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- 1 Corinthians
by Rhoderick D. Ice
INTRODUCTION TO FIRST CORINTHIANS
The success of Christianity in the Gentile world of the first century becomes a miracle, when you look closely at what happened, For a Gentile to turn to Christ, he had to repudiate the worship of idols and all they represented! He had to reject a large part of his native society (of which idols were an integral part); clean up his life (compare 1 Peter 4:3-5); and disbelieve most of what he had been taught was true! The fact that so many Gentiles did come to Christ is a strong testimony to the power of the Good News. The message of the Cross is offensive to the Jews, and nonsense to the Gentiles – yet it is the power of God to salvation!!!
In a world where immorality was the normal way of life, Corinth stood out like a “sore thumb.” So bad was its reputation, that “to Corinthianize” meant to live a wicked life. The temple of Venus-Aphrodite-Artemis had 1,000 prostitutes who were its “priestesses.” Temples of Serapis and Isis spread Egyptian mysticism. The sea-god Poseidon was the “sponsor” of the famous Isthmian games (similar to the Olympics). It was in this city, the capital of Roman Greece, probably fourth in size in the empire, that Paul planted the church of Christ on his second tour of missions (see Acts 18:0).
Paul wrote First Corinthians from Ephesus during his three year work there (1 Corinthians 16:8; Acts 19:1-41; Acts 20:31), probably in the spring of 55 A.D. He had written them before this (1 Corinthians 5:9; 2 Corinthians 6:14 to 2 Corinthians 7:1), and they had answered back before he wrote this letter. It is worth notice that Paul did not write the “faithful few” to split off and start a “faithful church.” Instead he commands unity. Many serious problems existed in the church at Corinth, yet Paul writes to them as the “church of God which is in Corinth.” Paul’s letter was to answer their questions, to scold them in some things, and to encourage them to “be one in Christ.” These questions and problems will be examined carefully in the notes on this letter.
There is a unity of thought in First Corinthians. The gospel which Paul preaches is fully able to meet the arrogant claims of Gentile “wisdom” and the evil desires of human nature. From the height of the Cross, the piercing ray of Truth shines into the depths of pagan sin. This is the letter of “the Cross in its social application.”
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25