The Church at Corinth. It was founded by Paul on the second missionary journey (Acts 18:1-18). His spirit in founding the church is seen in 1 Cor. 2:1-2. While there Paul made his home with Aquila and Priscilla, Jews who had been expelled from Rome (Acts 18:2-3), but who now became members of the church. Apollos preached to this church and aided it in Paul’s absence (18:24-28; 19:1). Both Epistles are full of information as to the condition of the church and the many problems which hit had to face from time to time. It must be remembered that Corinth was one of the most wicked cities of ancient times and that the church was surrounded by heathen customs and practices. Many of its members had but recently been converted from heathenism to Christianity and the church was far from ideal.
The Occasion and Purpose of the Letter. Unfavorable news had come to Paul concerning the Corinthian church and he had written them a letter (5:9) which has been lost. In that letter he seems to have commanded them to give up their evil practices and promised to visit them. In the meantime, members of the household of Chloe(1:11) and other friends (16:17) came to him at Ephesus and brought news of their divisions and of the evil practices of certain of their members. Finally, they wrote him a letter asking his advice on certain matters (7:1). From all this we learn (1) that there were four factions among them, 1:2; (2) that there was gross immorality in the church as in the case of the incestuous person, Ch. 5; (3) that they went to law with each other, Ch. 6; (4) that many practical matters troubled them. Paul, therefore, wrote to correct all these errors in doctrine and practice.
Content. This letter contains some of the greatest passages in the New Testament. It is, however, remarkable especially for the very practical nature of its contents. It deals with many of the problems of every day life and has been said not to discuss but one great doctrine, that of the resurrection.
Date. From Ephesus in the spring of A. D. 57.
I. Concerning Divisions and the Party Spirit. 1:10-4.
Divisions are prevented:
1. By Christ as the center of Christianity, 1:10 end.
2. By spiritual mindedness, 2:1-3:4.
3. By a right view of preachers, 3:5-4 end.
II. Correction of Moral Disorders, Chs. 5-6.
1. The incestuous person, Ch. 5.
2. Lawsuits, 6:1-11.
3. Sins of the body, 6;12 end.
III. Answers to Questions and Cognate Matters, 7:1-16:4.
1. Concerning marriage and celibacy, Ch. 7.
2. Concerning things offered to idols. 8:1-11:1.
3. Concerning head dress, 11:2-16.
4. Concerning the Lord’s supper, 11:17 end.
5. Concerning spiritual gifts, Chs. 12-14.
6. Concerning the resurrection, Ch. 15.
7. Concerning collections for the saints, 16:1-4.
IV. Personal Matters and Conclusion, 16:5 end.
For Study and Discussion. (1) Earthly wisdom and heavenly foolishness, 1:18-25. (2) Spiritual wisdom, 2:7-16. (3) Paul’s apostolic labors, 4:9-13. (4) The scripture estimate of the human body, 6:12-20. (5) Marriages and divorce, 7:25-50, letting “virgin” mean any single person, male or female. (6) Paul’s practice in the matter of his rights, 9:1-23. (7) The Christian race, 9:24-27. (8) Love and its nature, Ch. 13. (a) Superior to other gifts, 1-3. (b) Its ten marks, 4-6. (c) Its power, 7. (d) Its permanence, 8-13. (9) Spiritual gifts, Chs. 12-14. Name and describe them. (10) The resurrection, Ch. 15. (a) Calamities to result, if there were none-or the other doctrines here made to depend on the resurrection; (b) The nature of the resurrected body.
The Occasion and Purpose of the Letter. From suggestions found here and there in these two epistles it appears that much communication passed between Paul and the church and that the two letters that have come down to us are only some of a series. He suffered much perplexity and grief because of the conditions of the church. He met Titus in Macedonia on the third missionary journey (he had hoped for him with news from Corinth while he was at Troas). He wrote this letter in response to the messages brought by Titus. He expresses solicitude for them, defends himself against the charges of his enemies, warns them against errors, instructs them in matters of duty and expresses joy that they have heeded his former advice.
The Character and Content. It is the least systematic of all Paul’s epistles. It abounds in emotion, showing mingled joy, grief and indignation. It is intensely personal and from it we, therefore, learn more of his life and character than from any other source. This makes it of great value in any study of Paul himself. Section one has as its great topic tribulation and consolation in tribulation, and has in it an undercurrent of apology, darkened by a suppressed indignation. Section two is colored by a sorrowful emotion. Section three everywhere teems with a feeling of indignation. Through the whole letter there runs an undercurrent of self-defense. The “key-note” of this book, as well as of First Corinthians, is loyalty to Christ.
Date. It was written from Macedonia (probably Philippi) fall of A.D. 57.
I. Paul’s Trials, Principles and Consolation as a Preacher, 1:8- 7:16.
1. His interest in the Corinthian church. 1:8-2:11.
2. His service both to God and men, 2:12 end.
3. His appointment by the Holy Spirit, Ch. 3.
4. His power given by God, Ch. 4.
5. His hope of future blessedness, 5:1-19.
6. His exhortation and appeal to the church. 5:20-7:4.
7. His joy at their reception of the word, 7:5 end.
II. The Collection for the Poor Saints, Chs. 8-9.
1. The appeal for liberality, 8:1-15.
2. The sending of Titus and two other brethren, 8:16-9:5.
3. The Blessedness of liberality, 9:6 end.
III. Paul’s Apostolic Authority. 10:1-13:10.
1. He vindicates his apostolic authority, 10:1-12:13.
2. He warns them that his coming will be with apostolic authority, 12:14-13:10.
Conclusion, 13:11 end.
For Study and Discussion. (1) Paul’s reasons for not going to Corinth, 1:15-2:4. (2) The glory of the gospel ministry, 4:1-6. (3) His affectionate injunction, 6:11-18. (4) The grace of liberality, Chs. 8-9. Make a list of (a) ways of cultivating this grace, (b) the blessings it will bring to the possessor, to others and to the whole church. (5) Paul’s boasting, 11:16-12:20. (a) Of what things did he boast? (b) When is boasting justifiable? (6) Paul’s self-defense? When should we defend ourselves? (7) The vision of the third heaven, 12:1-4. (8) The thorn in the flesh, 12:7-9. (9) The personal attacks on Paul. Note the hints in 2:17; 4:3; 5:3; 10:8; 10:10; 11:6.