Summary: Often times we think of our society today as so different from Bible times. But it may surprise you that the things facing the Corinthians are much the same as today, and so is God's grace!
1st Corinthians was written in A.D. 56 from Ephesus at the close of Paul's 3 year residence there (Acts 20:31, 1 Corinthians 16:5-8). Paul's relationship with the Corinthian church is in Acts 18:1-18. He met Aquila and Priscilla there and taught in a house next door to the synagogue for 18 months. It is here that God told Paul to keep teaching and said He had many people in that city.
Paul is not writing to commend the Corinthians for a job well done. He is writing to condemn certain practices and bring major correction to a church that had fallen into division, class distinctions, and support of sin in their midst.
Like a frog slowly being boiled does not know the water temperature is rising to lethal levels, the Corinthians were unaware as their characters were being assimilated into the culture around them.
The letter is not a Christian doctrinal primer, but an expression of the grief and revulsion of an Apostle to his work.
Despite its corrective nature, 1 Corinthians also contains the most beautiful expression of the character of love found in Scripture (chapter 13).
In a way you could sum up this letter as "Lessons in how not to be a Christian".
In some ways it is a very practical book-how to get along with other believers, how to be a believer in a lost world, how to live as a married Christian, and how to properly behave in a worship service.
The Corinthians were in an environment where being like Christ was not the norm-by far-and the ease of slipping back was ever present. For instance, Corinth had at least 10 pagan temples. At each of these temples were at least 1,000 men and women who were ready willing and able to fulfill worshiper's sexual desires. Corinth was so sinful that even other Roman citizens called people "Corinthian" to mean overly debauched.
In many many ways, however, the Corinthian culture was like our own, with the pull of sexual immorality just the click on a mouse away, and culture pressure to be unlike Jesus at the click of a remote. Lessons learned in Corinth have huge implications for Christians today.
Paul wrote the letter in answer to some specific questions the Corinthians had concerning marriage. Paul answers them, but in a way says "And here are answers to questions you should have asked." Sometimes we think we know what we have and what we lack in terms of building into the character of Jesus. Too often we are simply not asking the right questions because we are more evil than we realize!
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Sosthenes, by the way, was probably the synagogue ruler in Acts 18:17 who had been beaten in an attack on Paul but who later came to Christ and acted as Paul's secretary.
There are (at least) three significant things in Paul's greeting which, on the surface, sounds very normal: "Hey, it's Paul, wazzup?"
1. I don't belong to myself. God recruited me for this job, it was by His will, not mine. (verse 1)
Paul will say (1 Cor 6:19-20) You are not your own, 20 for you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body.
We no longer have the right to be self determinate. It doesn't mean we are no longer ourselves-just robots with no feelings or personality, but as far as our character and our behavior we can no longer just either make it up as we go along or rely on what others in our culture mirror or teach us to do.
2. You don't belong to yourselves either. You are "God's church." Not my church, and not anyone else's either! (verse 2a)
In 1 Corinthians 10:17 Paul will say: "we who are many are one body." And in 1 Cor 3:9 For we are God's co-workers. You are God's field, God's building.
And in Eph 2:21-22 The whole building is being fitted together in Him and is growing into a holy sanctuary in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for God's dwelling in the Spirit.
And even more, we are "sanctified" (Gk: Hagiazo), which essentially the process of being made into God's character ("holy") and "called as saints", meaning to be "appointed" or "invited" to be like God.
3. You aren't a special case worthy of special exemptions from the character of Jesus Christ (verse 2b)
"Theirs and ours" here refers to Jesus. Every Christian calls on the same Lord. He isn't up to our interpretation. The Corinthians were from a "cool" culture and thought they were a special case. They weren't and we aren't, we are all part of a building God is constructing for His dwelling place. You don't get to decide you are a faucet handle rather than a brick.