“Love is patient, love is kind. . .”
This quintessential wedding-day passage is arguably the most common from the Book of 1 Corinthians—so much so that we often forget the purpose and context of this Pauline epistle. As we dig deeper into this book, we discover the history of the church in Corinth, the reason Paul writes this letter, and the care Paul has for the entire Church.
Paul’s letter to the Corinthians addresses specific dividing issues within this certain congregation. This letter was written to remind them what he taught them before—Christ crucified unites all who believe. Many of the themes that Paul addresses here center on the disagreements that were dividing the congregation, so he speaks on the Lord’s Supper, Baptism, idolatry, and sexual integrity. Like any good church leader, Paul drives the church back to the Gospel and to Scripture, where God speaks His promises to His people.
Paul—yes, the Paul, the guy formerly known as Saul who was blinded on the road to Damascus and then wrote a good chunk of the epistles in the New Testament—wrote 1 Corinthians in AD 55, before Pentecost. He planted the church in Corinth in AD 49–51 on his second missionary journey.
This first letter to the church at Corinth was written to explain that Jesus Christ crucified—who embodies the Gospel—creates the Church’s unity, service, and hope.
At this time, the congregation had divided into various groups and parties, vying against each other for honor, prestige, and power. Paul wrote this letter to address the specific conflicts within this individual church. Throughout the letter, Paul references statements he has heard from a report on and a letter from the congregation. To understand the purpose of 1 Corinthians, readers must be alert to when Paul is quoting something from a letter and when he’s not.
The cosmopolitan city of Corinth had a diverse population, not unlike many of the world’s major cities today. Many congregations face challenges that stem from their diverse populations—whether racial, economic, or generational. Even in seemingly homogenous congregations, conflict arises and reveals diverse opinions and backgrounds. As you navigate your own congregation, you can look to the wisdom of Paul in addressing conflict and division.
Paul also offers sage advice for any Christian, whether or not they’re facing conflict in their church. His writing on love, the Spirit’s work, and Baptism will encourage any Christian as they seek to live a life that glorifies God.
1 Corinthians 1:18
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
1 Corinthians 3:16
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
1 Corinthians 7:17
Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.
1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
1 Corinthians 15:58
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
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