- We’ve surveyed the four gospels that recorded the “Words and Works of Jesus Christ.”
- We looked at the record of Acts, recall the admonition in Acts 1:8 and the introduction of Paul.
- We examined Romans, Paul’s most doctrinal, theological, and applicational letter, written to the most powerful city in the ancient world.
Today: 1 Corinthians
First-century Corinth was the leading commercial center of southern Greece. The city was infamous for its immorality and paganism. But in spite of great obstacles, Paul was able to plant a Christian church there on his second missionary journey (Acts 18:1–17). Though gifted and growing, the church was plagued with problems: moral and ethical, doctrinal, and practical, corporate and private. Paul writes the letter of First Corinthians to deal with some of these disorders, and to answer questions which the Christians in Corinth had raised on crucial issues. (1.)
The City of Corinth, the most important city in Greece during Paul’s day, was a bustling hub of:
- Worldwide commerce
- Depraved & immoral culture, and
- Idolatrous religion
- Reputation for vulgar materialism, linked in ancient texts with wealth and immorality
For a hundred years after 146 B.C.no one cared to make the voyage to Corinth. The city was destroyed because of its revolt against Rome. Only a few columns in the temple of Apollo survived the razing. All its citizenry was killed or sold into slavery. But this favorable location did not go unused for long, as Julius Caesar refounded the city as a Roman colony in 46 B.C.In 27 B.C.it became the governmental seat for [uh KAY yuh] Achaia, from which seat Gallio as proconsul would allow Paul’s proclamation of the gospel. It was onto this new stage, which nonetheless preserved the vices of the old, that Paul stepped in A.D.51. (2.)
The Church in Corinth
1st Corinthians reveals the problems, pressures, and struggles of a church called out of a pagan society. Paul addresses a variety of problems in the lifestyle of the Corinthian church:
- Abuse (in church practice / ordinance of) the Lord’s Supper and the
- Misuse of spiritual gifts.
- In addition to words of discipline, Paul shares words of counsel in answer to questions raised by the Corinthian believers.
Themes and Purpose
The basic theme of this epistle is correction: correcting the Corinthian believers individually and corporately as the church.
The Corinthians were destroying their testimony mainly because of disunity and immorality.
Paul is correcting both individual believers and the Church.
There is disunity and immorality in the church, and these are the issues Paul corrects.
It’s difficult to overlook a comparison with American Christianity, individually and corporately.
- Individuals have turned their personal rights into a god, leading to divisions and factions coming out of selfishness and immorality.
- The influence of culture has redefined theological terms: identity, judgment. No one likes to be corrected. But when you make God in your own image, you can do whatever you want. Corinth was doing it, and we have done it.
- When one’s experience, identity, passions, personal freedoms, wants, dreams, and desires outweigh what the text says—and they cannot be corrected or judged—it will lead to divisions and factions.
- Sin nature will only bear forth sin. Somebody has to come along and say, “no, that’s not right.” But don’t miss that chapter 13 is a chapter of love. In the midst of correcting people who were very proud of their spiritual gifts and misusing them, Paul says: love.
- The challenge we face today is:
- One is deeply in sin and self-governance by ignoring or by false teaching, or
- Does not know Christ, yet loudly claims otherwise
We do not get to go around straightening out the world, but we must be grounded in God’s Word, led by God’s Spirit, surrounded by God’s people, going in the same direction.
Most Christians have gotten afraid we’re fighting a fight we can’t win—we can’t win a changing culture, a changing nomenclature. But we can remain grounded in Scripture and in community, going the same direction together.
You can voice what the Word of God says without being mad about it, but it takes courage and kindness in a culture that’s going to be hostile to the truth.
“Be free of the fear of men and full of the fear of God.” – Dr. Bill Lawrence
If you are operating under the fear of God, it is a holy fear.
When the culture turns the language of truth into a lie, you and I have to think critically, behave well, appeal to God, pray, and be surrounded by good thinking before we joust the dragon.
- Be in the world, not of it.
- The Christology of Chapter 1 is astonishing. Our objective is not to be more like Christians, but more like Jesus Christ: 1 Corinthians 3:1-3
- This text is spiritual milk, elementary correctives of the Christian life.
- The “liberty” pendulum may tend to swing between: licentiousness – liberty – legalism.
- Spiritual gifts: Chapters 12-13, 1 Corinthians 12:4-7Our greatest strength taken one step too far can become Our greatest liability.This is one of the clearest passages underscoring the Trinitarian Godhead and gives us insight on the role of the Trinity.
Paul offers careful explanation of a variety of gifts, ministries, and effects—and that there is one God, who works in and through each of these. Why? For the common good.
When you and I trusted Christ, we were endowed with the Holy Spirit and empowered with spiritual gifts, which we are to employ for the common good.
- 1 Corinthians 15:1-9
1 Corinthians is a corrective letter to a church doing their own thing and calling their sin sanctified.
- In the first chapter: get your Christology straight
- In the (second to) last chapter: get your theology straight.Jesus Christ is your savior. He’s God.
If we get the person and work of Jesus straight, and we understand what the gospel means, then we can correct the things we see in the local church.
- Bruce Wilkinson and Kenneth Boa, Talk Thru the Bible(Nashville: T. Nelson, 1983), 380.
- David K. Lowery, “1 Corinthians,”in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 504–505