For the month of February, we are encouraging everyone to read through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. While written to deal with specific issues that had arisen within the first few years of this newly planted church, this letter is timeless, speaking truths and grace into our hearts regarding what it means to be truly spiritual. The Corinthian church was founded by Paul on his second missionary journey and became his base for eighteen months. In this busy commercial port city in what is now southern Greece, Paul busied himself preaching Christ and many people were saved. You can read the background and the context for some of the challenges which subsequently arose in Acts 18.
A few years after Paul had departed from Corinth, he was visited by some members of the church (Chloe’s people) who revealed there were divisions and serious issues threatening the unity of the church and the witness of the Gospel. Paul loves this church, referring to them as ‘his beloved children’ (4:14) and regards himself as their father in the faith, so he writes trusting that his counsel will be taken to heart and obeyed, so that he can revisit them in a ‘spirit of gentleness’ rather than ‘with a rod’ of correction (4:21). The integrity and witness of the Gospel is being jeopardized by a church that has become more like its surrounding culture than one that supposedly ‘has the mind of Christ’.
The epistle systematically addresses serious issues such as spiritual pride, sexual immorality, Christians suing each other, chaos in the meetings, selfishness and lack of consideration for one another. Paul also speaks into areas of confusion in marriage relations, how Christians should relate to unbelievers, and how the different spiritual gifts in every local church serve to build up and unite the whole church. The reality on the ground in Corinth was that this was a church that had become more about them than about Jesus, and that inevitably leads to strive and division.
Corinth was a messed-up church, like ours, populated by people who exalted personal preference in a culture that celebrated individualism, like ours! Yet the messed-up church is the bride of Christ simultaneously sanctified while being made holy through the word and the Spirit. It exists not just for ‘that day’ when the bridegroom will return, but to be a living example to a broken and love-searching world. The church must not just preach the gospel but be a living demonstration of the greatest manifestation of love mankind has ever known. True spirituality, just like Jesus taught, is loving God and loving one another by the grace He provides (16:13-24).
So, 1 Corinthians is God’s gift to the messed-up church, reminding her of the grace that called her out of the world while holding out the grace she needs for her ongoing transformation, so that a watching world would likewise desire to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified!
Join with us on February 22nd at 8pm to share how you have encountered God through your reading of his word.