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Introduction to the Books of the Bible

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Paul's First Letter to Corinth





BOOK : 1 Corinthians

Description : A long letter written by the apostle Paul to the church in Corinth, responding to various difficulties they were having.

Author: The apostle Paul

Date written : Probably about 55AD

Chapters : 16



Brief Synopsis:


•  Paul visited this place at least twice, if not three times (2 Cor 13:1). On his first visit (Acts 18:1) he had stayed for a year and a half (Acts 18:11) and having preached the gospel and raised up the church there, he saw himself as their spiritual father (1 Cor 4:15)
•  In reality this is probably at least the second letter he had written to this church (see 5:9,10) and he has received information about them (1:11) and indeed they had previously written to him with questions (see 7:1, 8:1, 12:1, 16:1)
•  From the main headings in the Outline below it is clear that he writes to deal with specific problems that were occurring in the church there divisions, sexual immorality, marriage difficulties, questionable practices, unruly worship and concerns about the resurrection.



Outline :


1:1-9 Introduction

1:10-4:21 Divisions in the Church

1:10-17 The Fact of the Divisions

1:18-4:13 The Causes of the Division

1:18-3:4 A wrong conception of the Christian message
3:5-4:5 A wrong conception of Christian ministry and ministers
4:6-13 A wrong conception of the Christian
4:14-21 The Exhortation to End the Divisions

Ch.5-6 Moral and Ethical Disorders in the Life of the Church

Ch.5 Laxity in Church Discipline
6:1-11 Lawsuits before Non-Christian Judges
6:12-20 Licentiousness or Sexual Immorality

Ch.7 Instruction on Marriage

7:1-7 The Prologue: General Principles
7:8-24 The Problems of the Married
7:25-40 The Problems of the Unmarried

8:1-11:1 Instruction on Christian Freedom

Ch.8 Food sacrificed to Idols
Ch.9 The Rights of one serving the Lord
10:1-13 A Warning from the History of Israel
10:14-22 Idol Feasts & the Lord's Supper
10:23-11:1 The Believer's Freedom

11:2-14:40 Instruction on Public Worship

11:2-16 Propriety in Worship
11:17-34 The Lord's Supper

Ch.12-14 Spiritual Gifts

12:1-3 The test of the gifts
12:4-11 The unity of the gifts
12:12-31 The diversity of the gifts
Ch.13 The Primacy of love
14:1-25 The superiority of prophecy over tongues
14:26-40 Rules governing public worship

Ch.15 Instruction on the Resurrection

15:1-34 The Certainty of the Resurrection
15:35-57 The Consideration of Certain Objections
15:58 The Concluding Appeal
Ch.16 Conclusion: Practical and Personal Matters



Some Key Verses:


Problem to be dealt with: No.1 Divisions

1:10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.


The foundation for Christian ministry

2:1-5 When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.


Problem to be dealt with: No.2 Sexual Immorality

5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father's wife.


Problem to be dealt with: No.3 Disputes

6:1 If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints?


Problem to be dealt with: No.4 Marriage in an age of persecution

7:1,2 Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.


Problem to be dealt with: No.5 Eating food previously offered to idols

8:4 So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one.


A principle when considering Christian freedom

10:23,24 Everything is permissible"--but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"--but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.


Problem to be dealt with: No.6 Propriety in worship (seen in light of current culture)

11:3-5 Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head--it is just as though her head were shaved.


Problem to be dealt with: No.7 Propriety at Lord's Supper

11:20,21 When you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk.


Problem to be dealt with: No.8 Administration of spiritual gifts

12:1 Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.


Problem to be dealt with: No.9 Resurrection of the dead (& Jesus' resurrection)

15:3-5 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve

15:20,21 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.


Possible future plans

16:3,4 when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me.



Concluding Comments


Thus we see that this is a pastoral epistle, from the father of the church there in Corinth while he was in Ephesus , to address a variety of problems that had been drawn to his attention. Perhaps we may see the nine difficulties we have observed as follows:


i) Attitudinal (behavioural) problems

•  Divisions

•  Disputes

•  Lack of care at the Lord's Supper

ii) Moral or ethical problems

•  Sexual immorality

iii) Practical wisdom difficulties pertinent to that day

•  Eating food given to idols

•  Marrying in a day of harsh persecution

•  Propriety in worship in the light of the culture of the day

iv) Administrative difficulties

•  Administering spiritual gifts

v) Theological difficulties

•  Resurrection of the dead



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