1 Corinthians Part One Dive
HE CAN’T TALK TO US LIKE THAT!
This church is crazy, this church is out of control, how does a church that has more ‘worldy’ issues going on in its congregation stand up and make a difference in a community like Corinth! Its full of quarrelling, jealousy, sexual immorality, they are suing each other, someone is sleeping with his Fathers wife (eeww!) and they are proud of him (what!), they are fighting over who is the best preacher in the church (Paul, Peter or Apollos) they're abusing the Lord's supper, using it for their own advantage, they are yeling out in church, they no longer believe in the resurrection of the dead and that’s only the beginning, and Paul has found out. So he writes 1 Corinthians give them instructions on how to bring their church and all the mess within it back into right order. How good does your church sound right now?!
Paul knows he has his hands full and he is in ‘Dad mode’ again. 1 Corinthians is an amazing letter, it’s strong, instructive and it is one of the few letters that really gives us a glimpse into what it looked like to run a church in the 1st Century and to live as a Christian in the 1st Century.
In this city the church is contending with 27 different temples, so the people have options. If they don’t get what they want out of your church, they will try the god next door. Sexual immorality is part of the worship at the Temple Aphrodite, so when the Corinthians are getting saved, they are assuming that their sexually immoral behaviour can continue. Paul has to teach people that are used to living one way how to live God’s way.
Now remember what time we are in, about 56AD so Christianity is only in its beginning moments, it’s been in the society for about 20 years. So you can’t say to these people don’t you read the Bible and know how to act? Didn’t you go to Sunday school and learn what is right and wrong? Didn’t your parents tell you that was wrong? There is no Bible, they didn’t grow up in the church, and so no, they are not sure how Christians are supposed to act. They know that they are set free in Jesus, and they are working out what they can and can’t do with their new found freedom. They have been led by Apollos, Peter and Paul and they are still learning what is right and wrong. Which part of their lives is their ‘old way of life’ and which part is part of living in Corinth; Paul in this letter explains the difference.
WHERE DO WE GET OUR WISDOM FROM?
The first thing Paul addresses is his authority to speak to them, and he talks about where they should seek their wisdom from starting in 1:20
Look at 1:20 "Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age?"
See how he is addressing what the 1st Century world considers wise – wise person, teacher of the law, philosopher of this age – these are all people that they would go and seek counsel from to give them wisdom. But Paul is saying the wisdom that the world relies on is not wisdom and he continues
1:20b "Has not God made the foolish the wisdom of the world? For since the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. …For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength."
What is he saying? He is saying stand against the norm of the world, don’t go to who you used to for wisdom, seek the wisdom of God in how you should act and live. And he keeps going on this topic until 3:23 – have a read of it!
I love what Paul says; sometimes we look to the wisdom of this world to help us when all we need to do is ask God for wisdom, and he freely gives it, look at James 1:5.
James 1:5 "If any of you lacks wisdom you should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you."
And one of my all-time favourite verses that I have memorised!
Proverbs 3:5-7 New International Version (NIV)
5 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.[a]
7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil."
PAUL IS ADDRESSING THEM WITH THE HEART OF THE FATHER
God gives us wisdom through the Word of God, that is why we are so passionate about you reading it! So now he has them seeking the wisdom of God and has re-established his authority to speak to them he tells them why he has to write this strong letter and it is not from a heart of judgement but a heart of a Father.
He says in 1 Corinthians 4:14 "I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel."
Now even though Paul is writing this letter in a Fathers' heart, the Corinthians didn’t take it that way. We know the Corinthians were so offended by this letter that Paul had to visit them to calm them down and repair their relationship, he writes a letter of tears after that (which we don’t have) to try and mend the situation and then 2 Corinthians after it was all restored and back to normal.
They didn’t take this letter well, and it causes all sorts of drama for Paul. But he loves this church so much that he fights for the relationship and writes and visits them to try and mend the situation. What has caused the Corinthians to be so angry about this letter?
WHAT WENT WRONG WHEN THEY RECEIVED THE LETTER?
As you read it you can see that it is strong, it’s instructive, and Paul is putting some strong boundaries in place in the church to try and fix the issues, but this man Paul is no stranger to them. He lived with them for over eighteen months, so they should know him? He places the most powerful verses on love in the whole Bible (13:1-13), in this letter.
But in their freedom and in their own wisdom and their own right to do what they want they forgot who Paul was. They forgot that this was their church leader, that this was Paul the one who lived amongst them. They let their offence and false teachers tell them who Paul was and it was wrong. How easy is that to do, when you get corrected, or someone shows you the sin you are in, you automatically go into self-defence mode and get angry at them and allow others to tell you who they are.
The crazy thing is that they asked the questions that Paul gets in trouble for answering. When we get past chapter seven, we can see that they have written a letter to Paul asking his advice and he systematically addresses every issue for them. 7:1 "Now for the matters you wrote about" We can see from this point that Paul goes through and gives them guidance, correction and direction on each point that they asked about in their letter, by the words: 'Now for' and 'Now to' found in 7:1, 7:8, 7:25, 8:1, 12:1, 16:1 (highlight these as you go through!) I think this is so funny, they asked for his help and when he gave it to them they get angry!
I don’t have time to address each thing he goes through in this Dive, but I suggest you take your time, with a commentary at your side, and work through them. Because this is an instruction manual for us today, even though some of these are Corinthian specific and this letter is church specific not like Ephesians which is universal, there is so much gold in this letter that you can take home and work on in your own life. Don’t be like the Corinthians, be someone who takes correction easily.
Imagine if the Corinthian church took a step back and after listening to Pauls letter thought, “I know that he loves us, he only wants good things for us, lets humble ourselves, lay down own rights and anger right now at take this correction (on things that were clearly wrong by the way and that they asked for his wisdom!) and lets accept the teaching of Paul." We know that they eventually did respect what he said because we have the letter, they didn’t destroy it straight after reading it. Later they honoured and revered his wisdom so much that we have it today in our Bible. But it took a lot of heartaches, two other letters and a long trip from Paul to make that happen.
So would you say “he can’t talk to me like that” or would you say “it’s out of a fathers heart that he talks to me like that, so I’m going to hear it and change accordingly”? It’s your choice.