Overview of this Weeks Reading Week of December 15 – December 21
Romans 9 – 1 Corinthians 4
Romans 9-16 – Chapters 9-11 many see as a parenthetical section that deals with Israel. God has been faithful in bringing Jews and Gentiles together as one in Christ but the Jewish people as a whole have rejected their Messiah. Despite their rejection of Him, God has not rejected Israel. They have stumbled but they have not fallen. The first eight chapters were very doctrinal, the next three chapters focus on Israel and the remainder of the book is how you practically live as a member of the new righteous community of faith.
Overview of 1 Corinthians
The authenticity of 1 Corinthians as a Pauline epistle has never seriously been challenged. Both internal and external evidence strongly conclude the Apostle Paul is the books author.
1 Corinthians is a pastoral letter, written to resolve doctrinal and practical problems within the local church. Paul’s authorship gives the letter apostolic application to all “the churches of God” (11:16). The individual church is made up of all believers, whether alive or dead, who are members of Christ’s Body (Eph. 1:22-23; 5:23,25-27); the visible church at large is a constituency of all believers living at any one time (Acts 8:3); the visible church is a fellowship of true believers who worship in a given locality (1 Cor. 1:2). 1 Corinthians focuses on the operation of the local church. It immediately follows Romans in the New Testament canon, though in point of time it was written just before Romans. Their location in the canon shows a topical progression when one considers general emphasis. The Gospels and Acts emphasis the historical facts; Romans gives the interpretation of those facts; and the Corinthian letters apply the facts.
The City of Corinth
Corinth was the most important city in Greece and the capital of the Roman province of Achaia. It was the first city in Greece to admit gladiatorial games. The two great athletic festivals of that day were the Olympian and the Isthumian games; Corinth was the host of the latter. The total population is estimated to be from 400,000 to 600,000, making it the fourth largest city in the Roman Empire. In ancient times, all north and south overland traffic had to pass through Corinth. Consequently, it became a major trade center. Corinth was also given to idolatry. They honored Poseidon, the god of the sea. The demonic powers behind Poseidon promised this seaport city lucrative commerce in exchange for worship and sacrifice. The other demonic power they were enslaved to was Aphrodite, the spirit of free love. Her temple, atop a hill prominent in the city, was said to feature 1,000 female slaves who served as temple prostitutes. In addition, there was a temple to Apollo, which featured male prostitutes. As such, immorality was promoted as a virtue and Corinth was a center of licentiousness. The Greeks even invented a new word to express extreme sexual immorality, it was to Corinthianize. Their perverse concept of love is likely part of the reason Paul defines God’s love to the Corinthians in such detail in this letter (13). Satan used Poseidon to attract people to materialism and the world; while Aphrodite drew them to hedonism and the flesh. To impact Corinth required great spiritual warfare. The Lord had called the church to influence the world around us toward godliness (Acts 1:8). In Corinth the worldly lives of the Corinthian society made its way into the church. This problem is strongly addressed by the Apostle (5:9-13; 6:9-10).
Date and Place
Paul wrote this letter on his third missionary journey, toward the end of his three-year ministry in the city of Ephesus (1 Cor. 16:18). The year of writing would have likely been AD 53 to 56.
While in Ephesus on his third missionary journey, Paul had received a distressing report of moral problems in Corinth. It is apparently in response to these charges that he sent the “lost letter” (5:9-11). Then a delegation from the household of Chloe, a member of the church, told Paul of factions and division in the Corinthian body (1:11). Immediately Paul sent Timothy to Corinth to help correct the problems (4:17). Next, Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus arrived with a letter asking specific questions (7:1; 16:17). He then wrote his second letter to the Corinthians, which we know as 1 Corinthians. The problems of factionalism and immorality are strongly dealt with in 1 Corinthians. There is an unmistakable parallel between the problem in the Corinthian church and the problems many churches face today. Paul addresses the subject of lawsuits between believers (6:1-11), incest (5:1-13), immorality (6:12-20) and the abuse of our liberty in Christ (8:1-11:1). In chapters 7-15 Paul answers their questions on marriage (7); properly handling the Lord’s supper (11:17-34); the operation of the gifts of the Spirit (12,14); the Biblical definition of love (13); and the resurrection from the dead (15).
Key Word and Verse
The key word in 1 Corinthians is the cross, which has fourteen direct and indirect references in the book. The key verse lets us recognize in the midst of all the pressures and problems there is great hope as Paul writes in 1 Cor. 15:57, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is difficult to summarize 1 Corinthians, as Paul covers eleven different major issues in the book. The book is primarily Paul correcting abuses within the church. Paul is also countering opposition to him that has arisen within the Corinthian congregation.
1 Corinthians 1-4 – Despite all of the problems and abused in the church Paul starts the letter by expressing his admiration and appreciation for the Corinthian church. Then the rest of his letter is dealing with issues of a church filled with carnal believers, who are imitating the Pagan culture and the various problems that have arise because of it. In chapter 1-4 Paul deals with divisions that were within the church in Corinth.