1 Corinthians Overview


Who? | Author & Audience

The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to the church in Corinth.


When? | Dates

Paul wrote this letter in approximately 55-56 AD.


Where? | Setting

Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthian church while in Ephesus. The Corinth church had been established by Paul in about 52 AD. Corinth was an important trade and commerce hub located in ancient Greece, and had a diverse population well known for idolatry and sexual immorality.


What & Why? | Outline & Purpose

Paul’s response to Chloe’s reports (1-6)

  1. Divisions in the church (1-4)

  2. Disorder in the church (5-6)

Paul’s response to the Corinthians’ questions (7-14)

  1. Marriage obligations (7)

  2. Christian liberties (8-10)

  3. Proper worship (11)

  4. Spiritual gifts & call to love (12-14)

Resurrection of Christ & Christians (15)

Personal Benediction (16)


How? | Application

  • Paul had left the Corinthian church under the leadership of Priscilla and Acquila in 53 AD, and later received reports of the Corinthians' immoral and idolatrous behavior.

  • Paul responds to two letters to address disturbing reports from the household of Chloe, to answer questions from the Corinthians about marriage and singleness, as well as to provide additional instructions for the Corinthian Christians and future generations of Christians.

  • Addresses important instruction regarding spiritual gifts, biblical love, marriage and singleness, and more.

  • Teaches the importance of using all that God provides for the edification and building up of the Body of Christ.

  • Stresses that we should not focus on self-interest or competition, but should be united within the Body of Christ in order to bring God glory in all we do.

  • Teaches the necessity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and also about the resurrection of Christians.

  • Addresses the need for balance within our freedom in Christ while not using that freedom to cause others to stumble.


Summary

First Corinthians is a letter from the Apostle Paul to the Corinthian church. Corinth was a commerce hub between Italy and Asia and had many diverse travelers. Corinth had been ransacked in 146 B.C. by the Romans, rebuilt by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C., and had been host to the renowned Isthmian Games which were second only to the Olympic Games. The Corinthians worshiped Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, and created plays which highlighted drunkenness and immorality. Their immorality was so well known that Aristophanes made popular the Greek term korinthiazomai which was a synonym for sexual immorality and means “to act like a Corinthian''.


Paul wrote the letter of 1 Corinthians to the Corinth church, whom he had left under the leadership of Priscilla and Aquila in A.D. 53. He likely wrote this letter around A.D. 56 when the church of Corinth was around four years old. Paul had heard of some disturbing conduct by the Corinth Church, as well as some questions that Paul then sought to answer and provide instruction for. Because of the drastic immorality within the church Paul’s letter is extremely confrontational, yet filled with vital instructions and hope for all believers.


Paul opens his letter reminding the Corinth Church that Jesus Christ Himself appointed Paul to be His apostle. He also sets the tone for the constant warning throughout the letter that the people should prioritize the will of God versus human wisdom and refrain from living corrupt and sinful lives that defile them and cause others to stumble in their faith.


Written as a response to the Corinthian immorality seeping into the Church of Corinth, Paul addressed many heavy topics of concern which are still rampant in today’s culture, and through this letter Christians in this century can benefit from its relevant wisdom and warnings. Throughout the letter each warning reflects back to the main focus of God being our provider and sustainer, and that His will and Word would be where our wisdom and instruction are found in all circumstances. All that we have is a gift from God, and God is worthy of our humble, faithful obedience and worship in love.


Additionally, Paul encourages the Corinthians constantly in how they, as well as future generations of Christians, are to come alongside fellow believers, as well as how to be in relationship with nonbelievers. We can find a wealth of guidance in how to rightly fellowship with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ throughout this letter that is just as relevant and vital now as it was when Paul wrote it.


Paul doesn’t mince words, and this letter can be either incredibly offensive or incredibly humbling, but should certainly be taken to heart by all and each warning should be seen as incredibly relevant to each and every one of us alive yesterday, today and tomorrow.

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