was written from Ephesus (1 Cor. 16:8) about the time of the
Passover in the third year of the apostle's sojourn there (Acts
19:10; 20:31), and when he had formed the purpose to visit
Macedonia, and then return to Corinth (probably A.D. 57).
The news which had reached him, however, from Corinth
frustrated his plan. He had heard of the abuses and contentions
that had arisen among them, first from Apollos (Acts 19:1), and
then from a letter they had written him on the subject, and also
from some of the "household of Chloe," and from Stephanas and
his two friends who had visited him (1 Cor. 1:11; 16:17). Paul
thereupon wrote this letter, for the purpose of checking the
factious spirit and correcting the erroneous opinions that had
sprung up among them, and remedying the many abuses and
disorderly practices that prevailed. Titus and a brother whose
name is not given were probably the bearers of the letter (2
Cor. 2:13; 8:6, 16-18).
The epistle may be divided into four parts:
(1.) The apostle deals with the subject of the lamentable
divisions and party strifes that had arisen among them (1 Cor.
(2.) He next treats of certain cases of immorality that had
become notorious among them. They had apparently set at nought
the very first principles of morality (5; 6).
(3.) In the third part he discusses various questions of
doctrine and of Christian ethics in reply to certain
communications they had made to him. He especially rectifies
certain flagrant abuses regarding the celebration of the Lord's
(4.) The concluding part (15; 16) contains an elaborate
defense of the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, which
had been called in question by some among them, followed by some
general instructions, intimations, and greetings.
This epistle "shows the powerful self-control of the apostle
in spite of his physical weakness, his distressed circumstances,
his incessant troubles, and his emotional nature. It was
written, he tells us, in bitter anguish, 'out of much affliction
and pressure of heart...and with streaming eyes' (2 Cor. 2:4);
yet he restrained the expression of his feelings, and wrote with
a dignity and holy calm which he thought most calculated to win
back his erring children. It gives a vivid picture of the early
church...It entirely dissipates the dream that the apostolic
church was in an exceptional condition of holiness of life or
purity of doctrine." The apostle in this epistle unfolds and
applies great principles fitted to guide the church of all ages
in dealing with the same and kindred evils in whatever form they
This is one of the epistles the authenticity of which has
never been called in question by critics of any school, so many
and so conclusive are the evidences of its Pauline origin.
The subscription to this epistle states erroneously in the
Authorized Version that it was written at Philippi. This error
arose from a mistranslation of 1 Cor. 16:5, "For I do pass
through Macedonia," which was interpreted as meaning, "I am
passing through Macedonia." In 16:8 he declares his intention of
remaining some time longer in Ephesus. After that, his purpose
is to "pass through Macedonia."