Paul taught in Corinth for a year and a half (Acts 18:1, 11). He left Corinth and sailed to Syria. During his absence false teachers crept in and disturbed the church with false doctrine and unscriptural practices. The church fell into factions and divisions and misuse of gifts. Questions arose about marriage and going to law with one another. The resurrection was doubted by some, and the ordinances were abused. They flaunted their learning, grew careless in their conduct and purity of doctrine began to decline! This epistle deals with these issues and many more problems confronting this young church.
(Vs. 1, 2.) We have the usual salutation or inscription. The writer describes himself by his name and his office: 'Paul, called to be an apostle'. His call to the apostleship was 'by the will of God'. No one ought to take such an office or responsibility unless he is called and appointed to it by God (1 Tim. 1:12; Acts 9:15). Sosthenes was the ruler of the Jewish synagogue at Corinth. Luke mentions him in Acts 18:17. Evidently he had been converted and was with Paul, for Paul calls him his brother.
The epistle is addressed to 'the church of God . . . at Corinth' a congregation of believers joined together in fellowship, worship and the preaching of the gospel. Paul's letter is intended for those who are 'sanctified in Christ Jesus', set apart from all eternity to grace and glory and justified by the blood and righteousness of Christ (Heb. 10:10-14). Not only are they chosen and justified, but they are 'called to be saints'. They are called by his Spirit and by his Word to repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus. The epistle is intended for all other believers; in all places, who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus! Paul says, 'Christ is my Lord and their Lord!'
(Vs. 3.) Nothing is more desirable than to have God reconciled to us through Christ, and this is signified by the word 'grace'. Then to have peace with God, peace of heart and conscience and peace among ourselves, even in a world of trial and trouble, is indeed the greatest blessing, The foundation of all grace and peace is the favour of God through the merits of Christ.
(Vs. 4.) 'I always' (as often as he thought of them) 'thank God for you and for the grace of God given to you by Christ.' This includes all sorts of grace (electing, justifying, regenerating and sanctifying grace) and every grace of the Spirit (as repentance, faith, hope, love, etc.); for all are the gifts of God in them (1 Thess. 2:13). No work nor gift of grace is by man's free will or merit, but all are owing to God's grace and come through the hands of Christ (1 Cor. 4:7).
(Vs. 5.) This is a continuation of the thanksgiving. 'In Christ in every respect you are enriched and provided for.' Not only did they have a spiritual, experimental knowledge of the gospel of Christ, but many of them had been richly qualified with gifts to preach and teach the gospel Some had the gift to speak in other tongues and other gifts of the Spirit.
(Vs. 6.) By the 'testimony of Christ' is meant the gospel (2 Tim. 1:8). This gospel had been preached to the Corinthians and was confirmed and established among them by the signs and miracles with which it was attended and by the Holy Spirit's applying it to their hearts (Heb. 2:1-4).
(Vs. 7.) The Corinthians were not only honoured with the light of the gospel, but God endowed them with many gifts and graces so that they were not inferior to any of the churches. However, Paul does not ascribe unto them such abundance as to leave nothing to be desired, but merely as much as will suffice until Christ comes and they shall be made perfect (1 John 3:1,2; 1 Thess. 1:9, 10).
(Vs. 8.) Paul lets them know what hope he has of them as to the future. 'The Lord will never forsake you but will complete what he has begun in you' (Phil. 1:6). The love of God to his people always continues. Their interest in Christ will never be lost. Grace in them is eternal life, and they will never totally be moved away from the hope of the gospel. In the day of our Lord Jesus every believer will be presented blameless, not in themselves, for no man is without fault and sin; but in Christ's righteousness all the elect are blameless, being justified by his blood and clothed in his righteousness (Col. 1:20-22; Eph. 1:3,4; Jude 24, 25).
(Vs. 9.) When the Scriptures speak of God as 'faithful', the meaning in many cases (and here especially) is that what God purposes and promises, he provides. He shall not fail (Rom. 11:29; Mal. 3:6). 'He has called you into the companionship and fellowship of his Son, and he will faithfully discharge every promise to Christ and to you' (John 6:37-39; 10:27-29; Rom. 4:20-25).