|Introduction to the Bible - 46 - 1 Corinthians|
Introduction to 1 Corinthians
by Shad Sluiter
For more information about the church, read the online book Gathering Unto His Name, by Norman Crawford.
Paul’s First Letter to the Church in Corinth
The City of Corinth
Corinth was the capital of the Roman province of Achaia which is now part of modern-day Greece. It was one of the most prominent and richest cities in the Roman Empire with a population estimated at more than 500,000. It was a morally corrupt city known for drunkenness, prostitution and idol worship. Corinth was the home of the Temple of Aphrodite which itself had over 1,000 Temple prostitutes who served the temple worshipers.
The Gospel in Corinth
Perhaps when Paul left Athens, he was dragging his feet in discouragement for being mocked and for seeing little results in his gospel preaching (Acts 17:17,23,30-34). However Corinth, located about 50 miles to the west, was a far more successful venture. He stayed in Corinth a year and a half (18:11). During that time, he supported himself through his profession of tent making, working with Aquila and Priscilla. They were a Jewish couple who had fled Rome because of Emperor Claudius' edict forcing all Jews to leave (18:1-3). A church had been established in their home (1 Corinthians 16:19).
The Contents of the Letter
Part one – Reproof for reports of bad behavior. (Chapter 1-6)
Problem #1 – Divisions (Chapter 1-4)
The church had divided itself into four competing camps: Paul, Apollos, Peter and Christ. Paul’s first purpose of writing was to correct their thinking. There was a group in the church who may have called themselves something like “the disciples of Paul”. Others followed the wisdom and teaching of Apollos, a teacher who visited the church in Corinth. Yet another group followed the apostle Peter. The “Paul” party doubtless was quick to emphasize the spiritual freedom that comes from redemption through faith in Christ since Paul was the master teacher of the gospel as contained the book of Romans and Galatians. Perhaps they were guilty of offending others with their “liberty”. Apollos was a gifted speaker whose followers could have been enamored by his eloquent speech but lacked precise understanding of the scriptures. We know from Acts 18 that Apollos was strong in presentation, but lacked some depth of understanding of the basic teachings of the Bible. (See Acts 18:25-26). The third division of the church followed Peter. Perhaps these people were Jewish believers who wanted to emphasize the importance of meanings of ceremonies and practices of the Law of Moses. Peter was guilty of applying Old Testament law to believers in the New Testament (Galatians 2:11). Finally, a fourth group claimed superiority of all the others by saying “I am of Christ”. Though they may have technically been correct in choosing the correct leader to follow, they were obviously guilty of doing so with great pride and arrogance.
Paul wrote to correct the Corinthians church error of divisions by showing how different their attitudes were from the true reality of the mind of God.
Problem #2 – Fornication (Chapter 5)
The reputation of the believers in Corinth reaches its low point where Paul has to say
Problem #3 – Lawsuits (Chapter 6)
The church was ruining its reputation in the community by taking each other to court. The stinging rebuke is
“Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers” (1 Corinthians 6:5)
Finally, Paul summarized their problems of gross, open immorality by pleading with the fact that they had been redeemed from such habits.
Part two – Responses to questions that were asked by the Corinthians.
Starting with chapter 7, Paul says “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote me…” From this point on, Paul is answering questions that were contained in a letter.
In spite of all the problems in Corinth, God still called them “them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” (1 Corinthians 1:1). God used their mistakes to enable Paul to explain how to correctly operate an assembly of Christians giving us the letter that has been called “The Charter of the Church”.
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