"But let all things be done properly and in an orderly manner."
1 Corinthians 14:40
Corinth was a bustling city of about 700,00 people. It remained in ruins until Julius Caesar rebuilt it as a Roman colony in 46 BC. It thrived after that and became the capital of the province of Achaia. Its official language was Latin but Greek was the common language. It had two sea ports which Nero had tried to join, but failed, in order to prevent the 200 mile voyage around southern Greece (this was not achieved until 1893).
The city was full of shrines and temples. The largest was the one dedicated to Aphrodite - "the goddess of love". Worshipers of Aphrodite made free use of the 1,000 temple prostitutes who were consecrated to serve in such immoral forms of worship. Immorality was so wide spread in Corinth that pleasure-seekers came there to partake in its vice, entertainment, corruption and temple practises. It wasn't long before Corinth gained a bad name for itself. The expression Korinthiazomai, "to act like a Corinthian", was used in reference to immorality and prostitution.
Despite the rampant moral decay, Paul was able to establish a church here. For eighteen months he worked among them. Originally he supported himself through his tent-making job. But he was soon able to devote himself full-time to their service when a gift from the Philippian church arrived. When Paul departed from Corinth in about AD. 52, Apollos took over the work.
Four years later Paul was teaching in Ephesus. He received a number of disturbing reports about the Corinthian church. Three men were sent from the church that met at Chloe's house (1:11; 16:7) with a letter asking for Paul's judgment on some vital issues that had been raised. These three men obviously enlightened Paul to some of the other incidents that were occurring in the church also.
Paul had already written previously to the churches there (5:9). Now, however he proceeds to systematically answer their letter and address some specific concerns. While he was there among them he had managed to bring this people together out of Corinth. In his absence it became apparent that though they were out of Corinth, Corinth was not out of them! The church was under threat, not from outside, but from within. Two glaring internal problems were verged to blow it apart.
1. What were these two problems?
Ironically if it wasn't for Paul addressing some of these issues we would have little understanding of such things as -the Lord's Table, spiritual gifts, and the resurrection.
1. THE MESSAGE OF THE CROSS IS FOOLISHNESS
"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God"
1 Corinthians 1:18
Remember "He who loses will find" (Mtt 10)? The message that Christ preached was:
"And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it."
2. Why would this message be foolish to some?
3. Should we change our message and make it more logical? Why / Why not?
4. Why is the message of the cross 'the power of God' to those being saved?
Paul goes on to talk sternly about issues we unfortunately see today. In chapter three, he says that we shouldn't look to men, we should look to God. We shouldn't have any 'superstars' in the church. "We are God's fellow workers" (3:9), we are simple servants, who build on the foundation of Jesus Christ (3:11). He calls the church a 'the temple of God' and declares swift judgment upon anyone who tries to destroy the unity of that church (destroy the temple).
5. What will God do to those who try to destroy His temple? (3:17)
In chapter four, he basically says that to behave like a Christian is foolish as far as the world is concerned. He describes apostles as "fools for Christ's sake" (4:10). In chapter five, he rebukes them for not taking disciplinary action against a well publicised affair between a man and his step-mother. They had taken grace too far! There must be discipline and order in the Church. Instead, they were 'glorying' about their new freedom in Christ to condone such practises (5:2,6).
6. What type of person does Paul say not to associate with? (5:11)
2. BODY IS TEMPLE
"Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?"
1 Corinthians 6:19
7. What type of sin is against our own body?
8. What did we use to be slaves to?
In verse 20 it says that we have been bought at a price. A Bible word which sums this thought up is "redeemed".
9. What are three definitions of redeemed? Fill in the missing word :
a) To buy at ________________ expense.
b) To buy ___________ .
c) To buy in the ________________ market.
10. Who has bought us? And how should we treat Him?
11. In what does the Holy Spirit now dwell?
12. Should this affect our actions? If so, how?
Some people believe that its possible to sin with their bodies, yet maintain a pure spirit or soul. The Bible does not teach this. It treats us as 'holistic' beings. That means that we are not two or three separate entities, but one person. Therefore if we sin, we are totally guilty of that sin. I've heard of a person who was involved in immorality. When the pastor confronted her about it, she said something like "yes, I've sinned with my body and soul, but my spirit has remained pure and innocent - it had nothing to do with my sin". Such thinking is ludicrous!
3. BEWARE OF STUMBLING BLOCKS
"But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak."
1 Corinthians 8:9
There was obviously a lot of insensitivity in the church at Corinth. Paul gently says to them "Be considerate about the other person's conscience". He discusses in particular, the issue of meat dedicated to idols. He sums up by saying that if food makes a brother stumble, avoid eating that type of food. Jesus said that its not what goes into a man's stomach that defiles him, its the things from within his heart ( Mark 7).
13. Sometimes God gives us knowledge about certain things. When we get knowledge, what must we be careful to do, and not to do?
14. What must we temper (discipline) our knowledge with? (1 Cor.8:1)
4. THE GREATEST OF THESE IS LOVE
"And now abide, faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love."
1 Corinthians 13:13
15. List the qualities of love mentioned in verses 4-7:
This chapter in love needs to be constantly brought to remembrance. As you meditate on what 'Bible-love' really is, consider who this love involves. We are told we must love God. We are told that God loves us. We are told to love one another. I find the last one the hardest, yet the most practical.
16.Some people use verses 8-9 to claim that the spiritual gifts have been done away with. What does the expression "that which is perfect has come" mean?
17. What two other things are closely related to love and why? (vs.13)
5. SPIRITUAL GIFTS
"Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy."
1 Corinthians 14:1
In this chapter Paul seeks to bring some order into the services of their church meetings. Read between the lines of this and some of his previous chapters, there appears to have been a great deal of disorder present. Because of this lack of respect of what they were truly doing, some had died (1 Cor. 11:30). Church can be great fun and full of the most satisfying enjoyment. However, there is something extremely significant about a congregation of people solemnly assembling before their God.
18. In Joel 1:14, what type of meeting did God want the Priests to proclaim?
There is a vast difference between meeting as a congregation and assembling. If we truly want to see God move in our midst, we must as a congregation of people learn what it means to come to attention and assemble before God.
19. If you were summoned to see the Monarch of a country and told that they were going to come to your house to meet with you and a few others, how would you show you show your respect? Tick the appropriate answers:
..... Put on my best appearance, including clothes and grooming.
..... Pay attention to them
..... Snigger at them to those around about us.
..... Completely ignore them and pass little notes around to our friends.
..... Sit right up close to where you could give them your undivided appreciation and attention
..... Obey instantly any directives they gave.
20. Before whom do we meet as an assembly every Sunday?
Paul says that when we personally and privately pray in tongues, we strengthen ourselves. But in a church service we must ensure that any message in tongues is able to be interpreted before we give it, so as to strengthen (edify) the whole church ( vs. 28). If no interpreter is present, then the person who gave the message in tongues is to seek God for its interpretation (vs. 13). Paul continues on to stress the need for order. In verse 26 he says that when you come together, everyone has something to offer.
21. What sort of things were they each contributing to their meetings?
These "contributions" should never bring strife or contentions. Some people have actually sought to disguise their personal convictions or knowledge as a spiritual gift. This can lead to disorder. If people are disguising their frustrations as spiritual gifts they can lead the weak astray with what appears to be something from God.
For example, some people might have some strong convictions about dancing before the Lord in church. They may object to it. They could vent their frustrations at the sight of people dancing in church by saying "Thus says the Lord, ' You shall not dance in church or I'll cut your feet off!'". This would obviously affect a weak Christian who danced. Other people have "exposed" the sins of others by using spurious spiritual gifts.
22. According to verses 27 and 29, how many tongues/interpretations and prophesies should be given in a meeting?
23. According to 1 Corinthians 15:33, what corrupts good character?
24. According to 1 Corinthians 15:58, What must we do?
25. When was the church at Corinth meeting? (1 Cor.16:2).
New Testament Survey
© 2001 Andrew Corbett, Legana, Tasmania