1 Corinthians: Epistle To The 21st Century



The first epistle of Paul to the Corinthians is a very, very important letter for us because it so thoroughly captures the problems that we face as moderns living in this modern age. The reason is, of course, that Corinth was the most American city in the New Testament -- it was a resort city, the capital of pleasure in the Roman Empire.If you remember your geography you know it was located on the Peloponnesian peninsula, and the conditions under which the Corinthians lived were very much like the conditions under which we live, or to put that the other way, the conditions under which we live today are Corinthian conditions. Corinth was a beautiful city, a lovely city of palms and beautiful buildings, the center of pleasure for the whole empire, and it was devoted to two things -- the pursuit of pleasure (largely passion), and of wisdom. It was a Greek city, and its inhabitants loved to philosophize, and they were given to what Paul calls, "the wisdom of words."


  • The Corinthian Crisis (1 Corinthians 1:1-9)


    Some years ago on a Sunday morning here, I was preaching on a section from the sixth chapter of First Corinthians and commenting on Verse 9 where the apostle says,

  • Behind Divisions (1 Corinthians 1:10-17)


    As we read through First Corinthians, I think we will see how very much like modern day churches this ancient church of Corinth was. Unlike most of his other epistles, Paul plunges right into the heart of the practical problems that were affecting this church, and the first of these, the problem of divisions within the church, he begins to deal with in Chapter 1, Verse 10.

  • God's Nonsense (1 Corinthians 1:18-25)


    I think no American Christian can read First Corinthians without feeling right at home. I was told recently of a young pastor who was inquiring of an older pastor what he should do to prepare for his ministry. The older man told him, "Well, I would advise that above all else you must get a Ph.D. degree, for no church today will listen to a man who does not have a Ph.D." When I heard that, the centuries fell away and I felt I was right back in Corinth with its love of human wisdom, its exaltation of human philosophies, and its stress upon status symbols which were dividing the church and producing factions, schisms and quarrelings in their midst. These Christians at Corinth were quarreling over what Paul calls "the wisdom of words," and their quarrelings and divisions were sabotaging the impact of this church upon the city so that much of what had started out with tremendous power was beginning to fade away because of the divisions within the congregation.

  • God's Tools (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)


    I have entitled this study God's Tools because it deals with those whom God uses to change the world, but I could have entitled it God's Fools, because the startling truth that Paul declares here is that God often prefers fools to use as tools when he wants to do a really great work in the world. Here are Paul's words, Verse 26:

  • God's Wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:1-10)


    As we are looking at this passage from First Corinthians together, we are learning why it is that all our accumulation of knowledge does not ever seem to help us handle life better. The reason, however, is not so much because of the lack of knowledge -- we all have lots of knowledge today -- but because of the lack of wisdom, true wisdom, and this is why this passage is so fantastically helpful to us. We are beginning with Chapter 2 this morning, where the apostle is looking back to his first visit to Corinth:

  • God's Teacher (1 Corinthians 2:10-13)


    I think one of the things that must have deeply impressed everyone who heard Jesus himself teach was the fact that he spoke with such authority about things that other people knew nothing about. Remember how in the Gospels he seems to read the thoughts of other people's minds. He answers questions before they are even asked. He accurately identifies the motives that move people to speak or act, and, even more than this, he speaks of unseen things with familiarity, as though he had seen them himself. He describes what God is like, and the nature of angels. He describes what happens after death. He predicts future events with pinpoint accuracy. At the close of his ministry, as he was about to leave his disciples, they were filled with foreboding and despair not only because of the loss of his presence, but because of the loss of his wisdom and power. In the Upper Room Discourse he said to them, "I will not leave you orphans; I will not leave you alone. If I go away I will send another Comforter to you and

  • The Mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:14-16)


    Last week my wife and I were privileged to be in Portland, Oregon, for the inauguration of young Joe Aldrich to succeed his father, Dr. Willard Aldrich, as President of Multnomah School of the Bible. We enjoyed very much the opportunity to be there, and to participate in what was a very moving experience. In a luncheon held on Friday for the delegates who came in from the various parts of the country, Dr. Joe Aldrich gave a response to their greetings in a very modest and unassuming way, and one of the things he said stuck in my mind. He said: "The main thing is to see that the main thing remains the main thing."

  • Carnal and Spiritual Christians (1 Corinthians 3:1-9)


    The church at Corinth was full of problems, factions, divisions and splits largely because its members loved the wisdom of men. They were proud of their eloquent ability to explore and explain many fascinating subjects, although no one was being changed much by all this display of erudition and knowledge. And because, as always happens, human wisdom reflects various viewpoints, they had split and divided and they were full of boastings and glorying in the leadership of various men. As we have seen, Paul has spoken plainly and bluntly to them. He showed them the infinite difference between the wisdom of men and that secret and hidden wisdom of God which has been revealed to us by the Spirit.

  • God's Builders (1 Corinthians 3:10-15)


    Several weeks ago I was down in Austin, Texas, where I was privileged to dedicate a new building for the Grace Community Church there. It was an exciting time as we gathered to set this new building aside for God's purposes, and yet I tried to seize the occasion to point out what they well knew, that a church is not a building, and buildings do not really represent the church as such.

  • How to Destroy a Church (1 Corinthians 3:16-23)


    One of the most popular hymns of all time about the church is the well known Onward, Christian Soldiers, Marching As To War. The second verse is a great description, biblically, of the church:

  • The True Minister (1 Corinthians 4:1-7)


    We will be looking at the first seven verses of First Corinthians 4 this morning, the passage that defines for us the true view of a minister of Christ. There are many stereotypes abroad today as to what a minister is. It would be interesting to me to know what flashed through your mind when I said those words, "a minister of Christ."

  • A Father in Action (1 Corinthians 4:8-21)


    In this section of First Corinthians, the apostle is going to be dealing with the problem of a complacent church, that is, a church filled with complacent Christians. That was also the problem we read about in Revelation 3 of the church of Laodicea, a church that was saying, "We are rich; we are filled; we have everything." But the Lord is saying, "You do not know what you are like. You are deceiving yourselves," (Revelation 3:17). This is the ancient problem of spiritual lukewarmness, of being neither cold nor hot, of being nauseating, in between.

  • Scandal in the Church (1 Corinthians 5:1-13)


    One of the growing problems the church is facing today is what to do about the frightening increase in sexual immorality among Christians. I do not think a week goes by but we hear reports of churches struggling in this area. We hear of Christian leaders who have forsaken their wives, run off with the secretary, fallen into homosexuality, or are facing some kind of a moral crisis in their churches. Many are properly concerned about this, and wondering why this should be.

  • The Wrong Way to Right Wrongs (1 Corinthians 6:1-11)


    The Apostle Paul is dealing with the problem of lawsuits among brethren in this passage from First Corinthians 6. Just last week, I picked up a current issue of a Christian magazine and read a report concerning two Christian organizations that are both involved in smuggling Bibles behind the Iron Curtain. They are now suing each other before the courts in libel actions for damages. As I read the article I could not help but wonder if they had spent any time reading the Bibles they smuggle, because here in this passage Paul very clearly says that kind of thing among believers is very definitely wrong.

  • What are Bodies For? (1 Corinthians 6:12-20)


    Corinth was a city given over to the worship of sex. A thousand priestesses from the temple of Aphrodite that stood on the little hill behind the ancient city would come down into the streets at night and ply their trade. Sexual promiscuity, therefore, was accepted and highly regarded in that culture, as it is pretty much the same today here in California. When the Apostle Paul had come into the city, and had begun to teach and preach about Jesus, a church had started there, and he had taught it what it ought to know about life, truth, and reality. As a consequence of that teaching, the Christian church in Corinth began to challenge head-on this whole sexual looseness of the city.

  • Sex in Marriage (1 Corinthians 7:1-9)


    When we come to the seventh chapter of First Corinthians we plunge right into a very explicit and forthright passage dealing with sex in marriage. Some people are squeamish about hearing this subject taught and preached on a Sunday morning, but the very fact that the Word of God, in all its purity and wholesomeness, treats a subject like this ought to correct that kind of undue scrupulosity among us. It should teach us that this is a subject that is very much worthwhile examining together. Besides, it is a passage of crucial significance for our day.

  • Answers on Divorce (1 Corinthians 7:10-24)


    In the seventh chapter of First Corinthians, the Apostle Paul leads us into confrontation with one of the major social problems of our day, and that is the breakup of marriages. Next month my wife and I will be celebrating our 33rd wedding anniversary. It is rather rare to find that kind of a long-lived marriage these days, though once it was commonplace. In fact, it seemed to me when I was a young man that almost everybody I knew had been married for 30 or 40 years.

  • Alone but Not Lonely (1 Corinthians 7:25-40)


    In this section of First Corinthians, the Apostle Paul has already discussed the place of sex in marriage and the right and wrong of divorce. Now, beginning with Verse 25 of Chapter 7, we come to a section addressed to the unmarried that sets forth both the advantages and the pressures of single life: Verses 26-35 set forth three advantages of singleness; and then Verses 36-40 give us the pressures of single life. Paul begins with an explanatory word that looks over the whole subject. Verse 25:

  • What's behind Your Influence? (1 Corinthians 8:1-13)


    In the eighth chapter of First Corinthians we come to the second question these Corinthians had asked the Apostle Paul in the letter they wrote to him. It has to do with a problem that is very common in our Christian lives today: "How much should I let other people's views control my actions?" That is, "Must I limit my liberty by the narrower, more restricted views of other Christians?"

  • Rights or Wrongs (1 Corinthians 9:1-23)


    In Chapter 9 of First Corinthians, the Apostle Paul is still answering the question that these Corinthians had asked him, "Is it right to eat meat that has been sacrificed to an idol?" Although none of us would have asked that question of Paul, behind it is the greater question that we most certainly would have asked him, and that is, "How far should we go to adjust to the conscientious scruples of other people?"

page 1 from 2