2 Chronicles 35:1-36:23; 1 Corinthians 1:1-17; Psalm 27:1-6; Proverbs 20:20-21
Today we get to start 1 Corinthians. It’s always exciting to me when we start a new book – it holds the promise of new insights and also shows our progress, two good things in my mind!
As I always like to do when we’re starting a new book, let me offer a little background on the book of 1 Corinthians.
This epistle, as you probably know, was written by Paul, sometime around 53 or 54 AD. This means it was written during his 3rd missionary journey, which included stops in Antioch, Galatia, Phrygia and Ephesus. Both Ephesus and Corinth were wealthy port cities steeped in pagan idolatry and philosophy. Corinth benefited both militarily and economically from its strategic location at one end of the isthmus that connected the southern Greek peninsula to the mainland.
As with all of Paul’s writings, there are several themes, but the basic one for us to look for as we read is this: “The Corinthian church, divided because of the arrogance of its more powerful members, should work together for the advancement of the gospel. They should repent of their rivalries, build up the faith of those who are weak, and witness effectively to unbelievers” (ESV Global Study Bible).
Many scholars divide the letter into 7 parts:
- Salutation (1:1–3)
- Thanksgiving (1:4–9)
- Division in Corinth (1:10–4:21)
- Facts of division
- Causes of division
- Cure for division
- Immorality in Corinth (5:1–6:20)
- Discipline an immoral brother
- Resolving personal disputes
- Sexual purity
- Difficulties in Corinth (7:1–14:40)
- Christian liberty
- Doctrine of the Resurrection (15:1-58)
- Closing (16:1-24)
Since this church is struggling with with division, immorality, idolatry, and theological confusion, there are some parts of this letter that are hard to read – but there are also some truly beautiful parts, like the very famous “love” chapter, chapter 13. So hang in there. As always with God’s word, the payoff is worth it!
On a personal note, I love that Paul starts this letter with thanksgiving for these people, who we will come to read are not the easiest of people. He says, “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:4). The older I grow, the more I can appreciate (in myself and others) the ability to lead with the positive, even with a negative is coming. In my work as a property manager of vacation rentals, I find it so refreshing when a guest, even if calling with a complaint, says, “The place is so lovely, thank you; but would it be possible to have someone come look at the toilet?” rather than just launching into how the toilet is broken. So when we’re facing difficult people or situations, let’s take a page out of Paul’s book and lead with thanksgiving and positivity!
- Esther McCurry
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