According to the Pew Research Center, about half of U.S. adults say that they have looked for a new church at some time in their lives. Most people choose a church based on the quality of the preaching, feeling welcomed by the church’s leaders, and the style of the service. If you go by these criteria, for those living in New Testament times, the church of Corinth should have been a top choice.
According to the apostle Paul, this church had been “enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge” (v. 5). It boasted some of the New Testament era’s leading teachers, such as Peter, Apollos, and Paul (v. 12). The city in which it met was both cosmopolitan and wealthy, making it one of the most prominent of its time.
Yet despite these advantages, the church in Corinth was also deeply troubled. Members were divided into factions identifying with their favorite teachers (vv. 10–17). Some were living immoral lives, and others were confused about how to live as Christians in a pagan culture (1 Cor. 6–9). Other people misunderstood core doctrines of the faith (1 Cor. 15). Some of the church’s worship practices were disruptive (1 Cor. 13–14). As if these issues weren’t enough, Paul faced opposition from some in the church who questioned his apostolic credentials (2 Cor. 2–7). These things prompted Paul to write the two letters we will be studying this month. We often romanticize the New Testament church. The study of 1 and 2 Corinthians should encourage us to discover that the church then was not that different from our own. We too have been gifted by God. We also have problems. Yet, despite their flaws, Paul thanked God for the Corinthian church (v. 4).
>> Our churches today struggle with many of the same problems as the Corinthians. We also have access to the same spiritual power. As we begin this study, pray for a better understanding of the church in Corinth and of your own church.
Thank You, God, for the Body of Christ. As we study Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, grant us understanding of Paul’s teachings and of Your love and purpose for the church today.