THE NEWLY ESTABLISHED congregation of believers in the Greek city of Corinth faced many different spiritual challenges. The two letters which the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians expose these challenges vividly. The most pressing concerned the ungodly behaviour of certain of the church’s members. There were also wrong teachings. It had got so bad that some brothers and sisters did not believe that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead! Despite this ‘perfect storm’ of moral and doctrinal difficulties, the Corinthian church was addressed by the Apostle Paul as ‘the church of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:2, 2 Corinthians 1:1). He did not distance himself from them, he appealed to them and set about correcting them. The Works of the Flesh Firstly, just how bad were the problems at Corinth? As a preamble to the answer, in Paul’s letter to the believers in Galatia we read: Now the works of
THE CORINTHIAN congregation was established by the Apostle Paul during his second missionary journey. There had been a warmer response to the Gospel in Corinth than in intellectual Athens. Paul wrote this letter whilst at Ephesus, during his third journey. Believers With Problems In a decadent pagan city such as Corinth, it was not surprising that problems would arise: personality factions (1:12–16; 3:1–6), human pride (1:17–2:16), idolatry (chapters 6, 8, 10), wrong teaching (11:19), and serious moral problems (chapters 5–7). The authority of the apostles was being questioned (chapters 4, 9). Paul reminded the believers of the basis of their common salvation and of the need to put their house in order. Phrases such as “Now concerning…” tell us that the letter is responding to questions which some Corinthians had raised (7:1, 25; 8:1, 4; 12:1; 16:1). There were misunderstandings about the memorial service (‘Lord’s supper’ or ‘breaking of bread’)
LOTS OF US are kind of broken. We’ve been through things in our lives we’d rather forget. If I was a car, I’d be the one with the scratched and dented bodywork and some trouble starting up. For people like us, there are words of Jesus which will come like music to our ears: “Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavour, how shall it be seasoned?” (Luke 14:34). For other people, the ones with pristine bodywork and an engine that starts first time, this might go straight over their heads. If they are paying attention, they may simply think: “If salt has lost its flavour you’d just throw it out, wouldn’t you?” But it was those whose lives had lost their sheen to whom Jesus spoke: “Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to him to hear him” (Luke 15:1). It’s obvious, isn’t
The world is full of opposites—hot and cold, light and dark, pressure and vacuum, love and hate. If God is the source of all love and kindness, then surely there must be an entity who is the source of hate and bitterness. MANY OF THE WORLD’s religions are based on the assumption that existence is a struggle between good and evil. Applying this assumption to the Bible, some suggest that in the world and in the lives of individuals there is a struggle for dominance between God and Satan. But is this what the Bible says? Isaiah 45 is a remarkable chapter in which the Hebrew prophet looks forward two centuries and addresses by name Cyrus the Great, the future King of Persia: “Thus says the Lord to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have held—to subdue nations before him and loose the armour of kings” (v. 1).