paul continues to develop the Spirit-theme from verses 10–11. God’s people have the Spirit—not the spirit of worldly wisdom but God’s Spirit of true wisdom. God gave his people his Spirit for a specific purpose: so that they would understand what God reveals to them. People can understand what God reveals only through the Spirit; it has nothing to do with their own intelligence or wisdom.

2:13 Now Paul describes how he speaks about “the things freely given us by God” (v. 12). This is the third time in the passage that Paul says he imparts wisdom (cf. vv. 6–7), but this instance is the most specific. Here Paul explains that the way he imparts wisdom is through his spoken and written words, which come not from human wisdom but from the Spirit’s wisdom.
The final phrase is the means through which Paul imparts those wise words. There are two main ways to understand this phrase: (1) “interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual” (ESV) or (2) “interpreting spiritual truths in spiritual language” (ESV mg.).

• Verse 13a: Paul imparts “the things freely given us by God” (v. 12) through wise, Spirit-taught words.
• Verse 13b: How?
• Option 1: By explaining them to people with the Spirit.
• Option 2: By explaining them with wise, Spirit-taught words.

It is difficult to know which option Paul intends. Both make good sense in the context: the first anticipates verses 14–15, while the second explains verse 13a. Greek grammar allows both options, and both communicate the same basic idea in the literary context: Paul speaks about what God has freely given people with the Spirit by explaining it to them with Spirit-taught words.
The translations “those who are spiritual” (v. 13), “the spiritual person” (v. 15), and “spiritual people” (3:1) could mislead some readers into thinking that Paul is referring to a spiritually mature believer as opposed to a spiritually immature one. But 2:6–16 is filled with contrasts: worldly wisdom versus God’s wisdom, the world’s spirit versus God’s Spirit, and people with the Spirit versus people without the Spirit. This is what “the spiritual person” (v. 15) is: one who has the Spirit and thus accepts the message of a crucified Messiah. And “the natural person” (v. 14) is one who lacks the Spirit (cf. Jude 19) and thus rejects the message of a crucified Messiah (cf. comment on 1 Cor. 3:1).

2:14 This sentence contains four clauses. The first and third contrast with the final clause of verse 13, and the second and fourth give reasons for the first and third, respectively:

• The person without the Spirit (i.e., the unbeliever) does not accept the truths God’s Spirit reveals.
• Reason: That person thinks such truths are foolishness.
• The person without the Spirit cannot understand the truths God’s Spirit reveals.
• Reason: A person can understand those truths only through the Spirit.

2:15 In contrast to the person without the Spirit in verse 14, one with the Spirit (i.e., the believer) can evaluate and understand the truths God’s Spirit reveals. But as a person with no sense of smell cannot evaluate perfumes, those without the Spirit cannot evaluate or understand a person with the Spirit regarding the truths God’s Spirit reveals.

2:16 Paul quotes Isaiah 40:13 to support 1 Corinthians 2:14–15. We cannot understand God’s wisdom unless God reveals it to us, so it is ridiculous to think we could give God advice. But those with the Spirit can understand God’s wisdom because they indeed have “the mind of Christ.” This is why it is so sad and foolish for Christians to esteem worldly wisdom over God’s wisdom—as some of the Corinthians are doing (which Paul addresses in the next paragraph).

3:1–4 Paul offers a rebuke: Christians who divide over church teachers are behaving immaturely, like people who do not have God’s Spirit.

3:1 Paul laments that his brothers and sisters in the Corinthian church who are dividing over church teachers are not acting like people with the Spirit. Instead, they are acting in a worldly way, like people without the Spirit. They are acting immaturely.
Primarily on the basis of this passage, a view of Christian living called “higher life theology” divides all humans into three distinct groups: (1) non-Christians, (2) “fleshly” or “carnal” Christians, and (3) “spiritual” Christians. Thus there are two categories of Christians according to such theology. Carnal Christians live like non-Christians and need to experience a “let-go-and-let-God” crisis to become spiritual Christians.
The problem with such a paradigm is that in this passage those who are “spiritual” are not only the spiritually mature (i.e., an elite subset of Christians) but all people who have the Spirit (cf. comment on 2:13). This well-intentioned view of Christian living is exegetically and theologically erroneous.28

3:2 The Corinthians should be acting like grown-ups but instead are acting like infants. When the Corinthians first converted, Paul fed them like infants instead of adults because they were newborns in Christ. He focused on the basic gospel message (“milk”) rather than more fully explaining the gospel and what it entails (“solid food”). That was appropriate for recent converts. By this time, however, they should have matured.29

3:3 With reference to dividing over church teachers, the Corinthians are acting like people without the Spirit. The proof is the jealousy and strife among them. “Of the flesh” translates a word that means “pert[aining] to being human at a disappointing level of behavior or characteristics, (merely) human.”30 “Behaving only in a human way” could be rendered more formally as “walking according to a human,” that is, living like a fallen human without the Spirit.

3:4 Paul illustrates the jealousy and strife of verse 3. People with the Spirit should not divide over church teachers.

3:5–9 The apostle offers a clear reason for the rebuke of verses 1–4: church teachers are merely God’s servants.

3:5 This verse follows as an inference of verse 4. Paul and Apollos are merely the Messiah’s servants (cf. 4:1) to whom he has assigned specific tasks. They were the human instruments through whom the Corinthians came to believe the gospel. It is foolish for the Corinthians to rank God’s servants according to what role God has given them or to give allegiance to one over against others.

3:6 To illustrate this truth (v. 5) Paul uses the metaphor of growing crops in a field. A metaphor is an implied comparison without “like” or “as” containing three parts: (1) an image; (2) the topic or item that the image illustrates; and (3) the point of similarity or comparison. Sometimes one or two of the three components may be implicit rather than explicit. The farming metaphor in verses 5–9 contains seven images (table 2.1).

3:7 It follows from verse 6 that the servant who plants the seed and the servant who waters it are not that important. They are just farmhands. Only one person actually causes the seed to grow, and that is God (cf. Ps. 127:1; 2 Cor. 3:5).

TABLE 2.1: The Farming Metaphor in 1 Corinthians 3:5–9

A field (v. 9b).
The Corinthian church.
The farmer assigns a servant to plant seed (vv. 5–6a).
God assigned Paul to found the Corinthian church.
The farmer assigns another servant to water the crop (vv. 5, 6b).
God later assigned Apollos to teach the Corinthian church.
Only God can make a field produce a crop (vv. 6c–7).
Only God can make the church grow.
The servant who plants and the servant who waters work together with the same purpose: to accomplish what the farmer wants by helping his field produce an abundant harvest (vv. 8a, 9a).
God’s servants work together with the same purpose: to accomplish what their Master wants by helping his church grow.
The farmer will reward each servant for his own hard work in the field (v. 8b).
God will reward each servant for his own hard work in the church.
Both the servants and the field belong to God (v. 9).
Both church teachers and the church belong to God.

3:8 In short, the servant who plants the seed and the servant who waters it are working as a team with the same goal. They are not competing against each other. God rewards each servant according to how faithfully he has completed his assigned work.

3:9 Paul provides a reason for his statement in the previous verse: church leaders like Paul and Apollos are God’s coworkers. This does not mean they are coworkers with (or alongside) God in the same sense that they are coworkers with Peter. They work for him, under his supervision and blessing.
If church teachers are field workers, then the rest of the church is God’s field. (Church refers to people, not a place. And it refers to the people corporately, not individually. See comment on 1:2.) Paul then changes the metaphor from farming (church = field) to construction (church = building) to transition to 3:10–17. Since the building in verses 9–15 becomes God’s temple in verses 16–17, the metaphors in verses 5–17 are connected as God’s garden-temple.31

3:10–15 The apostle issues a warning: church teachers must take care in how they build God’s church.32 Paul supports his warning at the end of verse 10 with two reasons (vv. 11, 12–15).

3:10 Paul begins to develop the metaphor that the church is “God’s building” (v. 9). As in the farm metaphor (vv. 5–9), Paul distinguishes church teachers from the rest of the church. In this construction metaphor, church teachers are the builders and the rest of the church is the building. The construction metaphor in verses 9–15 contains ten images (table 2.2).

TABLE 2.2: The Construction Metaphor in 1 Corinthians 3:9–15


A building (v. 9c).
The Corinthian church.

The building belongs to God (v. 9c).
The Corinthian church belongs to God.

A skilled master builder lays a foundation (v. 10a).
Paul wisely founded the Corinthian church upon the gospel of a crucified Messiah (v. 11).

Later builders further build on the foundation (v. 10b).
Others later taught the Corinthian church.

Each builder must take care how he builds upon the foundation (v. 10c).
Church teachers must take care how they build upon a church’s gospel foundation.

Later builders can build with high-quality nonflammable materials (v. 12a).
Church teachers can build God’s church consistent with its foundation of a crucified Messiah.

Later builders can build with low-quality flammable materials (v. 12b).
Church teachers can build God’s church inconsistent with its foundation of a crucified Messiah—in a way that reflects the worldly wisdom of this age.

Fire will test and reveal the quality of a building (v. 13).
God will disclose the quality of how church teachers have built churches.

A builder whose building survives a fire will receive a reward (v. 14).
God will reward church teachers who build with the right materials.

A builder whose building does not survive a fire will suffer loss, but he himself will survive though only as one escaping through the flames (v. 15).
God will not reward church teachers who build with the wrong materials, though he will save them from eternal judgment.

As God’s servant and with God’s help, Paul has completed his task of skillfully or wisely laying a foundation (i.e., he founded the Corinthian church). Others may build on that foundation (e.g., Apollos later teaches the Corinthian church). Today people can construct buildings relatively quickly, but in the ancient world magnificent buildings could take decades or even centuries to build. So different builders would contribute to various aspects of the building project over the years.
The final sentence is a warning that develops the previous sentence and is the main idea of verses 10–15: Each builder (i.e., church teacher) must take care in how he builds on the foundation Paul has laid. What follows are two supporting reasons.

3:11 The first reason each builder must take care in how he builds God’s church is that once a church is established, one cannot re-lay the foundation, which is Jesus the Messiah—“Jesus Christ and him crucified” (2:2). The foundation upon which church teachers build a superstructure is the gospel, so they must take care to build in line with that gospel and not deviate from it. Otherwise the superstructure will be unstable.

3:12–15 The second reason each builder must take care how he builds God’s church is that on judgment day (cf. 1:8; 4:5; 2 Cor. 5:10) God will display the quality of every builder’s work and judge each builder accordingly.

3:12–13 Fire tests and reveals the quality of one’s building, so builders should build with high-quality nonflammable materials (“gold, silver, precious stones”) rather than low-quality flammable ones (“wood, hay, straw”). To distinguish what each of those six building materials represents would be to overexegete the metaphor. Paul’s point is that the quality of the building materials must be consistent with the building’s foundation of a crucified Messiah. Thus to build with perishable materials is to build a church with motives and methods that are not gospel-centered but reflect the worldly wisdom of this age.

3:14 God will reward his servants who build with the right materials. Each faithful servant “will receive his commendation from God” (4:5).

3:15 God will not reward his servants who build with the wrong materials, though he will save them from eternal judgment, “but only as through fire.”33 Suffering loss includes not having God commend them.34

3:16–17 Paul issues another warning: God will destroy anyone who destroys his temple.

3:16 The church as a group is God’s temple (cf. ESV mg.). The temple is where God lives, and God’s Spirit dwells in the church. (For a short biblical theology of the temple, cf. comment on 6:19–20.)

3:17 The first sentence is a severe general warning: if anyone destroys God’s temple (the church), God will destroy that person. Paul warns “anyone”; he does not say, “If any builder destroys God’s temple.” But what he says still fits with the building metaphor, since, while only the builders (i.e., church teachers) may construct the building, anyone (church teacher or not) can destroy a building.
For a person to destroy the church is different from a church teacher’s building on the foundation with flammable materials, so the caveat in verse 15 about God’s saving the builder does not apply here. God is warning everyone—church teachers, church members, and anyone else—that they will experience eternal judgment if they destroy God’s church. The reason God will destroy temple-destroyers is because God’s temple is holy.35
In the literary context, the way to destroy a church is to focus on worldly wisdom rather than the gospel. Thus, ways to destroy a church include dividing over teachers, focusing on less important issues instead of the gospel, or teaching false doctrine. Paul’s warning applies especially to divisive people in the Corinthian church.

3:18–23 The apostle offers an exhortation: Do not boast in church teachers. The main idea is the first sentence in verse 21.

3:18 This paragraph returns to the wisdom theme of 1:18–2:16. A person who is wise according to worldly standards must become a fool according to worldly standards in order to become truly wise. If one thinks otherwise, he is deceiving himself.

3:19a Paul supports his previous statement (v. 18) by again repeating the wisdom theme of 1:18–2:16.

3:19b–20 Further support comes from two OT passages (Job 5:13; Ps. 94:11) that declare that God’s wisdom is superior to human wisdom.

3:21a The inference of verses 18–20 (and more broadly of 1:10–3:20) is clear: it is foolish for a church to divide over which teacher is best (cf. 1:12; 3:4–7; 4:6).

3:21b–23 “All things are yours” (v. 21b) and “all are yours” (the last line of v. 22) state a reason for verse 21a. In between those two lines, Paul lists eight examples of “all things” that belong to the Corinthian Christians (cf. “all things” in Rom. 8:32). The first three are church teachers (Paul, Apollos, Cephas—which implies that all church teachers are God’s gift to Christians), and the final five are realities that the Messiah’s people do not need to fear, for he is sovereign over them (on the final two pairs, cf. Rom. 8:38).
All these sorts of items belong to the Corinthian Christians, for Christians belong to the Messiah, who owns all things (cf. 1 Cor. 15:23–28). And the Messiah belongs to God.36 Therefore, Christians belong to God.
Paul reverses the Corinthian slogans from 1:12. Christian, it is foolish for you to say, “I follow Paul” or whomever (1:12). “You are Christ’s” (3:23)—and not in the sanctimonious sense of 1:12. You do not belong to Paul; Paul belongs to you! You belong to Christ and thus to God.

4:1–5 Paul issues a rebuke: Do not presumptuously judge church teachers.

4:1 As an inference from all that Paul has said thus far, he states that, rather than regarding church teachers such as Paul the way Corinthians would view a sophist, the Corinthian Christians should regard church teachers as Christ’s servants (see 3:5)37 and “stewards of the mysteries of God” (on mystery, cf. comment on 2:6–7). Although to many contemporary English speakers a steward is a person who looks after passengers on an airplane, ship, or train (e.g., by bringing them meals), the word Paul uses refers to a servant whose master empowers him to manage proactively the master’s private commercial estate.38

4:2 If a steward’s job is to manage faithfully what his master has put him in charge of and entrusted to him, then the standard of success for Paul is not worldly views of wisdom but instead whether he faithfully does what his Master commissions him to do.

4:3–4 What matters to Paul is whether God finds him faithful (cf. v. 2). It is a “very small thing” to Paul what the Corinthians or any other humans think. And that includes himself, because he could assess himself incorrectly (cf. 2 Cor. 10:18). Paul can say that his conscience is clear, but having a clear conscience does not mean one is therefore innocent.39

4:5 Flowing from Paul’s argument in verses 3–4 is the fact that since the only judgment that ultimately matters is the one in which God will flawlessly examine his servants after Christ returns (cf. 3:8), the Corinthians should not prematurely judge Paul.
This does not mean, however, that a person should never judge himself (cf. 2 Cor. 13:5) or that a church should never judge a church teacher (cf. 1 Tim. 5:19–20). Similar to how “Judge not” in Matthew 7:1 means not “Do not ever judge for any reason” but instead “Do not be judgmental,”40 here “Do not pronounce judgment” does not mean “Do not ever judge for any reason” (cf. 1 Cor. 5:12; 6:5) but instead means “Do not presumptuously judge.” What is wrong is not judging but self-righteous judging according to the world’s standards rather than God’s.
Paul uses the servant imagery in 3:5–9 to teach that servants work together with the same purpose: to accomplish what their master wants by helping the growth process. Paul uses the servant imagery in 4:1–5 to teach that those who serve God are ultimately accountable only to God and not to the people God commissions them to serve.
The last line says that at the final judgment each will receive his praise from God. This encourages God’s faithful servants to know that God will be graciously positive—more so than humans who presumptuously judge them.

4:6–13 The apostle then offers a rebuke: the apostles—not the Corinthians—model God’s wisdom. Paul gets personal here because some of the Corinthians are proudly rejecting his apostolic teaching and authority.

4:6 Paul explains in light of what he has written (1:10–4:5) that he has been applying his argument to the sinful Paul-Apollos competition in order to benefit the Corinthian brothers and sisters. They benefit by learning not to go beyond what is written, which probably refers to what is written in the OT, which Paul has quoted several times already (1:19, 31; 2:9, 16; 3:19–20). Not going beyond what is written entails not boasting in human wisdom, especially not being puffed up as a follower of one church teacher over against others.

4:7 The first two of three rhetorical questions Paul asks in this verse are two reasons for not being puffed up as a follower of one church teacher over against others (end of v. 6).

• Reason 1. You do not have the right to make such a judgment.
• Reason 2. Everything you have is a gift from God.

The third rhetorical question is an inference of the second. The Corinthians are wrong to boast about anything they have, as if they earned it, because everything they have is a God-given gift they received. Rather than being puffed up, they should be humble.

4:8 The four exclamations in this verse are cutting sarcasm. The first three are examples of how the Corinthians have sinfully boasted, while the fourth is a sarcastic aside to the third.
Paul appears to be rebuking the Corinthians for getting the balance wrong on the already and not yet aspects of the kingdom of God.41 Worldly values of their culture are negatively influencing them to proudly overemphasize the already aspect by thinking they have already begun to reign.

4:9 Paul goes on to explain the final exclamation of verse 8. According to worldly wisdom, the Corinthian Christians should be reigning as kings right now. And if this is the case, then Paul and the other apostles are the opposite—put on display like condemned captives at a victory parade, condemned to die, like criminals in the arena at the mercy of executioners or wild animals. They are a “spectacle,” which translates theatron—“what one sees at a theater, a play.”42 It is as if the world is their stage, while both angels and humans in the amphitheater stare at them with interest.

4:10 Three sarcastic contrasts illustrate verses 7–9. In each contrast, Paul and the apostles are the low-status “spectacle” (v. 9), as the Corinthians consider them to be, while the Corinthians are the high-status “kings” (v. 8), as they consider themselves to be.

4:11–13 Paul illustrates how the apostles are foolish, weak, and dishonorable (v. 10). They are the opposite of “rich” (cf. v. 8). They have to work hard with their own hands (cf. 9:4–18; 2 Cor. 11:9; 12:13–17; Acts 18:3). (In the historical-cultural context, only low-status people—not esteemed teachers—did menial, manual labor.) They respond to being “in disrepute” (1 Cor. 4:10) by blessing instead of reviling, by enduring persecution instead of getting revenge, by speaking kindly instead of slandering. In the eyes of the world, they are like trash.

4:14–21 Now Paul issues a fatherly appeal and warning to imitate him (vv. 14–17), who plans to return (vv. 18–21). Paul pastorally follows up on his rebukes in verses 1–13 by shrewdly reasserting his apostolic authority. (This also sets up Paul to address the serious problem in ch. 5 authoritatively.)

4:14 Paul has just rebuked the Corinthians not to shame them but to warn or correct them, as a wise and kind father shepherds his beloved children without causing them to feel bitter or resentful.

4:15 As the one who planted the Corinthian church, Paul is their spiritual father. Even if they had “countless guides” (more formally, “ten thousand guardians”), they have only one father. A guardian is a servant who works for a father by caring for his children.

4:16 The logic in this verse, an inference of verse 15, does not make sense in modern contexts that are individualistic, but before industrialism, sons imitated the vocation of their fathers. So Paul encourages the Corinthians to imitate him as their role model by living in light of God’s wisdom of a crucified Messiah, not in light of worldly wisdom. In particular, the Corinthians must mature by not dividing over church leaders. They should also imitate Paul by becoming fathers in the gospel to others.43

4:17 As explanation (cf. 16:10), Paul points out that the Corinthians, who have been Christians for no more than about three years, need help to connect what they know with how they live. Both right belief (orthodoxy) and right behavior (orthopraxy) are important (cf. 1 Tim. 4:16).

4:18–19 Some proud Corinthians think Paul will not visit them again, but Paul promises to return (God willing; cf. James 4:15) and confront them.
Paul contrasts their “talk” and “power.” They are enamored with words of eloquent wisdom that empty the Messiah’s cross of its power (cf. 1 Cor. 1:17). They value the worldly wisdom of sophist rhetoric rather than the power of the gospel. They talk big, but they are like a Chihuahua crazily barking at a Doberman.

4:20 The basis of God’s reign is not talk but true power (explaining the end of v. 19). And as Paul has repeatedly emphasized in chapters 1–4, God’s wisdom and power contradict worldly wisdom and power. God shows his power through human weakness (cf. 2 Cor. 12:9).

4:21 Paul addresses the church like a father might lovingly appeal to his misbehaving children. What child would not prefer a loving father’s gentle hug over his disciplinary rod?



This is the primary way to respond to chapters 1–4. Right thinking about the gospel produces right living in the gospel.44
An impatient, selfish father might appeal to his young children to stop irritating each other so that he does not have to take the time to umpire squabbles among them. (I am speaking theoretically, of course.) This is not how Paul appeals to the Corinthians. Paul is not rebuking the Corinthians because they are annoying or inconveniencing him. He is rebuking them because they are not living out the gospel. The main reason church unity is so important is not that it is expedient. Rather, it is a condition that the gospel requires. God has called the church “into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1:9). This is why Paul appeals to the Corinthians “by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:10). A crucified Messiah is the only basis for church unity.
Dividing over church teachers is not how people with the Spirit behave (3:1–4). When unbelievers (i.e., people without the Spirit) work together in various groups—such as government leaders, employees of an organization, or teachers at a school—it does not surprise us if there is some jealousy and strife among them. Groups of unbelievers typically have their own versions of playing politics. But that should not be the case for the church—for people with the Spirit.
It is natural that the personalities of some teachers will seem more appealing or that some will strike us as better communicators. But if they are qualified elders (cf. 1 Tim. 3:1–7; Titus 1:5–9) faithfully serving God as he has assigned, then the church should joyfully follow all of them without quarreling over who is best. It is foolish for us to exalt one teacher over others divisively. Church teachers are merely God’s servants (1 Cor. 3:5–9, 18–23). That is all. Thank God for them. They are all God’s gift to us. But what is important is that God has given them to us and that God is the one who makes the church grow. Therefore, we should benefit from the strengths of multiple church teachers without fixating on just one. Healthy churches have a plurality of church teachers, and church members should benefit from each of their strengths rather than polarizing into groups that prefer one over the others.
The most direct way to apply 1 Corinthians 1:10–4:21 is to church teachers who serve the local church in person. But today technology makes it easy to watch or listen to so-called Christian celebrities teach the Bible, to read their books and articles, and to follow them on social media. The same principle applies here: we can benefit from the strengths of many church teachers without fixating on just one. We must not be known as a follower of John Piper or Tim Keller or fill-in-the-blank. By all means, we may benefit from outstanding Bible teachers, but not in rival groups. We cannot schismatically follow just one church teacher.


Many people today display the cross on themselves (e.g., jewelry, tattoos) and in homes or religious buildings (e.g., paintings, engravings, stained glass, sculptures). Some people are overly familiar with the cross and have so domesticated the crucified Messiah that they do not understand that the cross was scandalous in the first century. It was abhorrent and shameful, and the message of a crucified Messiah was silly and abhorrent to the world. Proclaiming that “foolish” message is the means God has chosen to save people. We may think that what we most need to hear are human-centered messages that superficially comfort, cheer, or counsel us, but what we sinners most need are God-centered messages that penetratingly confront us and point us to the cross.

3. BOAST IN THE LORD (1:26–31; 3:18–23)

God chose mostly low-status people, so we boast in him—not in what we are or in what we have or in our favorite Christian teacher. God did not choose us on the basis of our impressive skills, intelligence, money, power, fame, strength, beauty, or achievements. So why would we boast in ourselves? And all church teachers are God’s gift to us, so why would we boast in one of them? Two lines from Stuart Townend’s hymn “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” get at this: “I will not boast in anything, no gifts, no power, no wisdom; but I will boast in Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection.” As Carl F. H. Henry asks, “How on earth can anyone be arrogant when standing beside the cross?”45


It is foolish to rely on charisma, winsomeness, or cleverness. This is not what saves people. Similarly, it is unwise to rely on communicating in the most culturally charming way to win people over, especially when those methods trivialize the message of a crucified Messiah while increasing the orator’s prestige. What saves people is not a persuasive speaking style or other market-driven strategies but the Spirit’s power, which people experience when God’s servants proclaim a crucified Messiah in their weakness. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts” (Zech. 4:6). No one can exalt himself and exalt Christ at the same time: “No man can give the impression that he himself is clever and that Christ is mighty to save.”46


The difference between a believer and an unbeliever is not that one is smarter than the other. The difference is that one has the Spirit. If we did not have the Spirit, we would be like other unbelievers and reject God’s wisdom of a crucified Messiah. The only way we can understand and celebrate that wisdom is if God’s Spirit illuminates our minds to believe what is truly true and enables our affections to love what is truly lovely. There is no reason for us to celebrate our own elitist wisdom and every reason to praise God.


D. A. Carson shrewdly applies 3:10–15:

This ought to be extremely sobering to all who are engaged in vocational ministry. It is possible to “build the church” with such shoddy materials that at the last day you have nothing to show for your labor. People may come, feel “helped,” join in corporate worship, serve on committees, teach Sunday school classes, bring their friends, enjoy “fellowship,” raise funds, participate in counseling sessions and self-help groups, but still not really know the Lord. If the church is being built with large portions of charm, personality, easy oratory, positive thinking, managerial skills, powerful and emotional experiences, and people smarts, but without the repeated, passionate, Spirit-anointed proclamation of “Jesus Christ and him crucified,” we may be winning more adherents than converts. Not for a moment am I suggesting that, say, managerial skills are unnecessary, or that basic people skills are merely optional. But the fundamental nonnegotiable, that without which the church is no longer the church, is the gospel, God’s “folly,” Jesus Christ and him crucified.47

A faithful servant keeps the main thing (a crucified Messiah) the main thing.48
One of the main ways to build God’s church carefully in light of chapters 1–4 is to serve in a way that does not foster factions. We must not think of a church we shepherd as “my church,” because the church belongs to God (3:9, 16–17); we are merely (replaceable) servants. Paul would rather not baptize anyone at all if it meant that they would form “I follow Paul” factions (1:14–15). We must focus on heralding the gospel instead of trying to get people to be loyal exclusively to us. People should be preoccupied with the message, not the messenger. Church teachers exalt Christ; they do not replace him.


While we should not be blindly loyal to any church teacher, we should follow them as they follow Christ (cf. 11:1). We ought not presumptuously judge them by arrogantly assuming that our perspective is superior and that we know their motives. Nor should we think of them as our employees who are accountable ultimately to us. Faithful church teachers are God’s gift to us, and we should thank God for them as they serve God by serving us (cf. Heb. 13:17).

Naselli, A. D. (2020). 1 Corinthians. En I. M. Duguid, J. M. Hamilton Jr., & J. Sklar (Eds.), Romans–Galatians (Vol. X, pp. 230–252). Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

Posts 8392
DAL | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Mar 14 2021 3:19 PM


This looks like a promising series. Do you like it DAL? Can you post some longer samples beyond the short snippets on the Logos website?

As with any series, some volumes are stronger than others outline and content wise.  Overall, it's a great series and it will almost be finished from what I can tell.


Posts 1563
PL | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Mar 14 2021 6:35 PM

Thank you DAL! Very much appreciated!


Posts 8392
DAL | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Mar 14 2021 6:39 PM


Thank you DAL! Very much appreciated!


You’re welcome ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ‘Œ

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