A. Introductory Questions Author Paul is the author of the letter (Powell p289, 1:1). Date The letter was written in the mid 50s CE with some saying specifically 54 CE (HCSB p2139) and others between 53 and 57 (Powell p295). Audience This letter was written to the congregation that Paul started in Corinth (HCSB p2139, Powell 293). Genre The genre of this writing is letter of the historical form of ancient Hellenistic letters (HCSB p2141) and is specifically a “letter of Exhortation and pastoral care” (HCSB p2141)
B. Outline Diagram and Summaries
The Logos of the Cross It is foolishness to believe that God would save through the means of a cross (1 Corinthians 1:18). But this foolishness becomes power for those who believe (1:25) The Weak and the Strong The Corinthians were not wise by society standards, yet they are the chosen of God (1:26-27). So those chosen can proclaim God (1:31). Body as Sanctuary of the Holy Spirit Do not join yourself to anyone other than a spouse for “The two shall be one flesh.” (6:16). Because we are the temple for the Holy Spirit (6:19). Asceticism and Libertinism “Lead the life that the Lord has assigned” you (7:17). Do not seek what you are not but obey everything God commands (7:19). Food Sacrificed to Idols No idol exists and God is the only God (8:4). So, one may eat food offered to idols as long as one believes only in God and that the idol has no weight but if the faith is weak you should not eat the meat. (8:10). Always seek love (8:1/8:13). Pagan Meals Eat what you are given without question (10:27). But if someone says the food was sacrificed to an idol do not eat for the conscience of the one who proclaimed it sacrificed (10:28). Do everything you do for the glory of God (10:31). The Lord’s Supper Jesus had supper with the 12 and took bread, blessed it and broke and gave it to them saying “This is my body that is for you.” (11:24). Then Jesus gave them the cup of the new covenant shed for all people (11:25). This meal proclaims Jesus’ death until his return (11:26) One Body, Many Members All believers are one regardless of what society says separates us (12:13). All believers have a part to play and those parts which seem weakest or not needed are the parts that should be lifted up (12:23). All believers are individual members of the body of Christ and yet are all also the body of Christ (12:27). Resurrection Christ died for the sins of the world, went to the dead and on the third day was raised back to life (15:3-4). After Jesus was raised he appeared to the disciples (15:5) and then to Paul last (15:8). “For as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ” (15:22). Believers do the right thing to show forth love (15:33-34). And the world will see what was perishable has become imperishable (15:42) when the body is raised from the dead (15:44). Because of love “we will be changed” (15:52).
C. Interpretive Issues Paul responds to several issues around sexual conduct in 1 Corinthians. There are people in Corinth who have no issue with sex with prostitutes (6:15-18), there is one member of the community sleeping with his father’s wife (5:1), and there are members of the community that think men shouldn’t even touch a woman (7:1). To say the Corinthians are a full spectrum of weird on sex is an understatement. All of this leads Paul to talk about the body and how Jesus was raised in the body so we too will be raised in the body (6:14, Powell p301). And the body is not bad as some think, and the body is not irrelevant as others think (Powell p301, 6:13). Paul tells the Corinthians “that sexual relations are acceptable only within marriage (7:2)” (Powell p301). He expands this to say celibacy is preferred over marriage, but not all have this gift (Powell p301), divorce is to be avoided and marriage should be between believers (Powell p302). All of this is ended with “but obeying the commandments of God in everything.” (7:19, Powell p302)
D. Ministerial Application “But strive for the greater gifts” (12:31). 1 Corinthians is a pastoral letter to a community in conflict. It is a practical guide to being the body of Christ. In this letter Paul points out many conflicts in this gathering and a wide spectrum of belief which is what I see every day in the students I encounter. Paul’s words to the Corinthians tell them to “strive for the greater gift” (12:31) the gift of love. If we can constantly seek to know and be love in the world, we will help everyone see their place in the body. That none of us are better than another but we all need to work to follow God (7:19). Paul reminds the Corinthians all believers are all individually members of the body of Christ while all believers are collectively the body of Christ (12:27) and we need all the parts to make the body (12:19). So we need to be open, welcoming and understanding and living our own lives in a way that helps others know God’s love and see it in a tangible way (8:13). For me it is about striving for love through full inclusion of all.