September 23, 2007
1 Corinthians 1-6
About Corinthians: Paul is the author of this epistle written c. 55 toward the close of Paul’s three-year residency in Ephesus. It is written to the newly organized church members in Corinth. It was not his first letter to the Corinthians. Their earliest known problem is bluntly stated: “I wrote to you in my letter not to fellowship sexual transgressors” (1 Cor. 5:9).
Corinth was a thriving cosmopolitan city, between two major ports. A diolkos, or stone road, for the overland transport of ships, linked the two seas. Via this road smaller ships could be hauled fully loaded across the isthmus, and by which cargoes of larger ships could be trnasported by wagons from one side to the other. Trade flowed through the city from Italy and Spain to the west and from Asia Minor, Phoenicia and Egypt to the east. Corinth was the chief city of Greece both commercially & politically. It was perched like a one-eyed Titan astride the narrow isthmus connecting the Greek mainland with the Peloponnese, was one of the dominant commerical centers of the Mediterranean world as early as the 8th century BC. Corinth contained at least 12 temples. One of the most famous crowned the Acrocorinth, the temple of Aphrodite (goddess of love), served, according to Strabo, by more than 1,000 pagan priestess-prostitutes. So widely known did the immorality of Corinth become that the Greek verb “to Corinthianize” came to mean “to practice sexual immorality.” In a setting like this it is no wonder that the Corinthian church was plagued with numerous problems. By the time the gospel reached Corinth in the spring of AD 52, the city had a proud history of leadership in the Achaian League, and a spirit of revived Hellenism under Roman domination after 44 BC following the destruction of the city by Mummius in 146 BC.
The theme of this letter revolves around problems in Christian conduct in the church. It thus has to do with progressive sanctification, the continuing development of a holy character. Christinas are still powerfully influenced by their cultural environment, and most of the questions and problems that confronted the church at Corinth are still very much with us–problems like immaturity, instability, divisions, jealousy and envy, lawsuits, marital difficulties, sexual immorality and misue of spiritual gifts. Yet in spite of this concentration on problems, Paul’s letter contains some of the most beloved chapters in the entire Bible–e.g., ch. 13 (on love) and ch. 15 (on resurrection).
1 Corinthians Chapter 1:
v. 1-2: What does it mean to be a saint?
v. 3-8: What is grace and what does it mean to be given grace?
v. 10-15: What is this unity Paul is demanding and why is it important?
v. 19: A quote from Isa. 29:14.
v. 20: For the word “scribe” the traditional rendering of γραμματεύς (grammateu”) as “scribe” does not communicate much to the modern English reader, for whom the term might mean “professional copyist,” if it means anything at all. The people referred to here were recognized experts in the law of Moses and in traditional laws and regulations. Thus “expert in the Mosaic law” comes closer to the meaning for the modern reader.
v. 22-23: Paul refers to the different ways of thinking of the Jews vs. the Greeks here. For Jews, because of their assumptions the logical conclusion was that God had already declared the terms of salvation through the Torah, thus no need for further revelation and that a triumphant, political Messiah, not a crucified one, was what they anticipated. For the Greeks & Romans, because of their assumptions the logical conclusion was that God could not & would not take on a mortal body, suffer and then be resurrected so it was unthinkable that a crucified criminal could be the world’s Savior. The philosophies (wisdom) of men pose a stumbling block for faith, as Paul continues to point out. What modern philosophies pose a stumbling block for the preaching of the gospel to non-members? What modern philosophies pose a stumbling block for the true conversion of MEMBERS of the church?
For a terrific, yet concise, explanation of the contrast in thinking between the Jews and Greeks, turn to the 2nd Appendix in Jim Faulkner’s book, “Scripture Study,” published by BYU Studies. If you haven’t already read the book, begin in the back with this Appendix & then go back to the beginning of the book!
v. 24: See Rom. 1:4,16. See v. 30. The crucified Christ is the power and the wisdom of God that saves.
v. 26-31: Compare Paul’s elaboration of this theme (God making the foolish or weak things of the world that which is strong and saves) with the song of Hannah (1 Sam. 2:1-10) and the song of Mary (Luke 1:46-55.).
v. 31 includes a quotation from Jer 9:24. The themes of Jer 9 have influenced Paul’s presentation in vv. 26-31. Jeremiah calls upon the wise, the strong, and the wealthy not to trust in their resources but in their knowledge of the true God – and so to boast in the Lord. Paul addresses the same three areas of human pride.
1 Corinthians Chapter 2:
v. 1-5: Why is Paul’s ignorance, humility and weakness stressed here? Should we and How might we model this in our preaching and living?
v. 6-16: What is the wisdom and mystery Paul is speaking of? Why is it mysterious? v. 9 is a quote from Isa. 64:4. See D&C 6:23, 76:10 also. Verse 16 is a quote from Isa. 40:13. What does the last verse mean?
1 Corinthians Chapter 3:
See Alma 12:9-12 here.
v. 1-4: What is the definition of carnal according to Paul? How does one rise from that state of existence?
v. 6-17: What do you learn from this building metaphore? What does it all culminate in? Look at Mal. 3:2-3. What can you learn from this? Note the JST in v. 15. Note how Paul shifts his listeners from first a planter to then a builder in v. 9. Why do you think Paul shifts in metaphores here? Why might his audience have been receptive to these metaphores? Do they apply to us today? According to v. 10, what is the pre-requisite for being a “masterbuilder?” What is Paul building? Who is the building and the builder? In verse 12, what are the varous types of buildings, i.e. gold, silver, etc. and what is Paul saying with analogy? How might this apply to our lives?
During class, members made comments about these verses that showed considerable insight. For example, one brother noted how at the time of Paul, planting a field and reaping a harvest depended most heavily on God to provide rain. Basically, a person could plant and then just rely on God’s grace for a harvest. In contrast, to build a building required more personal follow-through, or work. With these two kinds of investments and desired harvests we see grace and work combined to bring about the desired results.