- 1 Corinthians was written while Paul was at Ephesus, partly in response to a letter the church had written him asking for help and advice, as well as a report from a believer named Chloe (1 Cor. 1:11; 7:1).
- This letter is full of controversial subjects that we will address in time, like the role of men and women, and spiritual gifts.
- Beyond these issues, the sharp point of the letter is that these believers thought more about themselves than about Christ.
- Paul had first brought the gospel to Corinth and spent about a year and a half with them (cf. Acts 18).
- Paul demonstrates his confidence in his own calling and position as an apostle of Jesus, who has been given the very words of God to help this struggling church (vv.1, 10).
- Corinth was a cosmopolitan port city and the church was made up of rich and poor, slave and free, and people of diverse social backgrounds.
- Corinth was also full of immorality, and this pagan culture had a strong pull on the new church. The church had many gifts, but was also dysfunctional and immature.
- There is a danger of thinking that at least we aren’t as bad as others, the Corinthian believers thought that as well. Paul calls them, and us, to repentance and to unity in Christ.
- Chloe was not trying to stir up trouble, but rather recognized that the church was in trouble and in need of help (v. 11).
- Paul addresses himself “to the church of God in Corinth.” He identifies them not primarily as Corinthians, but as God’s people, called to be holy.
- To be holy, or sanctified, means to be set apart for a purpose and identity.
- In spite of the strong tone of the letter, Paul begins with a prayer of thanksgiving (v. 4). In doing so he models a posture of gratitude and thankfulness.
- Pride and arrogance are incompatible with thankfulness. Paul’s thanks is not just for the various gifts, but for Christ the giver.
- The Corinthians did not appreciate the God-given spiritual reality of the church, which led to divisions.
- Paul reminds us that we are not just a collection of branches, following one leader or another (cf. v. 12-13).
- Rather, if we would be living branches and not dead wood, we must be vitally connected, and joined together, in the true vine that is Christ (cf. John 15:1-8).
- The Lord’s Supper reminds us that we are one in Christ’s sacrifice; to lose sight of that is to threaten the unity of the church.
- Are we any different than the world around us in the entertainment we consume, how we spend our money, or how we think about civil society?
- Are our lives characterized by thanksgiving and gratitude, or are we arrogant and prideful?
- Do we reduce our understanding of church, the Body of Christ, to standing in the camp of one leader or other?
- What is our core identity as God’s people?
There is a danger of thinking that at least we aren't as bad as others, the Corinthian believers thought that as well. Paul calls them, and us, to repentance and to unity in Christ.