Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, . . . to the church of God which is at Corinth.
–1 Corinthians 1:1-2
You cannot appreciate 1 Corinthians unless you understand the context in which it was written. So first, let’s examine in the sender of the letter, which we find at the very beginning: “Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God” (1 Corinthians 1:1).
Remember, Paul was once a persecutor of Christians; in fact, he was present at the stoning of the first Christian martyr, Stephen. But when Paul was on his way to Damascus to persecute believers, the Lord appeared to him. Jesus not only saved Paul; He also selected him to be the apostle to the Gentiles. Paul’s message was truly a message from God. The apostle Peter did not always agree with the apostle Paul, but in 2 Peter 3:15-16, Peter used the term “Scripture” to refer to the writings of Paul. So when we talk about Paul, we are talking about somebody who was selected by Christ and whose words are authoritative.
Second, let’s look at the occasion of the letter. Paul founded the church at Corinth on his second missionary journey. When he reached Corinth, he was flat broke, so he became a sanctified tentmaker. He would make tents Sunday through Friday, and on Saturday, he would go to the synagogue in Corinth and preach the gospel. He did that for eighteen months before going on to Ephesus. Eventually, some members of the church at Corinth went to Ephesus to ask Paul a few questions about what was happening in their church. And in response, Paul wrote the letter we call 1 Corinthians, though it was actually his second letter to the church. In his letter, Paul addressed the Corinthian leaders’ questions about every subject you can imagine.
Finally, let’s talk about the people to whom Paul wrote. In Paul’s day, Corinth was a great metropolis. But perhaps the thing Corinthians were most known for was their decadent, debauched lifestyle. In fact, in the parlance of the time, to act like a Corinthian meant to act in a debauched way. And these brand-new Christians to whom Paul was writing were being pulled back into their old decadent way of living.
Don’t let anybody tell you that once you become a Christian, all your struggles with sin are over. There is always going to be a civil war between your new nature and that old sin nature still inside of you. That was what was happening to some of these new Corinthian converts. And there were others in the church who were not believers at all and were influencing the church for evil. Against that backdrop, Paul wrote his letter of instruction and rebuke.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Straight Answers to Tough Questions” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2010.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.