First Corinthians is a significant book for the church because today’s church struggles with so many of the issues and problems of this church. No doubt this was a challenging church to call brothers and sisters, but that is precisely what Paul did. This letter reminds us that no matter how bad it gets, it could always get worse, and there is always hope.
Did you know that most scholars believe this is not the first letter Paul wrote to Corinth? In fact, Paul alludes to at least two other letters. In 1 Cor. 5:9 Paul mentions a first letter and in 2 Cor. 7:8 he hints at a letter that caused them to repent.
Paul started this church on his second missionary journey (Acts 18:1-17). Following a brief stay in Athens, he traveled to the City of Corinth. He stayed here for about 18 months and worked with Priscilla and Aquila during that time. Paul preached, Christians were converted during this time, and the church in Corinth was established.
Corinth was a wealthy and wicked city. It was a port city with an influx of people traveling and working in the city. As a result, it became a haven for sin. People have likened it to the Las Vegas of that part of the world. It was so bad that to be called a “Corinthian” meant you were the worst person imaginable. As a result of this environment and its Greek culture, Corinth struggled with many problems.
They struggled with division, sexual immorality, incest, gluttony, drunkenness, eating meats sacrificed to idols, and false teachings. People within the Corinthian church advocated that the resurrection from the dead was symbolic. People within the church corrupted the Lord’s Supper and reduced it to nothing more than a typical drunken meal. One of the worst problems in Corinth was their propensity to value some people and Spiritual gifts above the rest.
An important and interesting part of first Corinthians is the section where Paul responds to their questions in what we would call a Q&A session. Starting in 1 Cor. 7:1, Paul begins to answer the questions they had written to him about. The questions are not explicitly stated but are clear from the answers given what their questions.
Let me encourage you to read this complex and insightful letter from Paul. Within its pages, we learn so much about what it means to struggle with sin and how to treat each other. It challenges us with the need to confront sin in our midst and the responsibility of valuing the consciences of each other. Since AD 54 or 55, when Paul wrote this challenging letter, it has been a favorite of many in the church, and I hope it will be for you.