I’ve continually felt a gentle pull towards studying both letters to the Church at Corinth however there’s always been a bit of hesitation because of what I have seen to be its content. My pastor preached out of Corinthians a while back and he mentioned that most pastors tend to stay away from a thorough exegesis of the text. Why is this? Firstly, it is quite confrontational. Paul’s language in all his letters is strong, however the letters to the Corinthians seem more offensive than the others. But the question remains, why is it more offensive? I think it is because it addresses current issues in our collective societies worldwide.
Corinth was a popular place. It was a major trade hub and therefore contained a huge mixture of cultures. Being a commercial stronghold, there were many businesses located there. Because of the huge mix of people, there was also a huge spiritual battle occurring in Corinth. The temple of Aphrodite attributed to the sexual perversion that it was known for, but also we will see that Paul will address supernatural spiritual gifts, which reveals to us the presence of spiritual strongholds in the area.
The letters to the church at Corinth address issues we are facing today in the public, political, and private realms of our society. Homosexuality, religion, church doctrine, politics, and generally learning how to be a child of God while living in a broken and perverted world is exposed and addressed in these letters. I have felt that whenever I have briefly looked at these letters in other studies that it will be very easy for someone to get offended by them because they seem to be the most pertinent in exposing the distortion of God’s creation as we see it today. I almost studied these letters before, but I felt led to first study Ecclesiastes. The interesting part, which I don’t find coincidental at all, is that Solomon’s ecclesiastical dissertation about the vanity of life without God is going to be intimately exposed in these following letters. Solomon wanted to warn us, but we didn’t listen. Paul’s letters are a result.
1 Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
We must understand that Paul is addressing believers in Corinth. He planted the church and is now writing to them, as there has arisen some discord and confusion about what it means to be a follower of Christ where they are. The mixed and explicit culture has twisted the perspective and as you can imagine it is difficult to figure out “what now” once you choose to follow Christ. What does it look like for me? This was the purpose of all of Paul’s letters, but I think these will cut us quick to the heart the most. I love that Paul always keeps grace at the center of his letters. We must be constantly reminded that it isn’t of our own doing that we are saved and reconciled to God, rather it was all His work and we are simply the recipients of that grace and love. He has called us to Him through the power of what Christ has done on the cross and we are therefore in the sanctification process of being reconciled to Him. In other words, we have accepted the invitation to be in a relationship with Him and we are constantly being cleansed of our dirty past so they no longer get in the way.
This is the greatest thing I look forward to in these letters. Paul answers the “what now” about Christianity. How are we to be different? How do we live in the world without living as if we are of the world? God couldn’t have picked a better place to show the contrast. The light seems brightest in the darkest of places and He picked Corinth to be the example of our spiritual darkness in contrast to the Light of the World: Jesus Christ. As adopted sons and daughters of the one true God, His light is within us. Paul’s letters to Corinth are going to explain not only the darkness we once lived in and the gravity of it, but also how to do so now let that light shine.
I invite you to join me in this surgical study of our own sinfulness that will offend us and challenge us to stop living like the dead and start enjoying the freedom of the living!