The Book of 1 CORINTHIANS
James J. Barker
THE CHURCH OF GOD WHICH IS AT CORINTH
- My message tonight will be an introductory message to the apostle Paul's first epistle to the church at Corinth.
- Paul wrote his first epistle to the Corinthians from the city of Ephesus (I Cor. 16:8). We are not certain of the date. The Scofield Study Bible says 59 A.D., but some Bible teachers say it was written earlier.
- Albert Barnes says the epistle was written about 56 or 57 A.D.
- Corinth was Greece's most splendid commercial city. It was located strategically between the Aegean and the Adriatic Seas.
- Corinth was the commercial center for the Roman Empire. It was a mecca of trade between the East and the West, with much traffic passing through – merchants, tradesmen, sailors, artists, philosophers as well as gamblers, crooks, and prostitutes.
- Albert Barnes said, "The city of Corinth became eminent among all ancient cities for wealth, and luxury, and dissipation. It was the mart of the world. Wealth flowed into it from all quarters. Luxury, amusement, and dissipation, were the natural consequents, until it became the most gay and dissolute city of its times -- the Paris of antiquity. There was another cause which contributed to its character of dissoluteness and corruption. I refer to its religion. The principal deity worshipped in the city was Venus; as Diana was the principal deity worshipped at Ephesus, Minerva at Athens, etc. Ancient cities were devoted usually to some particular god or goddess, and were supposed to be under their peculiar protection. Corinth was devoted, or dedicated, thus to the goddess of love, or licentious passion; and the effect may be easily conceived. The temple of Venus was erected on...a mountain. This mountain was covered with temples and splendid houses; but was especially devoted to Venus, and was the place of her worship. Her shrine appeared above those of the other gods; and it was enjoined by law, that one thousand beautiful females should officiate as courtesans, or public prostitutes, before the altar of the goddess of love...The effect of this on the morals of the city can be easily understood. It became the most gay, dissipated, corrupt, and ultimately the most effeminate and feeble portion of Greece. It is necessary to make these statements because they go to show the exceeding grace of God in collecting a church in such a city; the power of the gospel in overcoming the strongest and most polluted passions of our nature: and because no small part of the irregularities which arose in the church at Corinth, and which gave the apostle occasion to write this epistle, were produced by this prevailing licentiousness of the people; and by the fact, that gross and licentious passions had received the countenance of law and the patronage of public opinion" (Barnes' Notes).
- Corinth was so wicked that sex was their religion. In Paul's day, to say someone was "as bad as a Corinthian" meant that the person engaged in the grossest and vilest immorality.
- The Romans destroyed Corinth in 146 B.C. Julius Caesar rebuilt the city in 46 B.C. and restored it to its former prominence. Corinth prospered and grew until the Turks took it over in 1458 and after that it went into decline.
- There were about 400,000 people living in Corinth when Paul wrote this letter, but today Corinth is no longer an important city.
- This epistle was written in reply to one which had been addressed by the church at Corinth to Paul. Paul writes in I Corinthians 7:1, "Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me..."
- PAUL'S GREETINGS
- PAUL'S GRACIOUSNESS
- PAUL'S GRATITUDE
- "Paul called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ..." (1:1). Paul did not choose to be an apostle; he was called to be an apostle.
- It wasn't Paul's choice; it was God's will (1:1). "Called" means, "divinely selected and appointed."
- If you are saved, then God has called you too. Not to be an apostle, but to be a servant and a soulwinner. Jesus said, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain" (John 15:16a).
- In verse 1, Paul mentions Sosthenes. This could be the same Sosthenes who was a ruler in the synagogue in Corinth. Acts 18:17 says, "Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat."
- Paul addressed his epistle to "the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints" (1:2).
- In the wicked city of Corinth, there was a Bible-preaching church. They were "sanctified in Christ Jesus" (1:2). Set apart from the world. Separated from all of the filthiness of Corinth.
- Even in that wicked city, God had his "saints" (1:2). Erastus was the "chamberlain" (the city treasurer) of Corinth, and a close associate of the apostle Paul (cf. Romans 16:23).
- Though this epistle was sent to the church in Corinth, Paul adds, "with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their's and our's" (1:2).
- This is significant because in I Corinthians 12:27, Paul says, "Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular." Since Paul wrote this letter to "all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ" (1:2), then this means that every Christian is a part of the body of Christ (cf. I Cor. 12:13).
PAUL'S GRACIOUSNESS (1:3, 4)
- Paul was gracious. Before he dealt with their various sins, he mentioned their virtues (1:4-6).
- "Grace be unto you..." (1:3). Since God has been so gracious to us, we must be gracious to each other.
- This refers to God's loving favor.
- The word is very often used in the New Testament 155 times, and 110 times by Paul.
- It is the customary form of salutation in nearly all the apostolic epistles (cf. II Cor. 1:2).
- Albert Barnes said the Christian religion is the highest expression of the benevolence or favor of God, and grace refers to the happiness which Christianity confers on its friends in this and the future life.
- Paul could always find something for which he was grateful. When he was in prison in Philippi he and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God (Acts 16:25).
- Paul prayed regularly for the Christians in Corinth (1:4-9). We see this emphasis on prayer in all of Paul’s epistles. "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you" (Philippians 1:3).
- "We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you...For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you" (Colossians 1:3, 9).
- "Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds" (Col. 4:3).
- "For this cause also thank we God without ceasing" (I Thess. 2:13).
- "Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith" (I Thess. 3:10).
- "Pray without ceasing." "Brethren, pray for us" (I Thess. 5:17, 25).
- "We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren...Wherefore also we pray always for you" (II Thess. 1:3, 11).
- "Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course..." (II Thess. 3:1).
- "I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting" (I Tim. 2:8).
- "I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers" (Philemon 4).
- Paul thanked God for their gifts (1:7). Two gifts mentioned here are "utterance" and "knowledge" (1:5). "So that ye come behind (or "come short") in no gift" (1:7). They were not lacking in any gift.
- These gifts were not the result of innate ability or natural talent. They were given by the grace of God in order to equip them for ministry.
- Paul thanked God that "the testimony of Christ was confirmed" (established) in them (1:6). They were a testifying church. They were winning souls in the wicked city of Corinth.
- The word "confirm" is used in verses 6 and 8. It means to "establish."
- We must yield to God and allow His Holy Spirit to fill us and use us. Then He will establish us as we seek to do His will. He will confirm us "unto the end" (1:8), so that we "may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1:8).
- "Blameless" does not mean "sinless." First Timothy 3 and Titus 1 teach that bishops and deacons must be blameless.
- It means, "irreproachable." The same Greek word is translated "unreproveable" in Colossians 1:22, where it says our Lord will present us "holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight."
- "The day of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1:8) refers to the rapture and judgment seat of Christ.
- "God is faithful..." (1:9).
- Our "fellowship" is sweet because it is centered around "His Son Jesus Christ our Lord" (1:9).
- The Lord Jesus is mentioned in every verse (1:1, 2, 3, 4, 5 "by Him," 6, 7, 8, 9).
- I remember talking to a JW one day, and after a while he stopped me from witnessing by saying, "That's the problem with some of you Baptists. You're always talking about Jesus!"
- Back in 1998, right after we purchased this property, I preached a message from this text and I pointed out that "fellowship" signifies "partnership."
- And I said, "God is faithful (1:9). He is our faithful partner. As we embark on this building program, God will not fail us. He will see us through to the end." And He has!
- "And what kind of partners would we be if we do not participate in this great work? We all must do our part."