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Preaching - 1 Corinthians 1.1-3 - Preaching Notes

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It has been proposed that the greatest problem facing the church today is people who unsay with their lives, what they say with their mouths

Many people read their Bibles and the demands it makes on their lives, but they cannot seem to live out what it says

1.     they never separate themselves from the world

2.     they never deal with the attitudes that stand behind their actions.

In the book of 1 Corinthians, Paul instructs the Corinthian church to deal seriously with the sin in their midst by forsaking the worldly selfishness and pride their actions reflect

1.     Location

The city of Corinth

Ø Corinth sat beneath a rocky edifice which rose some 1800 feet above the city

·        plateau about ½ mile square

·        b/c of protection this isolated mountain provided, a settlement at Corinth was begun early

·        It was one of the first regions of Greece to be inhabited

Ø Romans captured Greece (about 147 BC)

·        it was plundered of its treasures and destroyed

·        It lay in ruins for about 100 years

·        until Julius Caesar was compelled by the beauty of the place to resettle it

·        rebuilt in 47 BC

·        Consequently, when Paul came to the renewed city, it was less than 100 years old. 

·        Augustus Caesar made Corinth the capital of Achaia, and the city flourished under the favor of Rome

Ø Corinth had quite an international flavor

·        near the southern end of a narrow isthmus that connected the Grecian Peninsula (Peloponnesus) with the continent

·        This position gave it command over two different streams of commerce

–       The land route

–       The sea route between Asia and Italy

Ø the journey around the Cape Malea

·        the southernmost promontory of Greece

·        was a detour of two hundred miles and a perilous adventure

·        merchants unloaded their goods at one of the Corinthian ports. 

–       cargoes were carried across

–       ships were drug across

this kind of trade explains why

Homer spoke of the city as “wealthy Corinth”

2.     Culture

Ø b/c of its seaport many classes and nationalities mingled in Corinth

·        its streets were full of travelers and traders and agents

·        At the time of Paul’s visit to the city its population was somewhere between 600,000 and 700,000 (of whom approximately two-thirds were slaves)

“At night its streets were hideous with the brawls and lewd songs of drunken revelry.  In the daytime its market and squares swarmed with Jewish peddlers, foreign traders, sailors, soldiers, athletes in training, boxers, wrestlers, charioteers, racing-men, betting-men, courtesans, slaves, idlers and parasites of every description – a veritable pandemonium” (R. D. Shaw, as cited in Hiebert, 105).

Ø Corinth was about 45 miles southwest of Athens

·        on the eastern horizon the Acropolis of rival Athens was clearly visible

·        there was a constant rivalry with Athens

1.     the games (Olympian & Isthmian)

2.     the arts (philosophy & sculpture)

·        although Corinth never produced many philosophers, they prided themselves on their interest in “knowledge” and philosophical pursuits.

3.     religion (both had their own acropolis)

·        worship of the goddess Aphrodite, the goddess of love à immorality

·        the temple to Aphrodite was at the top of the mountain which stood above Corinth

·        The temple normally housed some one thousand priestesses, ritual prostitutes

·        “each night would come down into Corinth and ply their trade among the many foreign travelers and the local men”

·        The orgies of this temple became notorious throughout the Greek-speaking world.

Ø Corinth was a wicked city, even as large cities in the Empire went

·        In the Greek plays Corinthians were usually represented as drunkards

·        in classical Greek corinthiazesthai (“to behave like a Corinthian”) came to represent gross immorality and drunken debauchery

·        The name of the city became synonymous with moral depravity

·        In this letter to the church there, Paul lists some of the city’s characteristic sins – fornication (porneia, for which comes our term pornography), idolatry, adultery, effeminacy, homosexuality, stealing, covetousness, drunkenness, reviling (abusive speech), and swindling (6:9-10)

·        Some of the Corinthian believers had been guilty of practicing those sins before their conversion (6:11)

·        Others still lived in even worse sin than those outside the church did (5:1)

“It was while at Corinth, during the third missionary journey, that he painted the dark picture of paganism found in the first chapters of Romans” (Hiebert, 107).

·        All of this paganism took its toll on the Corinthian church.

·        Some of the immoral habits of their environment crept into the church.

3.     Paul’s Contact

Ø Paul as founder

Ø After not too successful time in Athens

Ø Met Aquila and Priscilla in Corinth

Ø Paul, at first considered his stay in Corinth only temporary

Ø While there, he made use of his time in the Synagogue

Ø Soon Silas and Timothy came

Ø Once they arrived, Paul “began devoting himself completely to the word” (Acts 18:5) – beginning an intensive, full-time ministry

Ø Paul’s intense efforts at preaching the Word of God resulted in fierce opposition from the Jews

Ø Moved to the house of Titus Justus

Ø Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, was converted

Ø Jews tried to take Paul to court

Ø The governor refused to hear the case – wound up beating the new leader of the synagogue (Sosthenes)

Ø Paul wound up staying at least 1 ½ yrs – possibly 2 ½ years in Corinth

The Corinthian church was not made up of the nobility,

·        but those from the stockyards

·        the shipyards

·        the poor shopkeepers

·        and the various motley crowds of Corinth (cf. 1:26-31).

4.     Occasion

We possess more detailed information about the actual condition within the church at Corinth than about any other church in the New Testament

As I mentioned earlier…

Ø the Corinthian believers had great difficulty in not mimicking the unbelieving and corrupt society around them

·        They usually managed to stay a little higher than the world morally

·        but they were moving downward, in the same direction as the world

·        They wanted to be in God’s kingdom while keeping one foot in the kingdom of this world

·        The wanted to have the blessings of the new life but hang on to the pleasures of the old

·        Paul plainly warned them that that was impossible

Paul had returned several times to visit Corinth

·        This visit gave him an insight into tendencies in the church. 

·        received information from members of the household of Chloe about factions

–       This information added to his concerns

·        He had also received a letter from them with several questions about the church

All of this prompted him to write 1 Corinthians

5.     Greeting

1.     Rather than placing names at the end of a letter, as in modern custom, ancient Greeks put their names at the beginning, allowing readers to immediately identify the author. 

2.     In a joint letter, the names of the others involved in sending the message were also given

3.     Next was given the name of the addressee, the person or persons to whom the letter was sent, which for the present letter was ‘the church of God which is at Corinth

4.     Then words of greeting or blessing were often given, as in v. 3


A.   Author

Ø Paul also generally referred to himself as ‘an apostle’

·        not to distinguish himself from other Paul’s in the church

·        not simply out of habit or formality

·        “an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God” was not a prideful flaunting his position of authority

–       as some speakers and writers often do with their titles, degrees, and accomplishments

·        indicates à he was writing as an emissary of the Lord

–       His apostleship established his authority to say the things he was about to say

–       Sometimes it is important to establish one’s right to speak authoritatively on a subject

–       Paul did not mention his apostleship in order to gain honor as an individual but to gain respect as a teacher of god’s Word

–       He was not an apostle

*       by his own appointment

*       or even by the church’s appointment

*       but by God’s appointment – ‘by the will of God’

Since his message was addressing so many tense issues in the church, he had to establish that what he said was said with God’s own authority.

Why was Paul so careful to assert his apostleship?

1.     He was not a part of the twelve

·        He, too, had seen the resurrected Christ (on the road to Damascus)

·        He, too, in unique revelations, had been specifically chosen by the Lord to be an apostle (1 Cor. 1:1).  He was concerned to establish the fact that he was equal to the twelve as a foundational teacher of revealed truth

2.     Because he was constantly exposing his detractors and with false teachers he was continually being challenged and harassed

·        questioned his motives

3.     Paul emphasized his apostleship in order to show his special relationship to God as His emissary.

·        He was “an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God”

·        He was saying, in effect, “What I say to you is delegated by God.  I am His apostle, and my message to you is God’s message to you.”

·        As an apostle of Jesus Christ, his message carried the full authority of our Lord Himself

Sosthenes our brother” may have been Paul’s amanuensis, or secretary, at the time this letter was written.

B.   Recipients

The church to whom Paul was writing was not

·        the church of the Corinthians

·        but “the church of God” which was located at Corinth

·        The church is a body of people who belong not to themselves or to any leader or group but to God.

They had “been sanctified in Christ Jesus” and are “saints by calling.”

·        A saint, in NT terms, is not a specially pious or self-sacrificing Christian who has been recognized by the church.

·        The Greek word translated “saint” is hagios, meaning “set apart one,” or “holy one.”

·        The church at Corinth was the most immoral church to have received one of Paul’s letters.

–       Virtually the entire letter of 1 Corinthians, beginning with 1:10, deals with wrong doctrine and wrong behavior. 

–       It seems that mealy every serious doctrinal and moral error imaginable could be found within that congregation

·        The Corinthian believers were holy in God’s sight, regardless of their sinful living and distorted doctrine.

·        Holiness, in that positional sense, is not a matter of good works, or holy living.

·        As Christians, we should live holy lives, but that holy living does not make us holy in God’s sight.

·        Paul’s declaring all the Corinthian believers to be saints was quite a declaration in light of the things – very evident from the rest of the letter – that characterized their living.

·        The Corinthian à far from being saintly in the sense the term is often used today.

·        à particularly worldly and immoral

–       yet in his opening words Paul stressed that every one of them who had truly believed in Jesus Christ was saved and was a saint

·        when we sin one of the strongest rebukes we can have, as Christians, is to be reminded of who are Father is

–       reminded of whose we are

–       We have been bought with a price

Ø Paul increased the Corinthians’ sense of responsibility by reminding them that they were linked in spiritual life to all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.”

·        Before Paul took the Corinthians to task for their failures as Christians, he carefully and lovingly reminded them that they were Christians.

·        They belonged to God and to each other in a far-reaching fellowship.

C.   Blessing

Ø Paul wishes them “Grace” and “Peace” because only Christians can experience these

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