“Background of the 1 Corinthians Letter”

When Paul’s 18 months of personal ministry in Corinth came to an end, he moved on from there with Priscilla and Aquila, leaving them in Ephesus as he continued to Jerusalem. In time, Paul would write letters to the Corinthians – two of which are in the Scriptures and the focus of our study through Easter. Actually, there were at least two other letters from Paul to the Corinthians that we know of. It is all rather confusing, but let me list Paul’s Corinthian visits and letters for you here …

  • First visit of Paul to Corinth (Acts 18:1-17)
  • A letter written to them (lost to us) that they misunderstood (see 1 Cor. 5:9-11)
  • A second letter – known to us as 1 Corinthians – to address a list of problems
  • Second visit of Paul to Corinth – described in 2 Cor. 2:1 as a “painful” visit
  • A third letter – lost to us – it was disciplinary in nature (2 Cor. 7:8-9) and grieved Paul to have to write it (2 Cor. 2:3-4)
  • A fourth letter – the text of 2 Corinthians.
  • Third visit – mentioned in Acts 20:2

Of course, what we are interested in is the inspired Word of God in the two letters we know as 1+2 Corinthians, but this whole summary shows the intimate nature of Paul’s relationship with the church in Corinth. It was not like he was just in and out of the town as a travelling missionary; he really knew and loved these people, even with their many faults.

The letter of 1 Corinthians is written to address of number of problems that Paul was aware of in the church of that city. Beyond that, he also is addressing a number of questions raised by the church in order to have clarification of a proper understanding of truth.

Among issues that Paul will address (and that we’ll cover as well over the weeks ahead) …

  • Divisions, squabbling, fighting among themselves … Paul had received reports about how they had divided into camps around their favorite teachers …
  • This behavior of division demonstrated their immaturity …
  • Failure to consistently live holy lives and deal with sin … The practices of the surrounding world were too often a part of life within the church community – not confronted, with insufficient challenges toward living a different life. This therefore led also to Paul needing to answer a variety of issues concerning marriage.
  • They were insensitive regarding Christian liberties …
  • Their focus on spiritual gifts was wrong, reveling in grandiose personal expressions, rather than seeing the gifts as given to serve others …
  • Some denied the resurrection, while many others undervalued the central teaching of this doctrine …

We might tend to look back at these Corinthians and wonder how these folks could be so clueless and entirely messed up. But remember, this is still very early in the church era. They didn’t even yet have the gospels to reference, along with the writings of Paul, etc.  We’ve already referenced their geographical and cultural setting. They had been Christians for only a very short time and had no models around them of people who had walked with Christ for decades.

This is not making excuses, as Paul himself said they should have been more mature in faith; but these factors do help to give some explanation for the complications unique to this church. It is certainly true in our era that we have far fewer excuses for not growing in faith.

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This entry was posted in We Got Issues and tagged by Randy Buchman. Bookmark the permalink.

About Randy Buchman

I live in Western Maryland, and among my too many pursuits and hobbies, I regularly feed multiple hungry blogs. I played college baseball, coached championship cross country teams at Williamsport (MD) High School, and have been a sportswriter for various publications and online venues. My main profession is as the lead pastor of a church in Hagerstown called Tri-State Fellowship. And I'm active in Civil War history and work/serve at Antietam National Battlefield with the Antietam Battlefield Guides organization. Occasionally I sleep.

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