Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation - Lesson 9

1 Corinthians

Paul addresses the extremes of asceticism and hedonism, as well as concerns regarding marriage, spiritiual gifts and the resurrection.

Craig Blomberg
Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation
Lesson 9
Watching Now
1 Corinthians

Letters of Paul

Part 3

III. 1 Corinthians: Countering Misguided Views about Christian Maturity

A. 1 Corinthians Outline

1. Introduction (1:1-9)

2. Paul responds to news from Chloe (1:10-6:20)

a. Divisions in the Church (1:10-4:21)

b. Incest (5:1-13)

c. Lawsuits (6:1-11)

d. Sexual immorality in general (6:12-20)

3. Paul responds to the letter from Corinth (7:1-16:4)

a. Marriage (7:1-40)

b. Food sacrificed to idols (8:1-11:1)

c. Worship (11:2-14:40)

i. Head coverings – men and women (11:2-15)

ii. Lord's Supper – use and abuse (11:17-34)

iii. Spiritual gifts – (12:1-14:40)

d. Resurrection (15:1-58)

e. Offering for Jerusalem (16:1-4)

4. Conclusion (16:5-24)

B. The Results of a too Sharp Division Between Body and Spirit

1. Asceticism – denying desires/humanity

a. False sense of maturity

b. Claims to special wisdom

c. Advocating celibacy

d. Forbidding certain food and drink

e. Believing in only spiritual resurrection

2. Hedonism – indulging desires/humanity

a. Sexual sin

b. Lawsuits

c. Eating food without concern for others

d. Requiring pay for Christian work

e. Drunkenness at the Lord's Table

f. Disrespect for appearance of sexual propriety

g. Worship chaotic

C. Patron/Client (Rich/Poor) Problems Behind 1 Corinthians

1. Factions

2. Incest

3. Lawsuits

4. Prostitution

5. Idol meat

6. Not accepting money for ministry

7. Unruly women leaders

8. Abuse of Lord's Supper

9. Flaunting spiritual gifts

D. Divisions in the Church (1:10-4:17)

1. The problem: rival factions (1:10-17)

a. Exalting certain leaders (1:10-12)

b. The role of baptism (1:13-17)

2. The necessary center of the Gospel: the wise foolishness of the cross (1:18-2:5)

a. Destroying non-Christian "strength" (1:18-25)

b. Exalting Christian "weakness" (1:26-31)

c. Proclaiming Christ crucified (2:1-5)

3. Three kinds of People in 1 Corinthians 2-3

a. Natural

b. Carnal

c. Spiritual

d. But also…

i. Non-Christian

ii. Christian

4. The necessary growth: Christian wisdom (2:6-3:23)

a. Spiritual vs. natural people (2:6-16)

b. Spiritual vs. carnal people (3:1-23)

i. Milk vs. meat (3:1-5)

ii. God's field (3:6-9a)

iii. God's building (3:9b-17)

iv. Summary (3:18-23)

5. The right attitude of and for the Apostles (4:1-21)

a. Faithfully serving (4:1-5)

b. Scripturally based (4:6-7)

c. Unjustly suffering (4:8-13)

d. Specially related (4:14-21)

E. I Corinthians 5-6

1. Church discipline (5:1-13)

a. Presupposes Matthew 18:15-18

b. Hence no list of specially serious sins

c. Application especially requires contextualization

2. Lawsuits (6:1-11)

3. Sexual immorality in general (6:12-20)

F. Paul on Marriage (1 Corinthians 7)

1. To married Ascetics: do not deprive each other sexually (vv. 1-7)

2. To the widowed: remarry rather than lust (vv. 8-9)

3. To the married: don't divorce (vv. 10-16)

4. Preliminary summary (vv. 17-24)

5. To the unmarried: marriage is no sin (vv. 25-38)

6. Conclusion: marriage is a lifelong commitment (vv. 39-40)

7. Notes

a. These are the basic concerns of each section; in each case Paul permits certain exceptions.

b. Paul's own sympathies agree with the ascetics up to a point, but for different reasons.

G. Marriage and Divorce in Matthew 19 and 1 Corinthians 7

1. Forming a marriage

a. Leave and cleave

b. Become one flesh

2. Rupturing a marriage

a. Physical presence but sexual infidelity

b. Sexual presence but physical desertion

c. Other items equivalent in destructiveness

H. On Food Sacrificed to Idols (1 Corinthians 8:1-11:1)

1. The problem: Christian liberty can become license (8:1-3)

2. The main application: food inherently neutral, but avoid hurting weaker brothers (8:4-13)

3. A second application: ministers earning their living by the Gospel (9:1-18)

4. The motive: all things to all men so as to save some (9:19-27)

5. The danger of license: the havoc sin can wreak (10:1-13)

a. The warning (10:1-12)

b. The promise (10:13)

6. An absolute prohibition: no feasts dedicated to idol worship (10:14-22)

7. Summary (10:23-11:1)

a. Freedom from legalism

b. Voluntary curtailment of freedom

c. Only if clear another would be hurt

I. On Spiritual Gifts (1Corinthians 12-14)

1. Recognition: acknowledge Jesus' Lordship (12:1-3)

2. Distribution: diversity in unity (12:4-11)

a. Not all have the same gifts (vv. 4a, 5a, 6a)

b. All come from triune Godhead (vv. 4b, 5b, 6b)

c. All have at least one (v. 7a)

d. To be used for mutual edification (v. 7b)

e. Given by Spirit as He determines (vv. 8-11)

3. Importance of all the gifts (12:12-26)

4. Hierarchy of gifts (12:27-31a)

a. In importance?

b. In chronology?

5. Love: without it the gifts are worthless (12:31b-13:13)

a. Examples (vv. 1-3)

b. Positive and negative qualities (vv. 4-7)

c. Timelessness (vv. 8-13)

6. Comparing tongues and prophecy (14:1-40)

a. The superiority of prophecy (vv. 1-25)

i. Understandable without interpretation (vv. 1-19)

ii. Tongues as a sign of judgment (vv. 20-25)

b. The proper exercise of both (vv. 26-40)

i. Tongues (vv. 27-28)

ii. Prophecy (vv. 29-38)

iii. Conclusions (vv. 39-40)

J. Classification of Spiritual Gifts (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4)

1. Virtues commanded of all Christians

a. Wisdom

b. Knowledge

c. Faith

d. Service

e. Exhortation

f. Giving

g. Sharing

h. Mercy

2. Special roles for leadership

a. Apostles

b. Evangelists

c. Pastors

d. Teachers

e. Administrators

3. "Supernatural" charisma

a. Healing

b. Miracles

c. Prophecy

d. Distinguishing spirits

e. Tongues

f. Interpretation of tongues

K. The Resurrections of Jesus and Believers (1 Corinthians 15)

1. The fact of Christ's bodily resurrection (15:1-11)

a. Support from tradition (vv. 1-7)

b. Support from revelation (vv. 8-11)

2. The implications for the general resurrection (15:12-34)

a. The credibility of Christian faith rests on it (vv. 12-19)

b. The chronology of the coming resurrection is established (vv. 20-28)

c. The concern for those who are dead and dying proves it (vv. 29-34)

3. The nature of Christian resurrection (15:35-58)

a. Continuity and discontinuity (vv. 35-49)

b. The need for this re-creation (vv. 50-58)

Class Resources
  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.

  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.

  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.


  • Correlation of the accounts in Galatians and Acts on Paul's trip to Jerusalem. 

  • Galatians as a model of apologetics supporting Christianity.

  • Comparing faith and works in Judaism and Christianity. 

  • Paul faced persecution when he preached in Thessalonica. The return of Christ is a central theme in the letters to the Thessalonians.

  • One aspect of the subject of biblical eschatology is the timing and nature of the tribulation. 

  • Paul addresses the extremes of asceticism and hedonism, as well as concerns regarding marriage, spiritiual gifts and the resurrection.

  • Divisions in the Corinthian church were caused by both theology and lifestyle.

  • Whether or not believers should eat food that had been offered to idols was an issue in the Corinthian church. The importance and role of spiritual gifts was a major topic of discussion.

  • Paul updates the people in the church in Corinth about his travels. He also follows up on relationships and defends his apostolic ministry.

  • Paul responds to specific situations in the Corinthian church including emphasizing a correct perspective on giving and encouragement to see God's redemptive purpose in our suffering.

  • Knowing the key places as backgrounds for Romans, the timeline and the outline of the book are helpful to understanding the context and message.

  • Paul wrote Romans as a systematic exposition of the gospel.


  • In Colossians, Paul emphasizes the deity of Christ. Philemon was written to a gentlema Paul knows to encourage him to welcome back Onesimus, his runaway slave, who became a disciple of Christ and was returning.

  • Paul addresses how to live in different roles: husbands and wives, masters and slaves, elders and others in the church.

  • Paul describes the blessings of salvation and encourages believers to live in unity that transcends cultural and racial barriers. 

  • Paul describes to the followers of Jesus in Ephesus, who they are in Christ, and the ethical implications for how they should live their daily lives.

  • Paul contrasts the condescention and the exaltation of Christ, and addresses specific situations in the Philippian church.

  • Paul writes to encourage and instruct Timothy and Titus, both of whom are young pastors. It is important for Titus to identify and train elders and deal effectively with factious people. 

  • Paul instructs Timothy about how to pastor a church and turn it away from heresy.

  • Both 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians contain key passages addressing the roles of men and women in the local church. Some of them address conduct when gathering for corporate worship.

  • 1 Timothy 2:11-15 gives some direction for gender roles in a worship service.

  • Key themes and catchwords in James include trials, wisdom, temptation, speech, doubt and perseverance.

  • James discusses the roles of faith and works in a believers life and the importance of prayer.

  • A prominent theme in Hebrews chapters 1-5 is the superiority of Christ to the angels and to Moses.

  • Hebrews 6:4-8 is a key warning passage. Christ's priesthood is superior to both the Levitical priesthood and also to Melchizedek. Chapter 11 remembers the heroes of the faith.

  • A major theme of 1 Peter is perseverance despite persecution.

  • The outline of 1 Peter has similarities to other letters of the first century that emphasize a high view of Christology.

  • Jude and 2 Peter both emphasize refuting false teachers.

  • In his epistles, John emphasizes themes that refute gnostic doctrines. He outlines the tests of life as keeping God’s commandments, loving one another and believing in Jesus as the God-man.

  • As you study and preach from the epistles of John, note the passages that Dr. Blomberg describes as, “gems from John.”

  • Revelation was written by the apostle John in the late first century using apocalyptic, prophetic and epistolary genres. A possible structure by time line would be the past (chapter 1), the present (chapters 2-5) and the future (chapters 6-22). 

  • In addition to the framework of eschatology, Revelation chapters 1-6 develops themes of Christology including a description of Jesus as the lion who is a lamb, as well as the spiritual condition of some of the churches in the first century. 

  • In both of the possible scenarios for the tribulation, believers are exempt from God’s wrath but they are not exempt from Satan’s attacks.

  • Revelation chapters 12-22 cover themes of salvation and judgment of nations, Armageddon, the millennium and the new heavens and new earth.

Using the English New Testament, this course surveys the New Testament epistles and the apocalypse. Issues of introduction and content receive emphasis as well as a continual focus on the theology of evangelism and on the contemporary relevance of the variety of issues these documents raise for contemporary life.


Dr. Craig Blomberg
Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation
1 Corinthians
Lesson Transcript


This is the 9th lecture in the online series of lectures on understanding the Epistles and Revelation, in complement with the textbook by Craig Blomberg’s Book, Acts through Revelation, An Introduction and Survey. (Please note that all italicized words consist of Hebrew, Greek and or Latin words.)


1st Corinthians is very different from any of the three books surveyed in previous lectures: Galatians, 1st & 2nd Thessalonians. It is more than twice as long and at first glance doesn’t seem to have any integrating themes but instead reads like a potluck or potpourri of problems and as many things as one could imagine going wrong with a single church as one time. For precisely that reason, it contains some of the most practical conversations about sexual morality, marriage and divorce, speaking in tongues and the use of other spiritual gifts; about gender roles in home and church, the taking of the Lord’s Supper in proper and improper fashion etc. and merits very close scrutiny indeed.


The setting of the letter is not difficult to determine. Paul founded the church in Corinth on his second missionary journey. It’s located just southwest of Athens. Paul arrived there from the north and stayed for some time. You remember that after Corinth, Paul actually returned to Jerusalem for the Pentecost Festival there. We are also able to date and place the location of Paul when he wrote 1st Corinthians as any of his letters. In 1st Corinthians chapter 16:8, we read that he would stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost because a door of effective work had opened to him there and interestingly there were many who opposed him.  But because he stopped only briefly at Ephesus on his second missionary journey, he could not have written these words that come only after the founding of the church there and anticipating a prolonged period of time with the fledgling Ephesian Christians. That means that 1st Corinthians must have been written during his third missionary journey and during that three year period of time when Paul ministered in and around the port center and major trade capital of Asia Minor. As he anticipates coming to Corinth again and even appears that he is in route to Corinth, even as he writes, suggest that he did succeed in following his plans. Most scholars assume that 1st Corinthians stems from the end of the period of time in Ephesus and hence dates to around AD 55. 


(The following two paragraphs have the lecturer describing certain buildings, items and inscriptions within Corinth from a few slides he is displaying for his original class. Make sure you down load the appropriate PowerPoint slides, if they are available; otherwise, do a search on Google and most likely you will be able to find photos that fit the lecturer’s points.)


The excavations at Corinth are extensive and in many instances, very dramatic. The Arco Corinth which means, the Hill of Corinth or the Corner of Corinth, stood in slightly later times as an elaborate Roman fort which one can still view and well beyond on a clear day, makes one realize just how large an urban center Corinth was. The central streets crisscrossing the city center have been uncovered in many places. You can see the Agora (central market place) and particularly shops entrances delineated with their arch ways and an archaic temple dedicated to one of their many gods of polytheistic pre-Christian Greece which remains with a few of its principle pillars not far from the Agora and plus three foundational pillars to a temple to Augustus reminding us of significant Roman Imperialism, presence and supervision in the Corinth of New Testament times. One of the intriguing sites of ancient Corinth was the center or shrine devoted to one of the many deified heroes of ancient Greece such as Asclepius and many others. Offerings were fashioned out of clay and stone representing parts of the human body for which the individual used as they prayed to the gods for healing of that part of the body. This stonewall and remanence of large chair attached to it shows the probable location of Roman Gallous, called the judgment seat where he would have heard the case against Paul and dismissed it as described in Acts 18, quite possibly it was a judgment seat like this that inspired Paul to use his metaphor of the judgment seat of Christ at the end of time in 2nd Corinthians 5:1-10. 


The letters etched on one such stone as shown by the lecturer are in Greek capital letters, gamma omega, gamma eatha, epsilon beta row which formed the four letters at the end of the Greek word: sunnagogay or synagogue and the first three letters of herbryon or Hebrew, a first-hand demonstration of the presence of a Hebrew or Jewish Synagogue in Corinth as attested in Acts 18. There is craved relief work showing the seven branch candle obbra in a pillar that has been preserved and perhaps associated with the synagogue or with some other Jewish building. Another dramatic inscription, in Latin, refers to an individual by the name of Erastus in the second line, after which comes a portion of the word pro-e-dail, a Latin term for a manager of public works, a rough contemporary equivalent; intriguingly, there is in the Book of Romans, written from Corinth as we will see when we discuss that letter, a reference to an Erastus whom Paul wishes to greet in the Church of Corinth who was described in Greek and who very well could be the equivalent to the pro-e-dail. Of course, this does not prove we have the very individual in view; it’s possible that men with the same name occupy the same office but this coincidence is intriguing. The dating comes from the correct period of time and it may well be that we have archaeological collaboration of yet another detail in the Scriptures of this particular inscription. 


We have already mentioned the barrage of different problems that appear in the Church in Corinth as reflected by the issues that Paul has to address. We can see this vividly illustrated in outline of the letter, the body of which does not at all correspond to the conventional Hellenistic division of largely information, followed by a predominately exhortation. Rather it appears that Paul has begun by responding to the news he has received from representatives such as from an otherwise unknown woman from the Corinthians Church by the name of Choe as he describes in chapter 1:10 and following verses. This information primarily has led him to know about the divisions in Corinthian congregation and not surprisingly he devotes most of the first four chapters to this topic. He then proceeds to touch on three other issues, much more briefly, a case of the man living in sin having sex with his father’s wife, probably meaning a step-mother. The scandal of Christians suing one another in the pagan courts and thus bringing Christian witness into disgrace and the issue of sexual immorality more generally, particularly as illustrated in the practice of prostitution, not surprisingly, wide spread in a sea port like Corinth but perhaps exacerbated by the Temple of Aphrodite which stood roughly in the place where the ruins of the Roman Fortress mentioned in the previous paragraph or so.  This Temple housed as many as one thousand prostitutions known as priests and priestesses that worked there. There was the belief, not limited to paganism of the ancient world that such sexual union with a priest or priestess was a form of union with the god or goddess. There were both homo and heterosexual opportunities for such union to occur. 


We don’t know for sure who the messenger was that brought information of these problems but it seems to be a reasonable hypothesis, particularly as we turn to the second and largest major section of the body of Paul’s letter. And so, beginning in chapter 7 where Paul appears to mark a shift in describing the source of his information as he explains in verse 1: now for the matters you wrote about. Here we learn that the Corinthians had sent him a letter to which he is responding just as we can discern from chapter 5:9 that Paul had written a previous letter to the Corinthians. And when we introduce our next letter, Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians, we will say a few more things about them, now lost letters as precursors to a fuller discussion of the entire sequence of Paul’s correspondence with and from the church in Corinth. 


If it is reasonable to infer that not only the very next topic, issues of marriage and marriage related matters in chapter 7 stemmed from the letter that the Corinthians wrote to Paul, but also subsequent topics did as well, then we may consider food sacrificed to idols, spanning chapters 8-10, a triad of issues surrounding public Christians worship in Corinth, what men and women did or did not wear on their heads, the use and abuse of the Lord’s supper and right and wrong practices related to spiritual gifts, questions about the resurrection and finally, instructions about the offerings for the impoverished saints in Jerusalem, all as stemming one way or another from the letter the Corinthians wrote to Paul. Finally verses 5-24 may be viewed as an extended conclusion in which Paul discusses some of his travel plans as well as those of his associates and acknowledges meeting up with the household of Stephanus as well and then sends final greetings.  


Is there any way to make sense of this mixed group of problems that Paul has to confront the Corinthian church about? There certainly doesn’t need to be for any logically compelling reason, but it is intriguing to ask the question if there is some central underlining error that could have accounted for this range of issues. Indeed there are several plausible suggestions. The title that we have used for our comments is in more detail in the textbook. What about misguided views of Christian maturity? Can at one very broad level explain what seems to be a very casual or lackadaisical attitude which the church has had, even to some of the most serious of their sins? Read the opening paragraph of 1st Corinthians 5 for perhaps the most dramatic example of this. 


But if we probe beneath the surface a bit more, we will see that the philosophical dualism owing its origins as far back as the writings and life of Plato, spanning the 4th and 5th centuries BC had given the Greek and Roman philosophy more broadly than the Neo-Platonism of the 1st century, a sharp division in religious and ideological thinking between the material world and the immaterial world, which meant that for much Greco-Roman Anthropology, their beliefs about the human person. There was an equally sharp dichotomy between the material body and the immaterial soul or spirit of an individual. Interestingly, the results of a sharp dichotomy between these two parts of the human person led in various Greco-Roman philosophical and religious thoughts combinating perhaps at the end of the 1st century and into the 2nd century with a full blown syncretistic combination of Christian and pagan thoughts in the religious world known as Gnosticism in two quite different out workings ethically and in practical living. Quite different from our religious and pagan world views of the 21st century, the majority of philosophical dualist or their less philosophical sophisticated followers in and among ordinary humans were a kind of ascetic practices. In short, if the material world was irredeemable and inherently evil as much of the Greek philosophical speculation from the time of Plato onward has likewise affirmed as one could look forward only to the immortality of the soul rather than the resurrection of the body, then it made sense to try to buffet the body, to try to deny those bodily appetites that could so easily turn abusive and additive. 


Therefore, one could easily limit one’s understanding of spiritual maturity nearly to the inward intangible invisible spirit and define spirituality not in terms of external practices. This could easily lead to the false sense of maturity that apparently permitted the divisions within the Corinthian congregation.  No verse in chapters 1-4 puts this more dramatically than 4:8, dripping with irony, Paul lambasted the church, ‘already you have all you want, already you’ve become rich, you have begun to reign and that was without us.’ Unless anybody think that he is speaking factually and literally, he then goes on to add, lamenting, ‘how I wish you had begun to reign so that we might reign with you.’ The claims to a kind of elitist or super spiritual wisdom that Paul has to address in the latter half of chapter 1 and first part of chapter two and then redefine in chapter 3. Probably draws from this same spiritual source. The problem of advocates of celibacy which appears to lay behind chapter 7 which fits this same ascetic tendency of dualism as does the absolute prohibition of certain forms of food and drink seen in chapters 8 and 10. Perhaps the problems that led Paul to pen chapter 15 were likewise an outgrown of the belief in a nearly spiritual rather than a bodily resurrection. 


Dramatically differing from this branch or outgrowth of Hellenistic dualism was a minority faction that was hedonist rather than ascetic which was flesh indulging rather than flesh denying. Hence the sexual sin that Paul has to confront. The oblivious nature the church had for those who drink or eat without any concern for the so called weaker brother or sister. For those demanding pay in chapter 9 for Christian ministry and for the drunkenness at the Lord’s Table in chapter 11. For the disrespect  in both chapter ‘s 11 and 14 of the appearance that would communicate to the Corinthian culture sexual propriety and perhaps religious propriety as well and to the overall apparently chaotic nature of the use of the spiritual gifts in public worship also. That is quite a list! We can perhaps say even more; in 1st Corinthians 1, we may infer from verses 26 and following that while not many of the Corinthian Christians initially wise by human standards or influential or of noble birth. That very statement implies that a few were. 


We alluded briefly in our last lecture on 1st & 2nd Thessalonians to a social institution that was endemic and pervasive in the Greco-Roman world in the 1st century, that of patronage. In a world without any standardized or institutionalized welfare system; if the poor people in community or rural regents of the Roman Empire were to receive any assistance from anyone outside their immediate or extended families or historic clans or tribes, it was through the informal but nevertheless very expected custom of patronage. For the handful of prosperous and at times extremely wealthy land owners, court assistants, and political, philosophical and religious leaders in institutionalized forms of religion and the occasional successful business person or entrepreneur with their wealth, came the responsibility and social expectation to gather around themselves a large group of people as might have need and who could be helped through the wealth of the estate of the person in question.  In return for which those clients as the term came to be used owed their patriots the responsibility to work odd jobs around the estate as need required and to wait on the members of the household to accompany them in public, particularly in the cities, giving them an entourage that demonstrated their status in Roman society and to vote for them when they ran for public office, to support them in more informal clubs and trade guilds and other associations, etc. 


It would be hard to believe that Christians, coming to faith from a background of such patronage would not at times find it difficult to make a break or believing it was necessary to make a break from this system. Recent writers such as Andrew Clark, Jonathan Chow and Bruce Winters and others have demonstrated in some detail in how a substantial majority , though perhaps not every last problem Paul must deal with in first Corinthians could have come from Christians still trying to practice a system of having patrons with their clients. The very need to divide into house churches once the Christian fellowship in Corinth got larger than fifty or so people, would have meant that the more well to do home owners would have been sought as owners of places the Corinthian church could naturally meet. And thus it would be equally natural for those host and hostesses assume that they could be the leaders in charge and indeed have the responsibility of the well-being of the remaining Christian attendees. It is a short step from this kind of division to the outright factions that Paul must confront in 1 to 4. 


The unprecedented nature, even in pagan circles, of the sin covered here and the particular type of incest that Paul berates in chapter 5 is probably comprehensible only if the man who had fallen into this sin was a wealthy power broker and former patriot. That appears to be about the only reason the church was reluctant to confront him that fits this historical time period. We also know in the ancient Roman Empire that for the most part the wealthy sued the wealthy, primarily to gain greater status and honor and shame their opponents rather than to fill their pockets with money which they didn’t need. While prostitution was by no means limited to the upper class, it is intriguing to know that there was a coming of age party for the Roman young man at about the age of eighteen and which the higher class prostitutes would be now available to him for the first time in a banquet, not unlike the elaborate symposium that was originally in the Greek world but now also in the Latin equivalent. Another problem; why would some Christians in Corinth not be able to eat meat sacrificed to idols with a clear conscience and others would have no problem in doing so? Probably as Gear Tyson has shown, because the poorest of the Christians, before coming to Christ, may have had access to meat primarily or exclusively only at the community civic festivals when meat was available for public consumption, free of charge. 


So why would Paul be reluctant under certain circumstances to accept money for ministry? Perhaps because some former patriot’s would assume that as in their pre-Christian world when one gives money to a person, then they have the right and even responsibility to decide and direct the person’s actions in what they do or say, even in their work or ministry. Paul would not allow such people and such things to cause them the think they were in charge of him. The out of control women in 1st Corinthians 14 along with the inappropriate use of head covering and the lack thereof of both genders probably stems from the fact that the only women that were typically able to take public roles in the religious worship in the Greco-Roman world were those who were well-to-do and thus formed a part of the world of patrons, either because they had access to education that other women normally did not or because they were spouses powerful men and were allowed freedoms that other women were not. The abuse of the Lord’s Supper as reflected in the latter half of Romans 11 similarly may well have stemmed from the fact that the poor Christians would have had to work longer hours, not being able to come to the services early, not be able to bring much food or drink for communal meals they shared together in the church. So when Paul berates certain members in the Corinthian church for over eating and over drinking at the expense of others, it is very natural to assume that this divide occurred along the socio-economic division of rich and poor. And finally the public flaunting of spirit gifts more generally, particularly tongues and prophecy that Paul dealt with in chapters 12 - 14. People’s wealth perhaps bought them a particular role in the running of the early Christian church. 


None of this is to say that being a rich Christian then or now relegates one to a kind of second class Christian status guarantees a series of problems. But it is certain true that temptations have been present more often than not throughout Christian history of well to-do Christians thinking they could use their money to obtain privileges to which others did not have access or to avoid being disciplined by threatening to withhold their giving; when they committed sins in need of church discipline and in contact, where less well to do Christians would have without question been disciplined. 


At last we are ready to return to the contents of the letter and survey it in more systematic fashion and unpack the broad outline which we considered earlier. The problem of factions within the church in chapter 1:10 through the end of chapter 4 may be subdivided first into an identification of the problem in verses 10 – 17. Here we learned first of all in verses 10 – 12 that people are aligning themselves with such as Paul or Apollo or Peter, all who have had some period of ministry in Corinth while still others thinking that they are better for so doing only identify only with Christ but yet apparently end up being also divisive. 

Verses 13 – 17 berate this form of division and as part of Paul’s response he appeals to the common baptism that all have received in the name of Jesus rather than names of people or Christian leaders. It could well be that the dividing factions and leaders of the various house churches was a kind of series of cliques developed as people were converted and baptized under the ministries of different people who had visited Corinth. What is the antidote to these factions? The rest of the chapters 1 – 4 present a series of answers implicitly to that question. Chapter 1:18 – 2:5 defines the necessary center of the Gospel message: the Cross of Jesus Christ, even though  this is viewed as foolish in the eyes of the world by Jew and gentile alike. If one focuses on the agonizing death which Christ willing and voluntarily endured in sacrificing himself to atone for the sins of the world that is the people of the world who in turn did deserve judgment that God would have meted out on them. What they were doing in setting themselves up in rival factions did not make sense.  Sub dividing the section we may see the paragraph in 1:18-25 as Paul promising that what the non-Christian world though to be a sign of strength, merely human wisdom would ultimately be destroyed and at what the non-Christian world thought to be merely weakness, a crucified Messiah and followers of His willing to suffer for their faith, especially those who came from by human standards no exalted pedigree at all, would be vindicated and shown to be truly wise one day. Thus the heart of Paul’s message in 2:2 boils it down in what some might see in the one verse, being the theme of 1st Corinthians, is that Paul declares that he knew nothing except Jesus Christ crucified, a statement which obviously from the very letters to the Corinthians cannot be taken to mean he spoke about no other topic, but rather that this was the central unifying principle of his message.