New Testament Survey: Acts to Revelation - Lesson 24
In 1 Corinthians, Paul emphasizes unity and diversity in the body of Christ, and responds to questions about marriage, spiritual gifts and the Lord's Supper.
Lesson Twenty-four: Corinthians
II. 1 Corinthians
A. Salutation (1:1-3)
B. Thanksgiving (1:4-9)
C. Body of the Letter (1:10-16:4)
1. The disunity in the church (1:10-4:21)
b. The cross vs. human wisdom
c. Paul and his co-workers
d. The Corinthians and Paul
2. Discipline in the church (5:1-6:20)
a. The issue of incest
b. The matter of lawsuits
c. Freedom is not license
3. Response to questions (7:1-11:1)
a. Concerning marriage
b. Concerning the unmarried
c. Concerning meat sacrificed to idols
4. Issues that Paul has heard about (11:2-33)
a. Women's dress
b. The Lord's Supper
5. Response to questions concerning tongues and spiritual gifts (12:1-14:40)
6. Issues Paul has heard about: Resurrection (15:1-58)
7. Offering (16:1-4)
D. Closing (16:5-24)
Acts was written by the same person that wrote the Gospel of Luke and continues where Luke left off with the resurrection and ascension of Jesus.
Luke wrote as a historian and includes details related to geography, political leaders and navigational terms. He was also an eyewitness and acquainted with eyewitnesses of events recorded in Acts.
Luke's purpose in writing Acts was give an orderly historical account of events surrounding Christ's ascension, the first followers of Christ and the spread of the early Church.
Acts 1:8 is the theme verse for the whole book. The structure of the book of Acts shows how this theme was fulfilled by recording events relating the spread of the gospel geographically.
At first, the early Church was made up mostly of Jews who continued to live a Jewish lifestyle.
Two events in the early Church were the choosing of an apostle to take the place of Judas Iscariot, and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.
The elements of conversion in the New Testament are repentance, faith, confession, regeneration and baptism.
Many of the early Christians spoke Greek and Aramaic. Stephen was one of the first deacons and was martyred for his faith.
The apostle Paul's background as a Jew, training as a Pharisee, and Roman citizenship had a significant influence in his ministry and writings.
Paul had a dramatic conversion experience as he was traveling on the road to Damascus.
After Paul's conversion, on some areas of his theology his positions stayed the same, and on some areas his positions changed dramatically.
Many of the events related to Paul's life and ministry are recorded in the book of Acts.
The conversion of Cornelius and Peter's vision were important events in emphasizing the inclusion of Gentiles into the early Church.
The church at Antioch sent out Paul, Barnabas and John Mark to preach the gospel. This was Paul's first missionary journey.
The Jerusalem Council was a meeting of the early Church leaders to decide how to include Gentiles Christians into what had, up to this point, been a predominantly Jewish Christian group.
Barnabas and John Mark went to Cyprus and Paul and Silas went through Asia Minor, then to Macedonia and Greece.
Some of the letters from Paul in the New Testament are to an individual and some are to congregations. The letters are written in a form that includes the same general elements in the same order.
A main theme of 1 Thessalonians is the second coming of Christ.
Paul addresses some issues regarding the second coming of Christ, such as being responsible to work and support yourself in the meantime.
On his third missionary journey, Paul spent most of his time in Ephesus.
Paul defends his apostleship and explains that the foundation of our relationship with God is based on faith, not works.
Paul begins by defending his apostleship. He then explains justification by faith and gives some ethical exhortations. (The lecture does not cover points C. Ethical Exhortations (5:1-6:10) and D. Conclusion (6:11-18), but we included the outline points for your benefit.)
Most people agree that Paul wrote both letters to the Corinthians. He answered questions from people in the Corinthian church and addressed problems that had arisen.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul emphasizes unity and diversity in the body of Christ, and responds to questions about marriage, spiritual gifts and the Lord's Supper.
Paul defends his actions and apostleship and encourages the people in the church in Corinth to contribute to his collection for the poor in Jerusalem.
The content of Paul's letter to the church in Rome was shaped by the ethnic background of the congregation and the challenges they were facing at that time.
The outline of Paul's letter to the Romans indicates his understanding of the fundamental concepts of the gospel.
Paul wrote Romans from the perspective of his calling as the Apostle to the Gentiles.
Paul begins Romans by stating the problem of sin and enumerating a few specific sins. His conclusion in chapter 3 is that both the Jews and the Gentiles are under the wrath of God.
The divine remedy to the problem of sin and separation from God is justification by a righteous God.
The results of God's righteousness include, peace, hope, freedom, living in the Spirit and assurance.
Paul was arrested in the Temple in Jerusalem, went on trial in Caesarea, and was transported to Rome and imprisoned awaiting trial before Caesar.
A major theme in the book of Philippians is joy in times of adversity.
In Colossians, Paul emphasizes the preeminence and supremacy of Christ.
Imperative is always based on the indicative.
Most scholars agree that Ephesians was written by the apostle Paul, partly because the content follows an outline that is similar to other letters attributed to him that are contained in the New Testament.
In Ephesians, Paul emphasizes who we are in Christ and the mystery of the gospel.
Paul writes to Philemon about how Philemon should receive his runaway slave Onesimus, who has become a committed disciple of Christ under Paul's influence and is returning to him.
Luke does not record the details of Paul's death in the book of Acts.
The best argument is for Pauline authorship, possibly with the help of a secretary.
Two themes in 1 Timothy are the role and requirements for bishops and elders, and the role of women in ministry.
Paul gives instructions to Titus who is a pastor in Crete.
Paul gives instruction to Timothy, who is a young pastor.
It is unclear who wrote the book of Hebrews.
A major theme in Hebrews is the supremacy of Christ. There are also passages that emphasize that perseverance is essential.
According to James, true faith results in works.
The apostle Peter wrote this letter to encourage Christians to be faithful during a time of suffering.
Themes in 1 Peter include the atonement, the new birth and the continuity of the Old and New Testaments.
Some people question whether or not 2 Peter was written by the apostle Peter.
Themes in 2 Peter include false teachers and the return of the Lord.
1 John is similar to the Gospel of John in style, vocabulary, theology and purpose.
John makes a distinction between acts of sin and continuing in sin.
Jesus came as God in the flesh and offers us the gift of eternal life.
Revelation is a book written in an apocalyptic genre by the apostle John.
The philosphy of interepretation you use when you study the book of Revelation determines what you think specific passages in the book are teaching.
Chapters 1-12 begins with the seven churches, and includes the seven seals and seven trumpets.
Revelation chapters 13-22 focus on the beast, Christ's final victory, final judgment and the millenium.
After Christ ascended and the church was spreading, it was helpful to have a written record of Christ's life and the apostles' teaching. All the books included in the New Testament were written before the end of the first century.
Each book included in the New Testament had to meet specific criteria. They are arranged with the Gospels first, then letters, then the book of Revelation.
In this second graduate-level class on New Testament Survey, Dr. Robert Stein walks you through the New Testament books Acts through Revelation. In his analysis of the books, you will learn not only the facts but also be challenged with their theological and spiritual significance.
Lecture: 1 Corinthians
He writes the typical apostolic greeting: “Paul called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus ….” He must have a low view of sanctification for some of these people. But sanctification is a status, not an ethical quality here. In theology, when you talk about sanctification, it is used very differently than the New Testament tends to use it. The New Testament talks about saints, those who are God’s people, set aside for his use. Normally those who are saints have an ethical quality associated with that. But it’s the position of being sanctified – all the people in Corinth who are believers are sanctified. When we talk about sanctification in theology, we’re using that word in a different sense. It’s perfectly alright to use it; it’s just a little confusing – and that has to do with growth in the Christian life. But this involves who they are – they are the saints. They are those who are sanctified, set apart for God’s use because they are his children. Verse 2 continues, “…called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their lord and ours.” To be sanctified, to be a saint, means that you’ve called on the name of the Lord Jesus to be your savior. And v.3, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Then he has a typical thanksgiving section here (v.4), “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him with all speech and all knowledge—even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed among you – so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Now when you read 1 Corinthians and you see all the problems there, isn’t it amazing how positive he is? In your church, when you tend to get discouraged, look at 1 Corinthians and say, “Are these the kinds of things we’re having in our church?” Probably not as badly. I’m sure there’s sexual immorality and things of that nature, but this is a kind of sexual immorality where Paul says that even the Pagans don’t do it. A young man is sleeping with his step-mother; there’s drunkenness at communion, chaos in the services; and yet he still has something positive to say. I hope that you feel that there are some positive things that you can say about your church, even with all the problems in that way, because Paul does. You can follow Paul’s footsteps there.
In 1:1 to 4:21, you have the issue of disunity in the church. There are dissensions (v.11) “Chloe’s people told me about this.” I wonder if Chloe’s people are going to get in trouble with the Corinthians (“Why’d you have to tell him about that?”). He continues in v. 12, “What I mean is that each one of you says, ‘I belong to Paul,’ or ‘I belong to Apollos,’ or ‘I belong to Cephas [Peter],’ or [the real spiritual one] ‘I belong to Christ.’” So you have different groups here, and this verse became one of the keys for what we call the F.C. Bauer Tubingen Hypothesis. We don’t deal with a whole lot of theology here, but this you need to know.
Tubingen is a city in Germany with a great university. Bauer was a professor there, and he brought forth this particular theological understanding of how the early church grew, and the issues that shaped the church. If I were to ask you to give me a name or two, what name would you give me if I said the word, “evolution”? Probably Darwin, but he’s really not the father of evolution. The father of evolution was a German philosopher named Hegel. What he argued was that in every-day life, what we have here is a thesis or some present situation. And this thesis will meet its antithesis, which conflicts with the thesis. And the result of that is an evolutionary kind of rise which gives birth to a new thesis, which also will encounter an antithesis, and this will give rise to a new thesis (Thesis 3), which has its antithesis, and this goes up and up, and continues. This is an evolutionary kind of growth, and it’s an optimistic kind of thing. You could say that there could be an antithesis that pulls down a thesis, making it worse. But that was not the mood of the time. The mood was very optimistic and evolutionary. Furthermore, Hegel said that behind all of this there was a world spirit, a weltgeist (‘God’ in philosophical-type language), which sees to this that is always upward and evolving into a higher kind. So, thesis, meeting its antithesis and evolving into a new thesis, having an antithesis, evolving into a new thesis, and meeting an antithesis, etc.
When you apply that to biology, you have a species that encounters certain kinds of things, and by natural selection it’ll go into a new species, and this will evolve into a higher and higher form. So Darwin takes this philosophy, and applies it to biology. In economics, someone takes this and applies it to economic theory. That was Karl Marx. And what you have here is a thesis, and the antithesis is a new form of production. And this forms a new form of society (thesis), which encounters another form of production, and you have an evolutionary growth this way. Well, F.C. Bauer applied this to the history of the early church. The philosophy is all there: the thesis is one form of Christianity (we can call it Jewish Christianity), encountering Paul and Gentile Christianity, and this leads to an early Catholic theology. And what you have then is Jewish Christianity represented by Peter and James and the Jerusalem church, encountering the antithesis of Paul and Gentile Christianity, and you have this antithesis resulting in a new thesis, which is represented by people like Luke, or early Catholic church.
This is the way the disunity of the church in Corinth was interpreted, that you had here a conflict ultimately between Paul and Peter, and they were struggling for the life of the church. Jewish Christianity (the early church was all Jewish), conflicted with the Gentile Christianity of Paul, and this would evolve later on into a synthesis, which then becomes a thesis, and that was the church like the one recorded in Acts. When you read Acts [according to this hypothesis], you have to realize that this is really the attempt by Luke to minimize all of Paul’s and Peter’s conflicts and make it readable for Theophilus so he would not notice these things.
That’s just not the way you can read 1 Corinthians. If this is really this kind of a struggle, and what’s going on in Corinth is that the Jewish Christians and the Pauline theology are conflicting with one another, and that’s what the division is, then why? Which group does he blame most? When you read, he says (1:12), “…each one of you says ‘I belong to Paul’, or ‘I belong to Apollos,’ or ‘I follow Cephas,’ or ‘I follow Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that none of you may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.)” The group he criticizes the most is his own group -- not the Cephas group or the Apollos group, but the Paul group. That would be crazy, if this is what was going on. If this is a life and death struggle between Pauline Christianity and the Jewish Christianity of Peter and the Jerusalem church, why in the world do you criticize your own group? You would encourage them – fight the good fight, don’t give in, “I wish Peter and those would castrate themselves”, etc. And F.C. Bauer saw this kind of struggle in four letters claiming to be Pauline: 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans. And those were the only ones he would accept as being Pauline, because they all reflected this kind of conflict.
But if you look at Galatians, what is Paul’s understanding as to the church in Jerusalem in chapter 2? In verses 6 and following, he says, “From those who were reputed to be something … those, I say, who seemed to be something added nothing to me. On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), when they perceived the grace that was given to me, James [from the Jerusalem church], Cephas [from the Jerusalem church], and John [from the Jerusalem church], who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised.” That doesn’t look like this kind of a life / death struggle between Paul and the Jerusalem church. They seem to have a unity there.
Also, when you look at the rest of 1 Corinthians, in 3:21 and following, he says, “So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future – all are yours, and you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s.” That doesn’t look like this kind of a struggle. And then when you get to 1 Corinthians 15:3, he talks about the resurrection appearances, “I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach, and so you believe.” Paul is not arguing against Peter and the church. He says, “We all preached that same resurrection message.”
But now, perhaps the strongest argument against seeing a Jerusalem/Paul conflict or fight or struggle is 16:1, “Now, concerning the contribution for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do.” Where is this offering going? To the Jerusalem church. Do you think that Paul would have ever been so stupid as to say, “We are collecting an offering for the Jerusalem church so that they can send out missionaries to trouble you, and pervert what we’re teaching here”? The very fact that he’s collecting an offering for the poor in Jerusalem indicates that he doesn’t see them as a contrary mission against his.
So, what has happened here is, you have in the air being breathed in the early 1800’s, not only in Tubingen but throughout Europe, especially in Germany, an evolutionary mentality. The philosophy of Hegel dominates. And so this is the way life is; this is the way it must have been in the early church. Now what would be the thesis and the antithesis? You have Paul and Peter, Peter being the Jerusalem church, and the result is that these now form your theory, and even if it doesn’t work, the theory is nice and people are constantly emphasizing it. There’s still a lot of F.C. Bauer attitude in the history of the early church, where a major conflict is seen between Paul and the Jerusalem church.
What you have to do of course [in this way of thinking] is to discredit anything Acts says here, because Acts doesn’t see it that way. But you have to remember that Acts is a piece of propaganda written when the early church has been established, and trying to gloss over all these things. There were a lot of other things that came to conflict and argue against this view. J.B. Lightfoot did a very intensive investigation of the earliest letters that we have in the church outside of the New Testament – the letters of Clement and Ignatius. And he worked with great diligence dating them (early second century), and demonstrating that they know nothing whatsoever about this struggle. And he argued that if there was a monumental struggle like the one F.C. Bauer suggests, it would have shown up in the letters of Clement and Ignatius. So here we have a thesis which is now generally rejected, although there are remnants of that, and people still like to see a major struggle between the Jerusalem church and the Pauline church.
Paul then goes on and talks about the wisdom that some of these people have, that it’s a wisdom of men and that it does not come from God. From v. 18, Paul seems to argue against the wisdom of this world, and he does. Let me define two terms to you that we want to be careful to distinguish. And this gets us a little into what we’re going to talk about in hermeneutics. The idea that humanity through reasoning can arrive at the knowledge of God is known as rationalism. That through human reason we can understand what God is like, and arrive at an understanding of that. Rationalism: through rational thought, humanity can come to God. The idea that God who gave Scripture can be understood by humanity by interpreting the Bible is just reasoning. Paul does think that human beings can reason and understand what the Bible says, and know therefore what God is like. He does not think that we can by pure reason arrive at God. Rationalism and reason are not the same thing. Rationalism doesn’t need Scripture. It can, by reason alone go to God. Reason argues that God has given us a revelation which we can understand, that human thinking can understand the Bible, and therefore even though they are spiritually discerned as being true, we can understand them. Human thinking is adequate to interpret the Scripture. So when he talks in 1:18-2:16, he’s not saying that human beings cannot understand what God has revealed in his word, in what God’s true revelation has revealed; but by reason we can arrive at that. And that the truthfulness of that can only be understood by the Spirit.
In 2:14, “The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit, for they are folly to him.” He’s not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. What Paul is saying here is that the unbeliever can understand the Bible, but it’s foolishness in his valuation. Reason can understand the Bible; reason cannot understand its truthfulness, apart from the Spirit. I guess I’m a little sensitive to that, because somebody said in my hermeneutics class that unbelievers can understand what the Bible teaches is rationalism. It’s not rationalism at all. Once you say that the only way you can know God is through the Bible, you’re no longer a rationalist. I’m simply saying that human reason can understand the Bible – not that it’s true, but understand what it says. And apart from the Spirit, human beings think that this is nonsense, foolishness; but when you have the Spirit, you know that this is the truth of God and that it is the reality of God.
When he gets to chapter 5, Paul deals with issues of discipline. The one that’s most apparent is this young man who is sleeping with his step mother, and he says, “Why haven’t you done something in this area?” So, he says in v. 3-4, “For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment in the name of the Lord Jesus on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” This does not mean an inquisition, where you actually put someone to death over something like this. This means an excommunication of some sort, in which he is to be put outside the believing church community. Being outside the church community, you’re in the world of Satan, not the world ruled by our Lord Jesus Christ. And his hope is that this man’s spirit will be saved and he will repent this way. And there is apparently in 2 Corinthians a report of this man having repented. Beginning in 2 Corinthians 2:5, “But if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure – not to put it too severely – to all of you. For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.” This may be very much the person who has been disciplined in 1 Corinthians chapter 5, because that’s the purpose of discipline, that he’s now repented and Paul now becomes his advocate, and he says, “Look, don’t overwhelm him now with a sense of grief and sorrow and guilt, etc. Receive him back at this time, for he is a brother in the Lord.” And in 2 Corinthians 7:8, he says, “For even if I made you sorry with my letter I do not regret it ….” It looks like once again the person may have experienced a discipline which causes him to react positively to the gospel and be restored. That’s the purpose of discipline, primarily.
The second purpose is the purity of the church. In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul talks about church discipline, and he argues, “Why didn’t you do this? Why do you have to wait for me to do something like this?” When the Reformation came, there was a great debate as to the signs of a church. What are the signs that indicate something is a true Christian church? Because here you had the reformers arguing against a Roman church, and the Roman church arguing against the reformers, that they’re not a true church because they don’t have apostolic continuation, they’re not supporters of the papacy and things of that nature. And the reformers are saying that the marks of a true church are generally two: 1) the correct preaching of the Gospel; 2) the right administration of the sacraments. Now interestingly enough, Zwingli was influenced by the Anabaptists, who were very strong and said that there was a third mark of the church, and that was church discipline. And so when Zwingli argued for the marks of the church, it was not only the correct preaching of the Gospel and the right administration of the sacraments; but also the correct discipline of the church. Southern Baptists were noted for this up till about 1900. That’s kind of fallen apart now. If you look at your church, is there correct discipline of the church, in any ways? Probably not, but here in Corinth he argues that this is a necessity; this is something they should do, and rebukes them for not having practiced correct discipline of the church.
Then in 7:1 and following, he begins with the questions that the church has raised. The first one has to do with marriage and the sexual situation. Note the level-headed approach that Paul has here, “Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: ‘It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.’ But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” Notice in v. 2-4 the equal-ness of all of this. The man doesn’t rule over his body alone, nor does the wife her body. They are to understand that they belong to one another. In v. 5, “Do not refuse one another, except perhaps by agreement for a season.” One person in the marriage partnership can all of the sudden say that they think they need to give up their sexual relationship for a period of time because they want to fast or pray or something like that. It has to be done jointly with one another so Satan will not have an opportunity to bring temptation here. He says, “…lest Satan tempt you through lack of self-control.” Then he says, “I say this by way of concession, not of command. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind, and one of another.” Not everyone can live this kind of life that I’m living. And Paul found it advantageous not to have to bring a wife with him on his mission trips. Think of what a miserable life it would have been for a wife of Paul walking all these 1500 miles. So in his own situation, he says, “Not everyone can do that.” So he has a very realistic understanding of the sexual relationship – the need of a man for a woman, and the woman for a man.
And he goes on and says, “If you’re unmarried, stay just as I am, but if you can’t exercise self-control, marry, for it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.” Then he turns to the married people and he says “I’m going to tell you married people something, but it’s not me. This comes from the Lord Jesus, he said that.” “The wife should not separate from the husband, and the husband should not divorce his wife. Now to the rest, (I say, not the Lord) ….” Now what he’s saying is this: “I got this from God: don’t divorce each other. But I think I’ll throw in some personal advice.” That’s not the way this is to be understood. “To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord) ….” Now I’m giving you a command, but ultimately it doesn’t come from me; because Jesus himself said this. And then he talks about Jesus’ teaching on divorce. But then he says, “To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) ….” Jesus didn’t say this, but I’ll tell you. And it’s equal in authority. What Jesus said is the word of God; what Paul said is the word of God. But Jesus didn’t comment on this, so I as his ambassador, I as his apostle, I will give you this advice. “If a brother has a wife who is an unbeliever and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her.” Jesus never talked about that situation, about mixed marriages. But let me give you advice on that. And then he gives his advice on that particular issue as well.
When he gets to v. 25, he says, “Now concerning the unmarried I have no command from the Lord, but I give my opinion once again.” And the advice given here is given in light of v. 26, the present distress, which probably the Corinthians would understand, because it’s a letter and they have some information about that. But this is one of the problems we have in a letter – we’re not sure what he means by the “present distress”, he simply refers to it. They’ll understand it, but we don’t, and that’s our problem. In 1 Corinthians 15 later on, he’ll talk about baptism for the dead, and they’ll understand it, because it’s a letter and there’s this information that they have in common. It’s not an epistle – if it were an epistle he would have explained all those things. But it’s a letter, which is personal, building on a relationship and on teachings that they’ve been given before. Remember, for three years he’d been there teaching, and he’s building on what he said in those three years. And he probably said something at one time about baptism for the dead, and what this means, and so he can just allude to it. With regard to the “present distress”, he may have talked about that. Whether that refers to “the coming of the Lord”, or the time of tribulation, or whether it’s a present situation in Corinth, I just don’t know. If you want theories we can deal with that, but the fact that you have so many attempted explanations indicates that we’re really not sure of it. But there’s a distress situation – not a normal situation – which causes him to say it would be better in that situation not to marry.
I remember a missionary who was living in a country when it became communist. He sent his wife and children home, and he stayed. That’s not a good marital situation, but for the impending distress that they were in, he wanted to stay with the church, because he wasn’t worried about what they might do to him. But if his wife and children were there, they could apply pressure on him in ways that might cause him to compromise his faith. That’s an impending distress situation. And is something like this going on in Corinth? It’s impossible to know. We just don’t have evidence for it.
Let’s go on and talk about the issue of meat that’s been dedicated to idols. 8:1, “Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’ This ‘knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up ….” There are people in Corinth who say that idols don’t exist, that they’re not real. So, any meat that’s been dedicated to them is irrelevant. It’s like dedicating your meat to a telephone pole or something – it’s irrelevant. It’s still just meat, and you know it has no significance, and you know you can eat it. But there are people in Corinth who are a little more shaky. They’re not as sturdy in their faith. And if they see you eating this kind of meat, they may associate things with it that you don’t. And so you have to be concerned about how this eating of meat dedicated to idols will affect them. And some people were so free as to say that it doesn’t even matter if they go into the temple to eat, because in many ways one of the few kinds of eating places was the temple. And a lot of business was done there, so if you had a business you might meet with other businessmen in the temple over a meal. And you knew it was irrelevant, like meeting at McDonald’s, or something like that. If guys out there worship the golden arches, I don’t; I just eat their hamburgers. And so, that was an issue, but Paul draws a line here, and says that if somebody who’s in the church sees you going into that situation, don’t do it. You may have knowledge of this, but remember that your knowledge shouldn’t hurt other people.
And then chapter 9:19 and following, “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” So, yes you’re free on this, but don’t use your freedom to hurt others. He says in 10:23, “All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful.” And in verse 14 of that same chapter, “Therefore, beloved, shun the worship of idols. I speak as to sensible men.” So, in general, meat that has been offered to idols is not something to worry about. Eat what’s put in front of you. But if someone makes an issue of it [e.g., “This meat was blessed by the great god Marmuk”], then for that person’s sake (since they think it’s important) don’t eat it.
Other issues include women’s dress, the Lord’s Supper, confusion at the Lord’s Supper, drunkenness present. Paul says the normal meal that we had together should be done away with, and worshippers should eat at home first. 11:17, “In the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One is hungry, and another is drunk.” In other words, the Lord’s Supper was preceded by potluck, in which you brought your own potluck foods. And some people brought a lot of food, and the poor brought very little. Not only that, some people brought a lot of wine, and the result is chaos in the church. “For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One is hungry, and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No.” So he essentially says that when they have a Lord’s Supper they shouldn’t have a potluck. Eat at home, and come celebrate the Lord’s Supper, and therefore the poor will not feel badly because they only have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, while others are having lobster Newburg, and things like that. It’s divisive. Then he repeats the tradition of the Lord’s Supper.
In 12:1, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren …,” and he talks here about the issue of charismatic gifts of one sort or another. He says in v. 12, “Now remember, just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” We’re one. Gifts should not divide us, (v. 13) “…for by one Spirit we were all [all Corinthians] baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” Those issues that divide us are not as great as what unites us. We have, all us, been united by being baptized by one Spirit, whether Jews, Greeks, slaves, free. And I remember somebody saying to me that that the Corinthian church was a very spiritually gifted church, and that’s why they all had this baptism of the Spirit, which not every Christian has. And I responded, “I don’t think you’re reading the same letter that I’m reading, because the Corinthian church was not that great a church, with all these problems.” But they’d all been baptized with one Spirit, because we all as Christians have received the Spirit, and have that commonality, so that is what unites us ultimately.
Questions about the resurrection come up in chapter 15 (a very strong chapter here theologically to deal with). There is a similarity between the resurrection body and our present body, but there also are differences. And the strong emphasis on the resurrection of course is biblical elsewhere. Then in Chapter 16 he deals with the offering, “Now concerning the contribution for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you are also to do.” In Galatians 2:9-10, we don’t have a direct reference to the collecting of an offering, but Paul writes, “… when they perceived the grace that was given to me, James, Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. Only, they would have us remember the poor, which very thing I was eager to do.” So, 1 Corinthians talks about collecting an offering. Galatians talks about how the Jerusalem church wanted the Galatian church to be concerned about the poor. 2 Corinthians 9:1, “Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the offering for the saints, for I know your readiness …,” and he talks about the offering in 2 Corinthians. And then in Romans 15, he also talks about the offering, 15:25, “At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem with the aid for the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia [Achaia being where Corinth is located] have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem.” So, one of the reasons these letters are linked together, is that 1 and 2 Corinthians and Romans all refer to an offering Paul is collecting to bring to Jerusalem. Same time, same topic. Galatians doesn’t specifically refer to that, although it refers to the suggestion from the Jerusalem leaders that the Gentile church be concerned about the poor in Jerusalem. So there seems to be good reason, not only with regard to the similar theological emphases which you find in those letters, but also to the common theme of the offering, to say that they tended to be written together. So in the AD 50’s we had 1 and 2 Thessalonians; in AD 55 we have Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians (and also ½ and 1 ½ Corinthians), and Romans. Then after that in AD 60 we have Philippians, Philemon, Colossians, Ephesians, the prison letters, and then in AD 65 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus as such.