Paul, from Ephesus (16:8), AD 53-54. Paul writes four or five letters to Corinth (I Cor 5:9-13, II Cor 2:3-4), it is believed that we have canonized the second and fourth – as well as the fifth if II Corinthians 10-13 is taken as such.
Church of Corinth, mostly Gentile (12:2, 8:7).
Corinth was rebuilt in 44 B.C. and becomes the largest city in Roman Greece in a hundred years. Mass immigration has made this a melting pot of people, religions, and social classes. Corinth is very religious, but very immoral. As evidenced by the pitfalls of the church, the culture is easily allured by philosophy and oratory eloquence.
Paul responds with correction to their letter (7:1) and to reports he has received about them (1:11, 5:1). The Church of Corinth misread or deliberately misinterpreted Paul’s first letter (I Cor 5:9) and therefore wrote to Paul to tell him why he was wrong. He covers 11 issues – 10 are behavioral, the other is on bodily resurrection (15). The key problem is that they believe they have already attained the ultimate state of spirituality through speaking in tongues – the language of angels – and therefore they have no place for weakness/humility (unity), no need to worry themselves with sins in the bodily (sexuality), no need for a higher state (resurrected body), and certainly no need for apostolic directives (Paul). The crucified Messiah and bodily resurrection are key themes to correct these issues.
How to Read it
Look for correction. Look for the theme of the crucified Messiah.
I. Addressing Chloe’s Questions (1-6)
a. Divisions based on “Wisdom” (1-4) – read 1.12-13 divisions, 1.18,22-25, 2.13, 3.18 true wisdom, 4.18-21 apostolic power
To Ponder: Paul expresses limits in worldly wisdom… should we be pursing wisdom through channels other than books, seminars, or classes?
b. Moral & Ethical Disorder (5-6)
i. Incest Excommunication Laxity (5) – read 5.1-2 step mother incest, 5.9-11 excommunication
ii. Lawsuits (6.1-11) – read 6.1,5,7 judge in the church or let yourself be wronged
iii. Sexual Immorality (6.12-20) – read 6.12-13 freedom in body/spirit dichotomy, 6.15,20 body belongs to Christ
II. Addressing Latter Questions (7-16)
a. Marriage & Singleness (7) – read 7.1,8,10,12,15 remain as you are, 7.32-33,38 marriage is good, singleness is more focused.
b. Freedom & Integrity in Pagan Society (8-10) – read 8.4,13 freedom & conscientiousness, 9.19, 10.33 Paul as example,
c. Orderly Worship (11-14) –Ponder: Paul is very firm on practices…should we be as well?
i. Male & Female Roles (11:2-16) – read 11.4-5 freedom & propriety, temporary command or timeless principle
ii. Communion (11:17-34) – read 11.20-21 togetherness, 28-30 self examination
iii. Spiritual Gifts (12-14) – read 12.7,12,29-31 13.1-3, 14.18-19,27 unified body, diverse gifts, edifying, orderly
d. Resurrection (15) – read 15.17-19 pointlessness without resurrection
e. Conclusion (16)
I Corinthians is the best guide to the do’s and don’ts of church life.
Paul – more autobiographical material than any other epistle. From Macedonia, probably Philippi, with Timothy, AD 55-57, most likely 56. Date is dependent on when Gallio ascended to proconsulship – After this point Paul spent 1 year in Corinth, 2.5 in Ephesus, and maybe another year or so settling into Macedonia.
Audience & Setting
See I Corinthians above.
1-9 is written to encourage the church, 10-13 is written to threaten them in defense of his apostleship. Paul’s previous visit and letter was quite harsh (2.1,4) – he fears that the relationship is permanently damage, or worse, that their faith is gone. Paul now writes in response to a report from Titus (2.13,7.6-7) which evidenced the church’s concern for Paul’s current suffering. Paul was delighted to hear that the relationship between he and the church had been mended, and that they have renewed their obedience. Chapters 10-13 have a different purpose, and in my assessment, a different audience – usurping power from church leaders who continue to slam his authority.
Integrity: Based on the change of tone between 1-9 and 10-13 – Was II Corinthians written as on letter, at one time? Varying camps: 1) Paul added to his original letter after a second report came from Titus, 2) Paul needs to address two parties in the church with one letter, 3) these are two separate letters that were later combined.
How to Read it
Look for the strength that lies in weakness. Be ready for the tone shift at Ch 10-13.
I. Explains his Actions (1-2.11) – read 1.3-5 suffering & comfort, 1.23 cancelled plans
II. Defends his Ministry (2.12-7) – read 2.15-16, 4.7-10 ministry of weakness, 6.14, 7.1 uncompromising integrity, 7.8-9 strain & reconciliation
III. Defends the Collection (8-9) – read 8.11,14,9.6-7 fulfill pledge, be generous, non-compulsion
IV. Defends his Authority (10-13) – read 10.1,10-11 tone change, 11.18,24-30 boast in weakness, 12.7-10 strength in weakness, 13.2,10 authority
II Corinthians is great example of restoration and confrontation to be used in strained relationships.