Unity, Boasting, and "Jesus Christ, our Lord"




1 Corinthians 1

We're in a new month, and a new book today as we turn our attention to Paul's first letter to the church in Corinth. Paul had visited Corinth and spent a year and a half there. So far as we know, his converts were the first believers in Corinth -- he "planted" that church. You can refresh your memory of those events (since we read them earlier this year) in the 18th chapter of Acts.

Something to try: Hear it read aloud

My first pass at this chapter was by listening to it as an audio book recording while I was driving. It was an experience I recommend (You can listen here: https://www.biblegateway.com/audio/mclean/niv/1Cor.1)

It feels like it was meant to be read aloud.

Paul was likely dictating this letter. We know from his writings that he had a physical infirmity, a "thorn in the flesh", likely a problem with his eyesight. In some of his letters, including this one, he makes a point to say at the end of the book, "I write this greeting in my own hand" -- suggesting that 1) he didn't personally write the rest of it, and 2) that his script was noticeably different, perhaps larger or scribbly as you might expect from someone with difficulty seeing.

Most likely, he was speaking these thoughts as Sosthenes wrote them down. Hearing it read aloud gives a bit of the feel of that -- it is as though we're listening to Paul speak and, as all of us do when we're dictating, we hear him change course sometimes as he remembers new details. Verses 14-16 seem a good example of that, where he remembers others that he baptized as he goes along.

"Our Lord Jesus Christ"

The second thing that jumped out at me, perhaps because it was being read aloud, was the repetition four times in the first 7 verses (even before he starts to build any arguments) of the strong phrase "our Lord Jesus Christ". I've read these verses many times without getting the impact of that repetition, but while hearing it read it really got my attention.

That phrase is going to give support to two different points Paul is making:

  • End your divisions, stop putting your loyalty in men -- because we share the same Lord.
  • Don't trust in your own wisdom or power or eloquence -- because all we have to boast in is the power of our Lord.

"End your Divisions and be United"

Reports had reached Paul that the church was divided -- and the division was centered over different Christian leaders:

  • Paul

Missionary apostle to the gentiles. He had planted this church and it is unsurprising that many were loyal to him.

  • Apollos

Eloquent early disciple and teacher. His early teaching lacked some key details, but Aquila and Priscilla brought him up to speed and he came to be well respected in the area of Ephesus and Corinth.

  • Cephas

"Peter" is the Greek translation of the Aramaic name "Cephas" that Jesus actually gave to Simon. "Cephas" probably what he was most often actually called. He was prominent as one of the leaders of the Jerusalem church.

Paul reminds them that Jesus is "our Lord" and, as he reminds us here and elsewhere, we have only one Lord. So rather than dividing based on different human views regarding how we should follow our Lord, we should unite in our loyalty to Jesus, our Lord.

"Boast in the Lord"

Paul's mention of his call -- to preach the gospel, rather than just to baptize -- leads him to an important point about the preaching of the Gospel: Its power is not in the wisdom or eloquence of those who carry it.

In fact, it is never going to be seen as "wise" in the eyes of fallen people without a change in heart.

To some, it is offensive.

To some, it lacks evidence/proof.

To some, it makes no sense.

To all, it requires us accepting as true an understanding about ourselves that is painful to admit -- that we are NOT "good people" but broken and sinful, with a core inside us that harbors desperately wicket capabilities.

When this message is accepted, it is not because it is powerfully persuasive. Not because it was eloquently presented. It is because an awesome God is working through weak and foolish, low and despised means to show His power.

When this message is accepted, it is because our heart has been changed. And with that new perspective it is not offensive, but merciful. It is not unproven, it is experienced. It is not nonsensical; it is an obviously true description of the way the world works. And the pain of admitting we are broken sinners is exceeded by the confidence that we are beloved by a gracious and merciful heavenly Father.

My Prayer Today


Make us united in our submission to Jesus. Let our ultimate loyalty be only to Him. Protect us from the division that pride can bring so easily.

And help us to trust only in the power of Christ, crucified, for our effectiveness in ministry -- knowing that the world won't be won due to our wisdom or eloquence.

Thank you for the true wisdom of the Gospel and its grace and mercy. And the peace it gives.

May all the glory belong to you,


Screen Shot 2014-02-21 at 8.14.53 AM SCOTT PURCELL | Elder

Scott committed his life to Christ as a child under the teaching of his parents and church. He graduated from Ozark Christian College in 1989 with bachelors degree in Biblical Literature and served 8 years as Minister of two churches in Missouri and then 3 years as a Church Planter in San Marcos. Since then, he has worked as a technical trainer at Dell and Rackspace. In 2008 Scott and Nan joined HCBC-NW and then Hutto Bible in 2011. Scott serves in Small Group leadership, as secretary to the Elder board, and as the elder over IT and Discipleship. Scott and Nan have been married since 1985 and have three children (Mindy Schultea (married), Kate, and Matthew) and two grandchildren.

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