This letter was written by the apostle Paul (vs. 1) around AD 55ish, near the end of Paul’s ministry in Ephesus, on his third missionary/discipleship journey.
Background: Today, the city of Corinth is a small town of little significance. But in New Testament times it was a thriving, prosperous and strategically located city. All north and south traffic had to pass through Corinth. Sea travel around Corinth (250 miles) was dangerous and captains would carry their ships overland on skids because it was more economical and safer, so all would pass by Corinth. Today, a canal connects the 2 gulfs. Two great athletic festivals were held in Corinth – the Olympian games and the Isthmus games. Originally it was a Roman colony but because it was a major trade center of the world, it had a cosmopolitan population: Greeks, Romans, Near Easterners, Jews, Officials, and Businessmen (not unlike Houston or L.A.). The pagans worshipped Aphrodite (Goddess of Love). Her temple housed over 1000 prostitutes who would come down each night and ply their trade in Corinth to travelers and local men. Even in the pagan world, Corinth was known for its moral corruption! So much so that “to Corinthianize” meant gross immorality: drunken debauchery, pornography, adultery homosexuality, stealing, coveting, drunkenness, foul language/speech, swindling, etc…(6:9-10).
Paul came to Corinth on his 2nd missionary journey (Acts 18:1-11) and stayed 1½ years (vs. 11). Sometime between leaving Corinth and writing I Corinthians, Paul had written another corrective letter (5:9) referred to as “The Lost Letter” and another after II Corinthians (2 Cor. 2:4) called “The Severe Letter”.
The theme of this book is: “HOW TO LIVE GODLY IN AN UNGODLY SOCIETY.” What a timeless theme for today. We are not to blend in with this world’s practices or accept it’s values and lifestyles. I look forward to how God wants to transform me thru His Word to the Corinthians.
Chapter 1: Bickering, Wisdom & Perspective
Throughout Paul’s writings, the Gospel and the Cross make up his spiritual DNA. When Charles Spurgeon was asked how he put together his sermons his reply was, “I take my text and make a bee line for the cross.” Paul did the same.
This letter is written to “…all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…” – you and me! After he gives thanks for those in Corinth who were eagerly waiting for Jesus return, he immediately addresses a bickering issue that could easily divide. They were choosing favorite preachers – “I follow Ed Young…..well I follow Chuck Swindol….well I follow Mitch Maher…….and oh yeah, then the real spiritual ones…..well I follow Jesus…” Paul sets them straight – he’s not the Savior and none of the others are either – only Jesus! It’s the cross of Christ that has power – not people!
Paul then transitions into the Gospel message: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” He goes on in the next few verses to basically say that often times “higher learning” can keep people from accepting the simple message of Jesus! All the smarts in the world cannot even compare to the wisdom from God.
Finally, Paul concludes with perspective, a reality check. The basic message is that when God chooses people, He doesn’t look for the brainy, good looking, talented & gifted type – for none of us whom God chooses are “qualified.” Why? So we won’t get a big head and think too much of ourselves! And God knows we need to hear & see this!
*How are you involved in building up your church family? A principle I’ve found true is that it’s always easier to tear down that to build up! Rather than take sides, may we be more like Paul today and to only emphasize Christ crucified!
*What do you feel like you “bring to the table” for God? It’s a trap of the devil to get us to think God couldn’t do without us. Truth is – the only thing I bring to the table is MY SIN! That is why I need Christ! Lord please use Your Holy spirit to make verses 26-31 evident in my life.
*This “foolish message” turns into transforming power when someone believes. Who can you share this with today? Pray for me today as I follow up with a friend today who came to church Sunday, that He might believe this “foolish” message!