“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.” 1 Corinthians 16: 13-14 NIV
What’s Going On?
Paul wrote these two letters to a church in Corinth, Greece in response to specific questions and reports he has received. We read about Paul’s stay in Corinth in Acts 18:18 during his second missionary journey. Later, the people of that newly established church are having problems that Paul addresses in these two letter/books. Corinth was a major port city and was buzzing with opportunity, filled with people of many different nationalities and cultures. There was a huge statue of Aphrodite, the goddess of love (think of her when you read the “love chapter” in 1 Corinthians 13), and where there are Greek goddesses, there are usually temple prostitutes. No wonder these people needed some instruction about living a new kind of life based on God’s kind of love.
1 Corinthians will address several main concerns: divisions within the church, court cases between church members, Christian “freedom” (remember that a large majority of the people in Corinth are actually slaves), marriage, sacrifices to idols, and general immorality – including sexual immorality. There are also questions about proper worship behaviors including the Lord’s Supper, spiritual gifts, offerings, Christian love and unity within the church. The question also arises about the resurrection, of both Christ and His followers.
We learn in 2 Corinthians that there have been some false teachers challenging Paul’s gospel. He will continue to answer some specific questions and address concerns within the Corinthian church. This letter contains some insight to Paul’s burden to not only share the Gospel message, but to care for these early churches and their members. He loves them deeply and is concerned for their spiritual progress. Paul discloses how hard his mission is and that he is willing to suffer humiliation, but his faith carries him on to do the work he felt called to do. So often a teacher is in front of his student, but Paul makes it clear that he is walking side by side with his fellow believers, sharing in their hardships and frustrations. He defends his ministry against those who oppose his teachings, boasting about his sufferings as one who so strongly believes in what he is teaching that he is willing to endure the hardships for the sake of the Gospel message.
Both books include a call for unity. There was much division within the early church and Paul urged them to work together for the common cause. Factions were beginning to arise: followers of Paul, or of Peter, or Apollos. Paul encouraged them to set aside their differences and follow Christ. I can’t help but notice, however, that the teachings of Paul can easily become quite legalistic if we allow ourselves to become wrapped up in following his advice to these early churches more so than to follow the teaching of Christ. Paul was, after all, a former Pharisee. As always, keep your eyes on the Big Picture and know that Paul is always pointing to Christ. This, above all else, is what we can learn from Paul.
When and Where Are We?
Paul wrote the first letter about 55 AD while he was staying in Ephesus which is where he went when he left Corinth. The second letter was written shortly after that while he was in Macedonia (Philippi is the capitol of Macedonia) on his third missionary journey.
Paul – the author of both letters
Titus – One of Paul’s Gentile companions who delivers the letter to the church in Corinth and spends some time as an early church leader there before joining Paul on some later mission trips
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17
Weekly Reading Assignment:
- Monday: 1 Corinthians 1-6
- Tuesday: 1 Corinthians 7-11
- Wednesday: 1 Corinthians 12-16
- Thursday: 2 Corinthians 1-4
- Friday” 2 Corinthians 5-9
- Saturday: 2 Corinthians 10-13