The church of Corinth was founded by the Apostle Paul in his second missionary journey after he left Athens.
Corinth was an important centre of trade and was a wealthycosmopolitan sea-port. Archaelogical findings revealed evidence of a city life-style focused on self-indulgence and entertainment, very much like any great city today. It was a city which pursued status, money, success, pleasure and popularity. It was also a city steeped with idol worship. The city was thought to have some twenty six temples and this was accompanied by lax sexual practices and cult prostitution.
As a travel centre, Corinth drew various itinerant philosophers and rhetoricians; these were influenced by the Greek culture with its emphasis on human knowledge and wisdom.
Corinth appeared to be most unlikely to receive the gospel ofJesus Christ; yet God, through the Apostle Paul and his co-workers, brought many to the knowledge of God and the gospel. Paul stayed there for one and a half years, preaching and teaching, and even the synagogue leader came to believe in Jesus Christ. The church in Corinth however was plagued with many problems: there was division, jealousy, spiritual arrogance, sexual immorality, incest, abuse of spiritual gifts, social and ritual disorder. There were also wrong attitudes, even towards the Apostle Paul, accompanied by a wrong understanding of the gospel, its teachers as well as the meaning of the cross and salvation.
Interestingly, many of these problems became obvious from feedback from the house of Chloe and questions directed at Paul on various subjects in Christian living.
The epistle of 1 Corinthians is therefore not a ʻnormalʼ epistle but a ʻcollectionʼ of Paulʼs responses and teachings to both the issues raised and the problems which became obvious in the church.
Nonetheless, the issues in this epistle are still very much alivetoday and they affect the Church of God in our current context. As we ponder 1 Corinthians, in so many ways, we are looking at ourselves and the Church of God in various localities.
The epistle covers the important subjects of love (chapter 13), the resurrection (chapter 15), the place of spiritual gifts, the warnings of taking our calling for granted, the role of Christian leaders and the centrality of the cross in Christian life and ministry.
Let us look to the Lord God to teach us and to help us avoid thepitfalls which beset the church in Corinth.