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Introduction and Background to the Epistle

In the days of the early church, Corinth was one of the leading cities in Greece. Though destroyed in a war, it had been rebuilt in 44 B.C. as a Roman colony. Due to its strategic location and two harbors, Corinth prospered as a center for trade and as a crossroads for travelers.

The book of 1 Corinthians, our topic this month, was written as an epistle from the apostle Paul (v. 1) to the church he had planted at Corinth in about A.D. 52 (see May 9). He most likely wrote this letter from Ephesus (16:8) about A.D. 55 during his third missionary journey.

Despite its material wealth, Corinth was morally and spiritually bankrupt. The city was known for its pagan idolatry and sexual immorality. In fact, a Greek idiom literally translated “to Corinthianize” or “to act the Corinthian” meant “to practice sexual immorality,” and the expression “Corinthian girl” indicated a prostitute.

Given the city’s reputation, it’s no surprise that righteousness is one of the main themes of this book. The apostle Paul exhorted the believers there to follow their calling to be God’s “holy people” (v. 2) and to grow to spiritual maturity in both doctrine and action. His letter is thus quite pastoral and practical. The Corinthian church had not been living worthy of their sanctification. Instead, they had been quarreling over leaders, pursuing lawsuits against one another, abusing the gifts of the Spirit, and misunderstanding key issues such as marriage and the Lord’s Supper. Paul’s tone was stern but loving as he instructed them. As we’ve titled this month’s study, he exhorted them to be Living as the Church of Christ.

As many have observed, the Corinthian believers lived and worshiped in a culture not unlike our own fast-moving, materialistic, postmodern society. The wisdom of this epistle is therefore a timely word for us today!

Apply the Word

How might 1 Corinthians be a timely word for you? We encourage you to pray over what God might teach you this month. Prayer prepares the heart to submit to the Word, which is “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16–17).

BY Brad Baurain

Dr. Brad Baurain has worked as a writer and editor for Today in the Word since 1993. Currently, he serves as associate professor and TESOL program head at Moody Bible Institute. Brad has the unique privilege of holding a degree from four different universities (including Moody). He has also taught in China, Vietnam, the United States, and Canada. Brad and his wife, Julia, have four children and reside in Munster, Indiana.

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