First Corinthians Overview

From Peter Kreeft’s You Can Understand the Bible:

The most unifying theme in First Corinthians is that Christians must be different.

Corinth was the largest, most cosmopolitan, and most decadent city in Greece. Two-thirds of its 700,000 citizens were slaves. “To act like a Corinthian” was an ancient saying meaning debauchery, especially prostitution. The city was full of idolatry, which centered around Aphrodite, the goddess of sex.

Paul had come here to evangelize in the years 51-52 AD. Now, 4-5 years later, he writes this letter to address some problems of this new, struggling Church surrounded by an “advanced” word just like ours: a world in “advanced” stages of decay.

Christians are called out of paganism to a radically distinctive lifestyle. For Christ is Lord of every aspect of life. In 1 Cor 2:2 he says that he “decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ.”

Paul is scandalized a the division in the Corinthian church (1:10-13) and sees the source of division as the proud claim to possess superior “wisdom” and not submitting to Christ as God’s Wisdom.

On the number one topic in modern morality, sex and love, Paul does three things. First, he condemns sexuality immorality in Ch 5 & 6. Second, Paul gives an positive alternative picture of Christian marriage in Ch. 7. Third, Paul writes the most famous passage about love ever written, Ch. 13. This love (agape) is not a feeling or desire (eros) but a life.

Chapter 15 is the second most important chapter – the primary text in Scripture on the resurrection of the body. Without the resurrection, “our preaching is in vain, and your faith is in vain” (15:14), “you are still in your sins” (15:17), and “if for this life only have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied” (15:19).

For Paul, the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is like the difference between a cat and a dog. It is not, for Paul, merely a difference between two beliefs, but a difference between two beings, two species. For Paul, a Christian is a little Christ, a member of Christ, a cell is Christ’s body.

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