Monday, September 12, 2011

First Corinthians

First Corinthians. The Holy Bible. New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982.

Corinth was a major commercial center for the Greeks. The church there, like churches elsewhere are too often, was fractious. To settle disputes, leaders of the Corinthian church sent a delegation to the missionary who established their church, Paul.

Sometimes you might get a sense of exasperation in reading Paul’s letter. He had hoped they would continue in the things he had taught them, growing in Christ. Instead, they were acting like children. In some ways, they were worse than children.

Paul had a lot to say to the Corinthian believers about how Christians should conduct themselves, especially in relation to their brothers in Christ. The general rule was this: love.

Love, and the corollary attributes of humility and generosity, was to be the governing principle in the church. There are many particulars Paul deals with in terms of the disputes going on in Corinth like partisanship, lawsuits , marriage, eating meat from sacrifices to idols, women in the church, and spiritual gifts. In every case, the advice was to be thoughtful and accommodating of others. It is better to inconvenience yourself for a while for the sake of a new or weak brother, drawing them into maturity of faith through love, than to assert you prerogatives and potentially hurt or alienate others, causing them to fall away or into error.

The love theme culminates in Chapter 13. This description of love is one of the most famous passages of the Bible, popular at weddings, and well worth reading.

A secondary theme of the letter is liberty. The gift of grace Christians receive from God includes great liberty. Godly character in imitation of Jesus, whose death paid for sins and whose perfect rightness was attributed to His people, was to characterize life. Christians don’t earn love, favor and forgiveness from God by their adherence to laws, customs and ceremonies (as if any of us could live perfectly), but they received His gift of forgiveness and new life. It didn’t matter how people dressed or what they ate because they had freedom in grace.

Much was permitted, but not everything was fruitful. Paul encouraged people not to flaunt their liberty, but to let love rule.

Though Christians have liberty, there remain things that are immoral and not to be practiced in the church. Liberty is not lawlessness and forgiveness is not license to sin with impunity. The church was to stand against immorality, especially among its members, and encourage each other in doing good. Paul addresses moral and doctrinal issues, especially in the later chapters of his letter.

Like other letters in the Bible, you’ll find things like you might put in your own communication: greetings, introductions, plans, schedules, instructions and other matters. In addition to instruction and wisdom, this letter opens a little window into history of the early church and the people who were involved in it.

Paul also wrote

If you’re interested in this book, you may also be interested in
The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
The Gospels
Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs