This Sunday we will begin a new series – “Undivided,” which will take us through 1 Corinthians. The following is a background introduction to 1 Corinthians:
Corinth, the most important city in Greece during Paul’s day, was a bustling hub of worldwide commerce, degraded culture, and idolatrous religion. There Paul founded a church (Acts 18:1–17), and two of his letters are addressed “To the church of God which is at Corinth.”
First Corinthians reveals the problems, pressures, and struggles of a church called out of a pagan society. Paul addresses a variety of problems in the life-style of the Corinthian church: factions, lawsuits, immorality, questionable practices, abuse of the Lord’s Supper and spiritual gifts. In addition to words of discipline, Paul shares words of counsel in answer to questions raised by the Corinthian believers.
The city was filled with shrines and temples, but the most prominent was the Temple of Aphrodite on top of an 1,800-foot promontory called the Acrocorinthus. Worshipers of the “goddess of love” made free use of the 1,000 Hieroduli (consecrated prostitutes). This cosmopolitan center thrived on commerce, entertainment, vice, and corruption; pleasure-seekers came there to spend money on a holiday from morality. Corinth became so notorious for its evils that the term Korinthiazomai (“to act like a Corinthian”) became a synonym for debauchery and prostitution.
The basic theme of this epistle is the application of Christian principles on an individual and social level. The cross of Christ is a message that is designed to transform the lives of believers and make them different, as people and as a corporate body, from the surrounding world. But the Corinthians were destroying their Christian testimony because of immorality and disunity. Paul wrote this letter as his corrective response to the news of problems and disorders among the Corinthians. It was designed to refute improper attitudes and conduct and to promote a spirit of unity among the brethren in their relationships and worship. Paul’s concern as their spiritual father (4:14–15) was tempered with love, and he wanted to avoid visiting them “with a rod” (4:21).
Despite the often stern tone of the letter (4:18–21; 5:2; 11:17, 22; 15:36), Paul was thankful to God for the Corinthians (1:8) and felt a deep personal affection for them (16:24). Because of this love, and for the purpose of God’s glory (10:31), Paul wanted the Corinthians to become a well-constructed dwelling place for God’s Spirit (3:12, 16) and to be “guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:8).
May God bless our journey to become Undivided in our allegiance to His Kingdom and Gospel,
- Bro. Dave