Saturday, November 26, 2011

I Corinthians

The Corinthians were famous for their philosophy and logic. Many in the Corinthian church didn’t respect Paul because he didn’t use fancy rhetoric in his preaching.  The letter to the Corinthians was written in response to this and also in response to some problems the church at Corinth was having.

In I Corinthians 1:5, Paul states that in Christ they had been enriched in “all utterance and knowledge.”  Later in verse 17, Paul states, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.”  Note that Paul did baptize people. He just got done stating that he had baptized Crispus and Gaius – and later adds that he also baptized the household of Stephanas.* But he is stating that baptism was not his role. His role was to preach the gospel.
Paul goes on to describe the importance of true godly wisdom and how that differs from worldly wisdom. In chapters 2 and 3, he talks about the wisdom of the Spirit, wisdom in the apostolic ministry, wisdom in Christ’s church, and wisdom in spiritual fatherhood.

In chapter 8, Paul tackles a problem that was facing the Corinthians. In their culture, nearly all meat, wine, oil and wheat was offered to Zeus first. The best meat was served in the temples, and even in the marketplace, many of the food items had been offered to a god first before being brought to eh market. The Corinthians liked the meat, especially the meat in the temples, and so they reasoned it away – saying that it was okay to eat the meat because they didn’t believe in the idols.  And in addition to eating the meat offered to idols, they visited the temple prostitutes.

The Corinthians were implying that Paul was not smart enough to teach them. Paul essentially uses their own methods of argument against them.  He tells them that, even though they know that the idols are not real, if a new believer sees the church members eating at an idol’s temple, it may confuse them. The young believer may think that the church members actually believe in the idol and think it’s okay to worship in an idols’ temple.  Paul tells the Corinthians to avoid the idol’s temple, but instead to buy their meat at the marketplace. However, if someone at the marketplace tells them that the meat has been offered to idols, they should not eat it.  The same is true if a believer is invited to an unbeliever’s house for a meal.  They should go ahead and eat the meal without questioning it.  But if someone offers the information that the meat has been offered to idols, then they should abstain.

 *This passage reminds us that this is, after all, a letter, that was probably dictated.  Quite possible, the scribe, who might have been Luke, interrupted Pau at this point and said, “You also baptized the household of Stephanus,” so Paul added it.  Note also that this is yet another reference to an entire household being baptized, which quite probably included infants and children.) 

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