Understanding the background context of Cortinthians

June 29th, 2009

I have just finished reading the New Testament book of 1 Corinthians. I have been reading it for the last week or so as a part of my daily devotions.

The Book of 1 Corinthians really touches on some difficult areas. Just a quick scan of the chapter headings in the book show it talks about disunity in the church, spiritual pride, lawsuits among Christians, marriage problems, sexual sins, food sacrificed to idols, warning against idolatry, orderly public worship, the right use of spritual gifts and the resurrection of Christ. As you can see it covers some pretty heavy stuff!

Now on the surface you might think that this church is pretty messed up. It sure shows there is a lot going on! However when we do some background reading about the City of Corinth we find out why Paul is addressing these issues and why the church is in this place.

Corinth was one of Ancient Greece’s most important trade cities. It was located on the Isthmus of Corinth between the Ionian and Aegean Seas and was a connecting link between Rome and the East. Although Corinth was an ancient city it had been destroyed by Roman armies in 146BC and only had a small number of people who survived. In 44BC it was odered to be rebuilt under Julius Caeser.

Once rebuilt Corinth became a melting pot for more than 500,000 people from all walks of life. It was made up of merchants, sailors, professional gamblers, athletes who competed in the Isthmian Games, freed slaves and thousands of male and female prostitutes who served in one of the “temples”. Many people flocked to this city because of its freedom from rules and hedonistic lifestyle.

Most scholars agree that Paul planted the church at Corinth in 51AD with the help of Priscilla and Aquilla (Acts 18). He did this with the mix of the wide variety of people mentioned above.  Part of his work was to try and get the people to live together in harmony despite their national, social, economic and religious backgrounds. A truly huge job indeed!

When we understand a little of the context and background of the Book of 1 Corinthians we start to understand why Paul was quite direct on a number of issues and gave clear instructions. He was trying to bring people together from all backgrounds to truly follow Christ in unity.

After reading through the book over the last few weeks I have come away with a renewed sense of the huge task that faced Paul in bringing this diverse group people together as one under Christ.

I am also very aware of the importance of believing in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, that we have good Biblical teaching in place and that we all need to love and serve one another from our hearts. When we do these things all the rest seems to fall into place.

God Bless,