Summary: A journey to ancient Corinth, a place of materialism, sexuality and conflicting religious traditions, much like us today.

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Spiritual Identity

Today we begin our new series. Come on a journey with me to ancient Corinth, a place of materialism, sexuality and conflicting religious traditions, much like us today. Come discover God’s spiritual wisdom for how to live for Christ in a foolish world. The Corinthian Christians wanted to follow Christ, but they were caught up in their culture and struggled with hearing different voices selling their own opinions. As a result the church was divided among different factions. What they thought was wise instead was foolish. They thought they were mature, but in fact they were spiritual babies so Paul wrote this letter to grow them. In this amazing book, we will find spiritual wisdom that overturns commonly accepted “wisdom” in our culture. We will see that our lives can be all about Jesus and that will be a great life, no matter how others see us.

Brace yourself because Paul gets direct in dealing with the Corinthians’ issues. More than in any other letter, Paul uses sarcasm and deliberate exaggeration to shake them out of their foolish thinking. We need the same today. This study will help us to live mature, Christ-like lives in a corrupt culture. The problems they faced, we too face in our lives today.

To understand the book, it will help you if know some history about Corinth. If you have not done so yet, read the Introduction to the Study Guide for an outstanding short background on Corinth. Let me give you a few highlights. The city of Corinth was ideally situated on the narrow land bridge between Peloponnesus and mainland Greece with two harbors: Cenchreae, about six miles to the east on the Saronic Gulf, led straight to Asia, and Lechaeum, about two miles to the north on the Corinthian Gulf, led straight to Italy. A four-mile road connected the two ports, enabling cargo and even small ships to be hauled across the isthmus. Corinth controlled both the commercial land and sea travel between Italy and Asia.

Although the city has an ancient history, it was totally destroyed in 146 BC by Lucium Mumius, then it was refounded in 44 B. C. by Julius Caesar as a Roman colony. So the Corinth of Paul’s time was a new city. A building boom occurred between the reigns of Augustus and Nero, making Corinth “arguably the most dazzling and modern of Greek cities” (Savage 1996: 36). It was the hot place economically. To use current terms: schmoozing, rubbing shoulders with the powerful, pulling strings, scratching each other’s back, and dragging rivals’ names through the mud—were required to attain success.

In terms of religions, Corinth was a melting pot. It had everything. You could pick your religion; most worshipped multiple gods hoping that one would bring wealth and happiness. New Testament scholar Gordon Fee says, “All of this evidence together suggests that Paul’s Corinth was at once the New York, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas of the ancient world.” Another author summarizes, “The city had developed an unapologetic love of things and a love of pleasure. It was full of people who wanted to make money and have fun.” That sounds a lot like . . . We share much in common with the Corinthians and so need to pay special attention to what Paul says. Could we say this is Paul’s letter to America or to Collin County?

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