Sunday School Bible Survey:      I CORINTHIANS

Theme: The Lordship of Christ

Key verse: "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God" (I Cor. 1:18).

From the Scofield Study Bible:

WRITER: The Apostle Paul. His relation to the church at Corinth is set forth in Acts 18:1-18 and in the Epistles to the Corinthians.

DATE: First Corinthians was written in A.D. 59, at the close of Paul's three year's residence in Ephesus (Acts 20:31; I Cor. 16:5-8).

THEME: The subjects treated are various, but may all be classified under the general theme, Christian conduct. Even the tremendous revelation of the truth concerning resurrection is made to bear upon that theme (I Cor. 15:58). The occasion of the Epistle was a letter of inquiry from Corinth concerning marriage, and the use of meats offered to idols (I Cor. 7:1; 8:1-13), but the apostle was much more exercised by reports of the deepening divisions and increasing contentions in the church, and of a case of incest which had not been judged (I Cor. 1:10-12; 5:1).

The factions were not due to heresies, but to the carnality of the restless Corinthians, and to their Greek admiration of "wisdom" and eloquence. The abomination of human leadership in the things of God is here rebuked. Minor disorders were due to vanity, yielding to a childish delight in tongues and the sign gifts, rather than to sober instruction (I Cor. 14:1-28). Paul defends his apostleship because it involved the authority of the doctrine revealed through him.

A rigid analysis of First Corinthians is not possible, The Epistle is not a treatise, but came from the Spirit through the apostle's grief, solicitude, and holy indignation. The following analysis may, however, be helpful.

  1. Introduction: The believer's standing in grace (1:1-9).
  2. The contrast of their present factious state (1:10—4:21).
  3. Immorality rebuked; discipline enjoined (5:1—6:8).
  4. The sanctity of the body, and Christian marriage (6:9—7:40).
  5. Meats, and the limitations of Christian liberty (8:1—11:1).
  6. Christian order and the Lord's Supper (11:2-34).
  7. Spiritual gifts in relation to the body, the church, and Christian ministry (12:1—14:40).
  8. The resurrection of the dead (15:1-58).
  9. Special directions and greetings (16:1-24).


  1. Corinth was located about 40 miles west of Athens, and had three harbors.
  2. The Corinthians were a sensual people given over to worldly pleasures, debauchery, and drunkenness. The wicked condition of Corinth is indicated by the fact that the expression "to act like a Corinthian" meant to be immoral, to fornicate, etc.
  3. In Corinth was the great temple of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess (also known as Venus by the Romans, Diana by the Ephesians, etc.), with its one thousand religious prostitutes. Corinth was so wicked that sex was a religion.
  4. The Romans completely destroyed Corinth in 146 BC. Julius Caesar rebuilt the city in 46 BC, and restored it to its former prominence. It prospered and grew until the Turks took it over in 1458 and it went into decline. Today it is no longer an important city, but there were about 400,000 people living there in Paul's day.
  5. The apostle Paul came to Corinth on his second missionary journey (c AD 50; cf. Acts 18:1), and it was the terminus of his third missionary journey.
  6. The occasion of the epistle was a letter of inquiry from Corinth concerning marriage and other matters (7:1; cf. 5:9).
  7. This led Paul to write about their deepening divisions, increasing contentions, and unjudged sin in the church (1:10-12; 5:1).
  8. The factions resulted from their carnality (cf. 3:1-4).
  9. First Corinthians is the longest of Paul's epistles.

OUTLINE from J. Vernon McGee:

  1. Salutation and thanksgiving, Chapter 1:1-9
  2. Concerning conditions in the Corinthian church, Chapters 1:10 — 16:9
  1. Concerning DIVISIONS and party spirit, Chapters 1:10—4:21
  1. Centrality of Christ crucified corrects divisions, 1:10-31
  2. Clarity of Holy Spirit corrects human wisdom, 2
  3. Correct conception of God clarifies Christian service, 3
  4. Conditions of Christ's servants constrain Christian conduct, 4
  1. Concerning SCANDALS in the Corinthian church, Chapters 5, 6
  1. Impurity, 5
  2. Lawsuits among members, 6
  1. Concerning MARRIAGE, Chapter 7
  2. Concerning CHRISTIAN LIBERTY, Chapters 8:1 — 11:1
  1. Liberty of the minister, 9
  2. Liberty is not license, 10:1 — 11:1
  1. Concerning WOMAN'S DRESS, Chapter 11:2-16
  2. Concerning the LORD'S TABLE, Chapter 11:17-34
  3. Concerning SPIRITUAL GIFTS, Chapters 12 — 14
  1. Endowment of gifts, 12
  1. Gifts are given to maintain unity in diversity, vv. 1-11
  2. Members of human body compared to gifts of Holy Spirit, vv. 12-31
  1. Energy of gifts — Love, 13
  2. Exercise of gifts, 14
  1. Gift of prophecy is superior to gift of tongues, vv. 1-22
  2. Order in local church for exercise of any gift, vv. 23-40
  1. Concerning the GOSPEL, Chapter 15
  1. Prominence of resurrection in the gospel, vv. 1-4
  2. Proofs of resurrection, vv. 5-19
  3. Parade of resurrection, vv. 20-28
  1. Christ, the firstfruits
  2. Those who are Christ's (the church)
  3. Old Testament saints, Tribulation saints
  4. Kingdom set up, Christ reigning
  5. Death destroyed
  6. Christ returns to His place in the Trinity
  1. Program and pattern of resurrection, vv. 29-50
  2. Power of resurrection, vv. 51-58
  1. Concerning COLLECTIONS, Chapter 16:1-9
  1. Closing exhortations and benediction, Chapter 16:10-24

These are simple Sunday School survey notes. They are not for sale. The author used many outlines from popular Bible teachers such as C.I. Scofield and J. Vernon McGee, and he has tried to give credit when using their material.

—  Pastor James J. Barker  —