By Don Ruhl
Corinth’s location made it an important city and its population soared to over 600,000. (It is only around 30,000 today.) Pagan cults found a welcome home in this first century city. While there was a synagogue there, the temple of Aphrodite dominated the religious scene. She was the goddess of love and her followers practiced prostitution as part of her religion. Therefore, even in Roman times, the name Corinth conjured up images of sexual promiscuity. Interestingly, to the church in Corinth, Paul wrote what love is!
Imagine beginning a church in that type of environment! As you can probably imagine, “The problems of the young community reflected its surroundings” (The Bible and Its Influence, p. 289).
How does your congregation reflect its surroundings?
This epistle divides into two sections:
Chapters 1–6 What the household of Chloe reported to Paul of problems at Corinth:
Chapters 7–16 what the church had written to Paul:
- Matters of conscience
- Preacher’s work
- Meat sacrificed to idols
- Spiritual gifts
- The Resurrection
Paul’s writing on love and spiritual gifts is a chiasmus:
For some reason the relationship between Paul and the Corinthians suffered. They questioned his apostleship. However, to question Paul’s apostleship is to question the authority of Jesus Christ. Therefore, not for his own sake, but for the sake of the name of Jesus, Paul had to defend his apostleship. The Corinthians should have known he was an apostle, “I have become a fool in boasting; you have compelled me. For I ought to have been commended by you; for in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing. Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds” (2Co 12.11, 12).
Paul offered his customary salutation, then showed his shock for something the Galatian churches had done, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ” (Gal 1.6, 7).
Someone had persuaded them to accept circumcision as part of the plan of salvation. If they accepted part of the Law of Moses as necessary for salvation, they would be lost. Therefore, Paul could not remain silent. If they followed the Law of Moses, they would revert to bondage. Therefore, Paul had to show them that in Christ is freedom, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage…For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Gal 5.1, 13).
First, Paul showed God’s work for our unity (Chap. 1–3). Second, the apostle showed our work for unity (Chap. 4–6).
Five times Paul referred to God’s mystery for man. In 1.9 the apostle explained that we are blessed because God made known His mystery. In 3.3, 4, 9 Paul revealed the mystery. In 6.19 he wanted prayers to preach the mystery. What is the mystery? He revealed and explained it in 3.1–6. Can you identify it?