Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A Letter from Papa Paul (1 Corinthians 1:1-2a)

(It's time to start a new book of the Bible for me, and after looking at several and even wanting to skip this particular one, 1 Corinthians is the one. It will likely be a long ride if you are willing to go on it with me.)

“Paul, … To the church of God which is at Corinth….” (1 Corinthians 1:1–2a, NASB95)

In Acts 18:1 we read that while on his second missionary journey, the apostle Paul left Athens to head about 45 miles to Corinth which was located in southern Greece on a narrow isthmus. Because of its location, Corinth was a highly trafficked city. Its importance was greatly enhanced because of the extreme weather and great length of sailing around the southern tip of Greece. In order to avoid this dangerous trip ships would be carried across the isthmus and pass alongside Corinth. Eventually a canal would be excavated, but it took many, many centuries to complete. At Paul’s time the ships had to be manually moved on skids. Corinth was also known for its pagan worship and its home to athletic competitions, including the Isthmian and Olympian games.

As for its cults, Corinth was home to a temple to Aphrodite who they worshipped as the goddess of love where 1,000 temple prostitutes lived and worked during the day while they offered their services in the city at night. Between the economy, sports, and sex Corinth was well known for its debauchery. (Source: MacArthur Study Bible and parallel readings from other sources).

It was on this city that Paul next set his sights, and Acts 18:1-11 records for us a brief record of what happened while he was there. It was upon arriving at Corinth that he met Aquila and Priscilla who had relocated there themselves after being ordered by Claudius had ordered Jews to leave Rome. This couple were tent makers, like Paul, and they hit it off with him right off the bat. They worked together in their trade while Paul “reasoned” with the people in the synagogue on the Sabbath, trying to convince both Jews and Greeks. We also read that as Silas and Timothy joined him that he was able to devote full-time to the work of the word. Eventually the Jews would reject him, and we read that he turned his attention to the Gentiles with a notable Jewish exception. In the year and a half that he was there we read that many of the Corinthians believed and were baptized as God protected him from harm. I love the assurance that Paul was given when in a night vision when the Lord told him, “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city.”” (Acts 18:9–10, NASB95)

Eventually his stay was ended when the Jews gathered together to nab him and bring him before the Roman proconsul in that region. Gallio would not hear their argument, and he turned them away. It was after this attack that we read in Acts 18:18 that he set sail for Syria, leaving Priscilla and Aquila in Ephesus along the way.

This concludes the record we have of his time with them. And, in 2 Corinthians 1:23 we read that he did not return. “But I call God as witness to my soul, that to spare you I did not come again to Corinth.” (2 Corinthians 1:23, NASB95)

1 Corinthians is generally thought to have been written about A.D. 55 during Paul’s third missionary journey while he was on an extended stay in Ephesus. His location is affirmed in Paul’s closing comments to the letter where he wrote, “But I will remain in Ephesus until Pentecost; for a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” (1 Corinthians 16:8–9, NASB95) It was while there that he again had the opportunity to serve alongside his friends Priscilla and Aquilla who he had left there when he left Corinth. And, having worked alongside them in Corinth, Paul includes a greeting from them in the closing of this letter. “The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Prisca greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.” (1 Corinthians 16:19, NASB95)

1 Corinthians was written by Paul. It was written to a group of believers that he had led to the Lord, and who he dearly loved. And, as we see it unfold we will also see that this was probably a very difficult letter for Paul to write because this church he birthed had floundered greatly in his absence. We’ll look a bit more at his introduction in the next post.

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