Book Overview - 1 Corinthians
by Gary Hampton
Strengthening the Temple
A Study of 1 Corinthians
Gary C. Hampton
The letter of 1 Corinthians was written from Ephesus about a year after the establishment of the church at Corinth, or A.D. 55. Letter writers in the first century would introduce their own name at the very start. Then, they would address the readers and give a greeting. Paul introduced himself as one "called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 1:1). It seems some had challenged Paul"s apostleship (1 Corinthians 9:1; 2 Corinthians 12:1-2). Paul did not qualify as an apostle according to Peter"s list of requirements in Acts 1:20-22, but was specially chosen by God and called (Acts 9:15; Romans 15:15-16).
Sosthenes, who was with the apostle when the letter was written, is unknown to us, though he may be the man of Acts 18:17. As will be seen later, Paul"s purpose in writing this letter was twofold. First, he wanted to direct the church away from the error and disorder that had evidenced itself. Second, he intended to answer specific questions submitted to him.
The letter is addressed "to the church of God at Corinth" (1 Corinthians 1:2). Corinth was the capital and chief city of Achaia. Achaia is in the area we would now call Greece. Corinth became such an important city because of its location just one and a half miles south of the Isthmus of Corinth. It was able to control that four mile wide neck of land. The city also commanded the eastern port of that isthmus, Cenchreae, which is mentioned in Acts 18:18. To save time and avoid the one hundred fifty miles of dangerous waters around the tip of Greece, ships would unload their goods on one side of isthmus and have them carried to the other side. Some smaller ships were even pulled across and placed in the water on the other side. Therefore, Corinth was a trading center by land and sea. Of course, it was also strategic militarily speaking.
The Roman minority was a strong force in the population, as this was one of the colonies established by Julius Caesar. The commercial prospects caused a large group of Jews to settle in this city. Greeks also played a great role. Because of the seaport and commerce, many other nationalities mixed with the above mentioned major groups.
Corinth was well known for its corruption. Charles Pfeiffer, in Baker"s Bible Atlas, writes, "Greeks, Romans, Jews and adventurers from the entire Mediterranean world came to Corinth for trade and vice in all its forms. "To live like a Corinthian," became synonymous with a life of luxury and licentiousness." The immoral nature of the city was added to by the temple of Aphrodite, goddess of love, which was located in Corinth. A thousand priestesses of the goddess served as prostitutes who were available for the free use of temple visitors.
The Church in Corinth
Luke reports in the book of Acts that Paul first came to Corinth on the second missionary journey. He stayed with Aquila and Priscilla and worked with them in the tent-making trade. As was his custom, he entered the synagogue every Sabbath to reason with the Jews and Greeks who were present there. When Silas and Timothy came, he especially emphasized that Jesus is the Christ. Unfortunately, his listeners rejected the truth and spoke against Christ. Paul then shook the dust off his feet and went to the Gentiles to preach. The chief ruler of the synagogue and many other Corinthians believed and were baptized. The Lord appeared to Paul in a vision urging him to preach without fear and assuring him no one would hurt him. So, Paul preached there for a year and a half (Acts 18:1-18).
In this letter, Paul addressed the members of the church located in Corinth by ascribing ownership to God. It is God"s church in that the Father and the Son sacrificed to purchase the church, so it truly belongs to God (John 3:16-17; Acts 20:28). The New Testament church is referred to in a number of ways. These references can be to the church universally, locally or to the individual members of the church. Other designations include, the churches of Christ and the church of firstborn ones (Romans 16:16; Hebrews 12:22-23). In the Corinthian letter, Paul also refers to the members of the church as "sanctified," which means "set apart" or "separated to a sacred service." As Paul says, this separation takes place "in Christ Jesus" (compare John 17:17 and Ephesians 5:25-26). The word "saints" indicates they are "holy ones."
Allen, Jimmy. Survey of First Corinthians. Searcy, Arkansas: Jimmy Allen, 1975.
Coffman, James Burton. Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians. Austin: Firm Foundation Publishing House, 1977.
Lipscomb, David. A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles Volume II. Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1935.
McClish, Dub, ed. Studies in 1 Corinthians. Denton, Texas: Pearl Street Church of Christ, 1982.
McGarvey, J. W. and Philip Y. Pendleton. Thessalonians, Corinthians, Galatians and Romans. Delight, Arkansas: Gospel Light Publishing Company, n.d.
Thayer, Joseph Henry. A GreekEnglish Lexicon of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1977.
Vine, W. E. An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1966.
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