Study Fourteen - 1 and 2 Corinthians
New Testament - 1 and 2 Corinthians

The City of Corinth - A strategic commercial center located on the main trade route between East and West, this sprawling city of a half million people was the Gomorrah of Greece. Pagan altars to Poseidon, Artemis, Apollo, Hermes, Zeus, Heracles, and myriad of other gods and goddesses stood everywhere. And high on a hill overlooking the metropolis was the monstrous house of religious whoredom, the temple of Aphrodite. With a thousand prostitutes in its hire, it set the low moral standard for the community. Paul of Tarsas came into this viper's nest with the message of a man who triumphed over evil. He urged Corinth to share in the same triumph. Rejected by the Jews in the wicked city, the apostle turned his efforts toward the Gentiles, and the Corinthian church was born. When Paul left Corinth and pushed on to Ephesus, he kept contact with the fellowship through letters and occasional visits and attempted to lead the new body of believers toward maturity in Christ.

1 Corinthians

Factions in the Church - Some members of the Corinthian church had built their loyalties around those who proclaimed the message, rather than upon the message itself. They made the newsbearer more important than the news. Paul saw danger and warned the fellowship against the divisive perils of such scattered loyalties.

Undue Emphasis Upon Human Wisdom - Corinth was fond of philosophy. There can be little doubt that the followers of the Way had been ridiculed more than once by the pseudointellectuals in Corinth who thought the story of the cross to be a laughable legend concocted by fools. Christians were thought to be a foolish kind who embraced ideas that couldn't be harmonized with reason, and that charge hurt. Paul reminds the fellowship that the cross will always be foolishness to the naive on earth who worship reason as if it were a god. Remember that there is a higher wisdom that is not of this world. It is grasped only by those in whom God's spirit dwells and is totally incomprehensible to the "spiritually bankrupt".

Immorality in the Church - A christian in Corinth was living in open sin with his father's wife and the church was doing nothing about the matter. Paul directed the church to take action, lest the church be seriously weakened and the soul of the offender be damned by the negligence of a careless congregation. The fellowship must play the role of a judge when the life of the church or the life of its members stand in jeopardy. Shall Christians judge outsiders? NO! But they must judge those among their own fellowship when circumstances demand it.

Lawsuits Between Believers - Christians settling grievances in the law in the courts of their unbelieving neighbors was a failing of the Corinthian church. There is nothing wrong with law courts but Christians should be able to settle their disputes between themselves. Or they should find someone within the fellowship with the wisdom to judge their case.

Counsel on Marriage and Divorce - The early church looked for Christ's second coming to be imminent. Therefore, if you are unmarried, why not stay single? If you cannot exercise self control in the single state, then by all means marry. Let the married stay married and if one spouse is a believer and the other is not, if the unbeliever consents to stay with the believer, the believer should not seek a divorce. If the nonbeliever desires to be separated, the Christian is not bound.

Christian Liberty - Idols have no real existance but those weaker in faith may not understand that. Eating food consecrated to an idol may become a stumbling block for someone weak in faith or for the nonbeliever. Is your liberty more important that the lives of others around you or are those other lives more important than your liberty? How will you weigh it? Be a good example to others.

Power Adequate for Every Temptation - What is to prevent us from returning to the old patterns of another day when we followed another master? " . . . God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape . . . " (1 Cor. 10:13)

Misuse of the Lord's Supper - Some of those who came together to break bread and drink wine in Jesus' name were leaving the house of God in a drunken stupor, because they had turned a holy feast into a pagen party. Paul chastises the offenders for this inexcusable irreverence by reminding them that the feast in which they partake is no less than the holy supper instituted by Christ himself in the Upper Room.

A Body With Many Members - Though each saint in the family of God is individually different and has been assigned a unique function, one believer cannot thrive without the other. All members are interdependent and indespensable. When one member suffers, all members suffer and when a member is honored, all members rejoice. This is the body of Christ, the church.

Love the Preeminent Virtue - Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love is greater than faith and hope.

Questions Relative to the Resurrected Body - Much of Greek thinking presumed "a sharp distinction between matter and spirit" wherein matter was related as evil and spirit was good. How could there be any rhyme or reason in a message which proclaims the resurrection of both body and spirit? Paul insists Christ's body was raised. How are the dead raised and what kind of body do they come? The body of humiliation will be refashioned by the power of God. It is not junked by God as unimportant and worthless; it is transformed by him for his own purposes, so that it may be a more worthy vehicle for doing his will.

2 Corinthians

Three Dominant Themes - The attacks made on Paul, his message, and his person by the factions in Corinth were vicious. His second letter to the congregation in Achaia is permeated with the mood of an apologist who feels compelled to defend himself and his position. Yet, there is indication that the darkest clouds have passed and the divisive spirit in Corinth is on the mend.

  1. God's Grace is sufficient for all things - The indwelling of the Holy Spirit allowed Paul to appropriate many of God's rich gifts: comfort in time of affliction, confident hope in the face of peril, the power to forgive, expectant triumph, a power sufficient to lead him to life, a strength that permitted him to stand strong in trying situations, a positive change of the inner nature, and a confident trust in God's faithfulness to his promises.

  2. The reborn are new creatures in Christ - This concept will be discussed more closely in the study of 1 Peter.

  3. Motives and attitudes which accompany true Christian giving - Christian giving is the spontaneous response of a concerned people who have first given themselves to God. It is action which is as fervent as desire, and generated by a compelling desire to be of service. Therefore the gift is always given willingly and never relunctantly or under compulsion. The fruits of it are threefold: The Lord God, the giver, and the receiver all reap rich benefits from true Christian giving.

Lesson 14 and its symbolism:

Structures in background - The City of Corinth.

Blue vapors and ominous sky - Idolatry, immorality, and paganism of the vilest nature characterized this ancient Greek city.

Group of People (forefront) - In the midst of this pagan and materialistic culture lived a band of believers called the Corinthian church. Paul, through two letters, encourages the fellowship at Corinth to demonstrate by attitude and act the highest Christian virtues.

Column on right - The first letter to the church at Corinth.

    Columns are separated - Paul rebukes the church for permitting worldly factions to develop within it.

    Figure holding books - He warns the believer against putting undue emphasis upon human wisdom.

    Figure in dark cloak - He expresses a deep concern over the open immorality being practiced within the fellowship itself. He advises church disciplines to deal with the threat.

    Figure holding gavel - He points to the folly of lawsuits between believers.

    Woman in wedding veil - He offers counsel on marriage and divorce.

    Stone on monument ledge (center) - He lauds Christian liberty but cautions believers against permitting their liberty to become a stumbling block for unbelievers or others in the faith.

    Figure with clasped hands (left center) - He reminds the saints in Christ that God's power is more than adequate to meet every temptation.

    Figure holding chalice and bread - He laments the misuse of the Lord's supper.

    Figure with multicolored garment - He compares the church to a body with many members, each member having a different function.

    Prism on manuscript - He declares that different people have been endowed with different gifts, but all are to be used to build up the body of Christ.

    Figure aiding fallen person - He asserts that love is the preeminent virtue of the Christian life.

    Figure with hand at forehead - He answers questions which have been raised relative to the resurrected body.

Dual Columns (left) - The second letter to the church at Corinth.

    Descending dove on column - Paul declares and demonstrates that God's grace is sufficient for all things.

    Crown on column - He proclaims that those in Christ become new creatures.

    Grain sheaf on column - He acquaints the church with the motives and attitudes which accompany true Christian giving.