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First Corinthians

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First Corinthians

In 146 B.C. the Roman general Mummius crushed Greece's attempt towards independence by completely destroying the city of Corinth. For a hundred years the area of the city laid in ruins. Eventually Julius Caesar sent a colony of veterans and descendants of Freedmen to rebuild the city, and in a short period of time a new Corinth was created from the old ruins (Ancient Corinth p. 20). During the rebuilding of Corinth Caesar was assassinated and reconstruction was continued by Emperor Augustus (Background First Corinthians).

Corinth is a Grecian city, located on the isthmus which joins the Peloponnesus to the mainland of Greece. It is forty-eight miles west of Athens (Ancient Corinth p.16). The Isthmus is a strip of land that connects the lower peninsula of Greece with the mainland which is where the term "Isthmus" came from, in reference to any strip of land between two seas. The city was situated on a tableland two hundred feet above sea level (Zondervan Encyclopedia p.960-961)

The location of Corinth helped to build its character to a great extent. It was a city that was excellently designed for shipping and trade. This fact invited a mixed population. There were two harbors in the city's position of control over the isthmus (Zondervan Encyclopedia p.960). Lechaeum provided for the westward side, facing the Corinthian gulf, and Cenchreae functioned as the harbor on the eastward side, facing the Saronic Gulf (Ancient Corinth p.40-41). In the 5th century B.C., Corinth was one of the three major powers within Greece, and they participated in all of the battles against Persia (Ancient Corinth p. 19)

See map for Missionary Journeys.

Paul came to Corinth for the first time on his second missionary journey toward the end of the year 51 A.D. (Zondervan Encyclopedia p.962). Paul wrote Romans while he was in Corinth and the list of Latin names found at the end of the letter agrees with historical statement that Corinth was a Roman colony. Jews naturally found a place in Corinth, and the Jewish population rose even higher when the edict of Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome. Along with many of the Jews came Paul, to the city of Corinth (History First Corinthians).

Paul spent eighteen months in the city of Corinth, (Acts 18:11) and during the time he spent in Corinth, Paul laid down the foundation of the Church of Corinth. The congregation established by Paul was composed primarily of converts from the lower classes who were not very wealthy (Zondervan Encyclopedia p.964).

Corinth was a wicked city even when compared to the larger cities in the empire during this time period. The very term Corinthian meant a profligate (wasteful), and the verb "to corinthianize" meant to have intercourse with prostitutes (Interpretation of Corinthians p.685).

Paul left Corinth in the year 53 A.D.. He wrote First Corinthians in Ephesus during spring of the year 57 A.D.. First Corinthians is a letter Paul wrote in reply of a letter sent to him by the Corinthian church (Interpreter's Dictionary p.684-685)

The Church in Corinth at Paul's time, like the city, became corrupt, most likely from the pagan atmosphere. The majority of the members were not wealthy; they were rebels, slaves, and previously corrupt people. A very small group were wealthy and influential people. The church was effected by the city life in respect to its attitude to wisdom and immorality. Again, the pagan atmosphere had a very negative affect on the Church of Corinth (St Mark's Berowra).

Paul wrote First Corinthians primarily because of a division in the local church caused by several different situations. Paul writes, "Now, dear brothers and sisters, I appeal to you by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ to stop arguing among yourselves. Let there be real harmony so there won't be divisions in the church. I plead with you to be of one mind, united in thought and purpose" (First Corinthians 1:10).

The members of the church were disregarding much of the foundation Paul laid down for them. They were ignoring the sins of other members in the church and were not in agreement to whom they should follow. Some of the members of the church were saying, "I am a follower of Paul." Others saying, "I follow Apollos," or "I follow Peter" or "I follow only Christ." (First Corinthians 1:12).

Paul had a few reasons for writing First Corinthians. His first purpose was to deal with several moral problems and the divisions that had formed in the church. There were groups within the church following people other then Jesus (First Corinthians 1:10). His second reason was to deal with several different questions that had been asked in a letter the Corinthians had sent to him (First Corinthians 7:1) concerning celibacy, sexual immorality and marriage. A third purpose that appears throughout the book is Paul's defense of his apostolic authority (Bible Commentary p.509).

Nearly all of these issues can be related to a problem with pride. I think that this was partially such a large issue for them because of the atmosphere of the city of Corinth. First Corinthians 1:27-29 says, "God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, that no man should boast before God" (First Corinthians 1:27-29). God will humble the pride of anyone who tries to boast about how wise he or she may be.

Paul discusses several different ways to deal with the main problem of pride within the church. The church of Corinth had their eyes primarily focused on material, and external things, like eloquence, and social status. Paul explains quite clearly that those things mean nothing in God's kingdom.


I. Introduction (1:1-9)

i. Welcome greeting and a description of the writer and readers (1:1-3)

ii. Thanksgiving for the effects of God's grace and a thanksgiving prayer (1:4-9)

II. Divisions in the Church (1:10-4:21)

i. The truth of divisions in the church from people arguing amongst each other (1:20-17)

ii. The causes of division in the church (1:18-4:5)

1. A



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