Beginning in 1 Corinthians, the church at Corinth is much like the churches of today. The culture of the church was too much like the community. It was considered an insult to be called “a Corinthian” because of the gross immorality that dominated the people. Corinth was second only to Ephesus in Temple worship. The temple worship consisted of temple prostitutes, both male and female. The truth be known, Paul had more problems with the Corinthians than any other church. Paul spent most of his time correcting the church and its practices. They were his nemesis church – they constantly were “carnal” in respect to all the teaching of God. They had divisions among themselves, one boasting of Paul, another Apollos and yet another Peter. Factions cause great struggle with the unity in a congregation.
Paul is responding to a letter [previously] written to him about various topics. One can tell the topic change by the word “Now” to indicate a new topic. In the two books to the Corinthian people, there could be as many as four different letters. Some scholars see the four letters combined in the two we have today. As with a carnal church, there are many “childish” opinions. Children or young believers are too immature to understand the deep things of God. As in most of Paul’s letters they are written to challenge and admonition the church to correct their behaviors or beliefs. [except maybe the Prison letters]
Arrogance is the first problem with the believers at Corinth. [4:6; 4:18 and 5:2] The believers were puffed up with themselves – primarily from their thought of being superior through the “spiritual gifts” they displayed. [Tongues in particular]
Paul tries to correct any attitude of arrogance by letting them know that God uses the “foolish things” of the world, so that He alone will glory. Paul describes for us three men of the world, [2:14-3:6] the natural man -unsaved; the spiritual man – saved and the carnal man – living like the world. Paul lets them know they are carnal because of the actions and attitudes they display, but also because they are still drinking milk. It is very easy for a baby Christian to become offended, just as a child that doesn’t get their way starts screaming and throwing temper tantrums. The problem with the Corinthian Christians and many Christians today is the point that they think they are better than everyone else. This arrogance will even be projected to the Apostle Paul, in that they will challenge him and his ministry.
The attitude of arrogance drifts to an apostasy type of living. If the believer thinks more of himself than he should, he will think he is above the “law.” Here is a problem even today, how much should a believer be involved in the world? The question arises because if there is not a balance between living for the Lord in an immoral society, the church will take on many of the customs and practices of the world. In America, I believe this is taking place. To be friends with the world, is to be enemies with God. Too much is being done today in hopes of drawing a crowd of people. Nickels and noses are used to measure success of a church ministry. This is the wrong measurement. How many disciples are we making of believers and how effective is the church in sharing the Gospel to the world; these are the true measurements to be made.
Paul tries to correct the Corinthian church about the lawsuits and such that members were doing to each other. John 13:34-35, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, in that you have love one for another.” Something the Corinthian Church had missed! The divisions were no different from how we today make distinctions from each other. The apostasy reached epic proportions – Chapter 5, the immorality of a son sleeping with his step mother. How stupid can you get, what was worse is they were glorying in the fact. The influence of the old life was still evident in their walk [or no walk] with the Lord.
The Corinthian church though high of themselves even to the point that they viewed Paul with contempt. He had to defend his apostleship [more in 2 Corinthians]. In his defense, he illustrates how that his life was filled with conflict and struggles for their sakes. However, they see this as a sign of his weakness. More will be addressed in future blogs about Paul and the relationship with the immature Corinthian church. I can remember a time in my distant past where, I thought I knew all the answers to the faith. That I had arrived spiritually and superior to others. Man was I dumb – I didn’t even know all the questions. pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall!