Studying the Corinthian church of the Bible is like taking a look inside the modern church. Many of the problems encountered there are the same we are facing today in Fort Worth Texas and in America. So, to get the answers to what we are facing let’s take an ancient look inside the modern church.
A little history and background helps to understand why Corinth is relative to us today.
Paul founded the church in Corinth during his second missionary journey somewhere around the time 50 AD. You can read the story in Acts 18:1-17. Paul came to Corinth after a visit to Athens and stayed in Corinth at least a year and six months preaching and teaching the word of God. Corinth was a wealthy, commercial center – a port city on the peninsula in southern Greece. Corinth was known for its temple of the goddess Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. It is reported that 1,000 ritual priestess-prostitutes served the worshipers in the temple. As a matter of fact, in ancient Greece if you were involved in fornication or sexual sin, they said that you were “acting like a Corinthian”, so Corinth was known for its carnality.
About five years after starting the church, Paul was in Ephesus on his third missionary journey. He stayed in Ephesus about three years, and it was during this stay that he received a disturbing report about problems in the Corinthian congregation. No, you’re right, the church is not perfect! A delegation from Corinth arrived with a letter seeking Paul’s advice on various issues of disagreement affecting the church. Why don’t we jump headfirst into Paul’s response to the reports and his response to the delegation from the church.
The Corinthian church was a spiritually gifted church with poor character. They had several issues that were causing trouble in the congregation:
- Sexual sin in the church
- Lawsuits among the members
- Questions about being married to an unsaved spouse.
- The role of the sexes in the church.
- Questions about giving.
- Questions about how far is too far into sin.
- The proper use of spiritual gifts in the services.
- Questions about the return of the Lord.
How different are their problems from ours?
So to begin with, Paul addresses the issue of division in the church.
They were arguing over who was their favorite preacher and teacher in the church!
You see, each group was trying to prove to be more spiritual than the others. Pride, the sin of Satan had entered into the ministry of the church of Jesus Christ.
In Greek culture, intellectualism was highly valued, so someone who spoke well was seen as superior to others. This “comparing” of the styles and methods of the preachers was causing pride and pride causes division.
Paul tells the Corinthians that, where you find division and competition in the church, biblical wisdom is absent. Their schisms didn’t reveal maturity but immaturity in the Spirit.
If someone is being used by God it is not because he is greatly talented but because he is gifted. The ministry is done by the Spirit of God – men who are used are only tools, each active in their own calling. Each is a gift to the body – a gift to be embraced, not to be rejected.
Paul warns the Corinthians not to lean on wisdom because it was through leaning on wisdom that the world rejected Christ. Their comparison of themselves was actually a sign of spiritual weakness which would lead to the rejection of Christ’s call for humility and agape love.
While they are scrambling for the premier praise and position and promotion, Paul points out the life of the apostles who are being persecuted for their belief in Jesus.
Finally, Paul reminds them that every gift is given to them by God but although they have many instructors, they don’t have many fathers. They are called to imitate their fathers in the faith. Find your spiritual father and stay with him! You can leave a teacher but are connected to a father!
Spiritual pride is still pride and is contrary to the Spirit. Paul says that when he comes, he will not hesitate to use correction on those who are acting in a spirit causing cliques and division.
Good leaders will work in love to correct divisive attitudes and actions. So, don’t be dismayed if your church has problems! Corinth sure did!! When God adds you to a marriage, you don’t just leave it upon the appearance of problems or division. Stay where God added you and you and the church will grow up into God’s character.