What did Paul write in the first epistle to the Corinthians?
After a brief salutation and thanksgiving,
Paul turns to a report that came to him from Chloe's people. Chloe was
probably a woman of wealth in Corinth whose servants were thought to have
been among Paul's first converts. Paul was very concerned with some of the
tendencies of the Corinthian people especially in regards to leadership,
divisions in the church, and personal wisdom. There seemed to be some
people who were claiming allegiance to Paul, some to Apollos, and still
others to Cephas. This seemed to create some division among them and Paul
decided to set the record straight. By claiming, "I belong to Christ"
he was attempting to show them that they are in united in Christ. Neither
Paul, nor Apollos, nor Cephas were crucified for their salvation,
therefore the banner that they ought to claim allegiance to is that of
Christ. Paul stresses the need to become fools for Christ because even
God's folly is wiser than our wisdom. Their quest for wisdom had gone
against their own personal confession as Christians, showed their lack of
reliance upon the divine revealer of true wisdom - the Spirit, and
furthermore had proven their infant nature. He reminds them that even
their leaders were ultimately accountable to God and they ought to live as
one people who are all of one inheritance. They are not to judge one
another because God is the only valid judge who possesses the right to
assess their deeds. In summation of this section, Paul exhorts them to
live according to his example in Christian conduct. He says in essence, "follow
me as I follow Christ."
Paul receives report of some horrific
immorality that was taking place among the Corinthian believers that goes
beyond even that of the pagans. Their distorted view of Christian liberty
had led to offenses such as a man who was having sexual relations with his
father's wife, this kind of corruption was accompanied by a spirit of
arrogance and the church had not gone about any disciplinary measures.
Paul had instructed to them in an earlier letter regarding associations
with immoral men. They were not to share the status or privileges of the
body of Christ, particularly pointing to the Lord's supper, with those who
are guilty of fornication, greed, idolatry, drunkenness, etc. In addition,
Paul had received word that the Corinthian believers were going before
pagan counsel in order to resolve suits against one another. He is giving
a subtle reminder of the source of wisdom again here in his instruction
regarding proper authorities in litigation. They are to cease the trivial
cases among them, but in the case of legitimate disputes, they are only to
come before those who are justified in Christ having access to the wisdom
of God through the Spirit. He also addresses the supposed spirituality of
men who thought they were free to exploit prostitution. The misconception
began with their understanding of the way in which all things are lawful.
Paul attempts to clear up their confusion by adding that while all things
are lawful, not all things are beneficial. That is, the gospel of liberty
is by nature free unless we allow those things that are not profitable to
the Christian life to enslave us.
In this the largest section of
Paul's letter to the Corinthians he attempts to answer some of the
questions they raised in their earlier letter to him. He begins with a
long section giving advice regarding the many different facets of
marriage. He speaks to the diverse situations of: the married, unmarried,
those facing divorce, mixed marriages, virgins, and widows. He answers the
question of meat sacrificed to idols, and the sanctity of the Lord's
table. Paul identifies his apostleship with a commitment to self-denial.
The Christian walk is to be characterized by this kind of self-sacrifice
and must be accompanied by a conscious self-control. There were 3 problems
Paul seeks to resolve: Relationships between men and women, abuses of the
Lord's supper, and the distribution and exertion of Spiritual gifts. He
then talks about diversity in unity, the supremacy of love, and more on
spiritual gifts as essential attributes of the body of Christ. Paul
concludes this section with a theological look at the resurrection of the
believer. Among his detailed explanation of its importance Paul stresses
its historicity, its first fruit and harvest, the believers participation,
and it efficiency in salvation.