Summary: Paul didn't just preach the word, he lived it.
It happened in the jungle one day. A lion with a big ego went around asking the other animals who the king of the jungle was. “Who’s the king of jungle?” the lion roared at a monkey. “Why…you are, Mr. Lion,” said the monkey with fear in his voice. The lion went on and found a zebra. “Who’s the king of jungle?” he snarled. “There is no doubt about it…you are Mr. Lion,” said the zebra. Seeing a turtle crossing his path the lion yelled, “Who’s the king of the jungle?” Scared out of his shell the turtle said, “You are Mr. Lion. You are the king of the jungle.” Then the lion saw an elephant and he roared, “Who’s the king of jungle?”
The elephant used his trunk and grabbed the lion by the tail and he spun him around over his head several times, dunked him in a mud hole, and then slammed him into a large tree. Dazed and dirty the lion said, “Just because you don’t know the correct answer is no reason to get upset.”
“Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. 4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.
5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.”
So, here we are back in the book of Corinthians and whenever we speak of the Corinthian church, the very title is synonymous with a carnal, divided and ineffective church and for the most part, they acted as though they were God’s gift to the world.
Their attitude reminds me of a guy named Dave who was a roady for a gospel group I played with. (A roady is someone who simply sets up, takes down and then puts away the equipment.) And this guy Dave was twenty-two years old and had hair halfway down his back. He had no education and no job skills. He worked as a painter on a crew but he wasn’t very good at it and he spent all his money on flashy clothes and he was also an extremely proud person even though no one could quite figure out what it was he was proud about. And even though he hung around Christians he never showed any interest in spiritual things.
One day I said, “Dave, what are you planning on doing for the rest of your life?” And he said, “I’m waiting to be discovered.” And slightly bewildered I asked him, “Doing what?” And he said, “Playing drums.” I didn’t want to be rude but I said, “I’ve heard you play and you’re not that good.” And he just walked away laughing and said, “That shows how little you know.”
And that’s what these Corinthian’s were like. They were believers who exercised every spiritual gift and yet there were so many problems in their church that Paul wrote this letter in which he goes from teaching to pleading to rebuking them in an effort to get them back on track.
So, Paul wrote both of these letters, first and second Corinthians and then there is also a third letter to the Corinthian church that’s referred to but God didn’t include in the canon of scripture.
I think it’s safe to assume Paul had written hundreds of letters in his lifetime but only those that were inspired by God were included in the New Testament.
There is a reference to the third letter to the Corinthians and it’s in 1 Corinthians 5:9 where Paul said, "I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people." And since this was in 1 Corinthians then there had to be an earlier one. So, God allowed this reference to the book but he didn’t include it in the New Testament.
So, Paul is writing to tell these people that they lacked spiritual credibility and the reason he says this is because three different people had told him how there were four different factions or divisions in the church and each of these divisions were built around someone that these four groups saw as their spiritual leader; when in fact, the only true leader of the church is Jesus Christ.
In chapter 3:18-23 he points to the absurdity of division within a local church and it’s almost like he’s being sarcastic when he says, “If you are so wise” then here’s the result of your wisdom because your church is divided; and you’re better off being foolish because any wisdom that divides the body is not wisdom at all.