christine's bible study

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever. Isa 40:8

1 corinthians chiastic structure

But thanks be to God, which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:57

Read 1 Corinthians 16 at Bible Gateway.

As we conclude the first letter to the Corinthians today, I realized that the entire letter forms a single chiastic structure from beginning to end (please see The Teaching Tools of Scripture for the explanation of chiastic structures):

1 Cor 1:1-16:24
1a) 1 Cor 1:1-3, Introduction;
1b) 1 Cor 1:4-9, The Corinthians lacking no gift, who were enriched in everything by Him;
1c) 1 Cor 1:10-16, Divisions in the church + Apollos + Stephanus:
— 1c.1) 1 Cor 1:10-13, Let there be no divisions among you + Apollos;
— 1c.2) 1 Cor 1:14-17a, Paul baptized the first believers in Achaia with the household of Stephanus;
1d) 1 Cor 1:17b-4:21, Christ crucified + Paul’s work in the Lord + Timothy/ Paul’s plans:
— 1d.1) 1 Cor 1:17b-31, Christ crucified –> the power of God to the weak and ignoble who are His;
— 1d.2) 1 Cor 2:1-4:16, Paul’s work in the Lord as an apostle + father among the Corinthians not in vain (chiasm);
— 1d.3) 1 Cor 4:17-21, Timothy + Paul will come to the Corinthians shortly, if the Lord wills;
1e) 1 Cor 5:1-6:20, Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God (chiasm);
1f) 1 Cor 7:1-11:16, Natural examples teach spiritual truths (marriage, eating, working, Israel, head coverings);
1g) 1 Cor 11:17-22, Misconduct at the Lord’s Supper: eating and drinking without regard for others;
1h) 1 Cor 11:23-34, For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: the body and blood of the Lord Jesus, which proclaims His death until He comes;
1i) 1 Cor 12:1-30, Manifestation of the spiritual gifts;
1j) 1 Cor 12:31a, Earnestly desire the best gifts;
1k) 1 Cor 12:31b, And yet I show you a more excellent way;
central axis) 1 Cor 13:1-13, Love, the greatest gift;
2k) 1 Cor 14:1a, Pursue love;
2j) 1 Cor 14:1b, Desire spiritual gifts;
2i) 1 Cor 14:1c-40, Operation of the spiritual gifts;
2h) 1 Cor 15:1-28, I declare the gospel I preached to you, which you received and in which you stand: the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, the firstfruits of the resurrection revealed at His coming;
2g) 1 Cor 15:29-34, If there is no resurrection, then let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die;
2f) 1 Cor 15:35-49, Natural seed/ body teaches a spiritual truth (the natural is first, afterward the spiritual);
2e) 1 Cor 15:50, Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God;
2d) 1 Cor 15:51-16:11, Christ resurrected + your work in the Lord + Paul’s plans/ Timothy:
— 2d.1) 1 Cor 15:51-57, Christ resurrected –> the victory of God for the corruptible and mortal who are His;
— 2d.2) 1 Cor 15:58, Abound in the work of the Lord + in the Lord your labor is not in vain;
— 2d.3) 1 Cor 16:1-11, Instructions when Paul comes/ his plans + Timothy;
2c) 1 Cor 16:12-16, Apollos + love in the church + Stephanus:
— 2c.1) 1 Cor 16:12-14, Apollos + Let all that you do be done with love;
— 2c.2) 1 Cor 16:15-16, The household of Stephanus, the firstfruits of Achaia;
2b) 1 Cor 16:17-18, The men who supplied to Paul what was lacking;
2a) 1 Cor 16:19-24, Salutation.

When Paul wrote this letter, he did not plan this structure first, and then write the letter to fit it. The structure is complex … I have been working on uncovering it for several years. And, as we saw when going through 1 Cor, many of the chapters and groups of chapters also form smaller chiastic structures, and I have other overlapping ones in my notes. How can a human mind take a set of questions from a church, plan the answers, and then construct the letter so that the questions are answered, all the chiastic structures are included, their symmetry maintained, all fitting within this greater structure? It would have to be the work of a lifetime, for a single letter! Paul most likely wrote this reply in a few days (as his busy missionary schedule suggests). Paul listened to the Spirit and wrote his reply. That Paul’s reply forms this mass of elegant chaistic structures, smaller and greater, is evidence that this is the Spirit’s Word. The chiastic structure is one of the thumbprints of the Spirit on His Word — His Word, not Paul’s. There are believers who reject Paul and his letters in the New Testament because they misunderstand his message. The Spirit’s thumbprint on his letters is evidence that he is to be accepted.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: