Christians at Corinth Get ‘Matters Set Straight’
THE apostle Paul, in writing to his friend Timothy, stated that the inspired Scriptures are profitable “for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness.” (2 Tim. 3:16) His first inspired letter to the congregation at Corinth, written from Ephesus about 55 C.E., certainly did serve to ‘set matters straight’ as well as to reprove and discipline those Christians in Corinth.
Some five years before, around 50 C.E., Paul himself established this congregation during his second missionary tour. As it often happened, his preaching immediately aroused opposition. But then the Lord Jesus appeared to him in a night vision and assured him of protection and success, for, as he said, “I have many people in this city.” (Acts 18:5-11) And so it proved to be, Paul staying in Corinth eighteen months. Fittingly he could say to those Corinthians: “I have become your father through the good news.”—1 Cor. 4:15.
Paul’s first letter to them is filled with vital information that has served Christians extremely well for the past nineteen centuries. In it he answers a number of questions that the Corinthian Christians had raised. He also comes to grips with their problems concerning which he received reports.
For one thing, they had asked Paul about singleness, marriage and separation. In answer Paul showed that, while the ideal was singleness, yet in view of the prevalence of sexual immorality, marriage was a wise choice; it is better to be married than to be inflamed with passion. Married Christians should give each other the marriage due and should not separate from unbelieving mates who are content to live with Christian mates. Those marrying should only marry fellow believers.—1 Cor. 7:1-40.
The Corinthian Christians had also asked about meat that had been offered to idols. Paul assured them that idols were nothing and so could have no effect on food. But if eating such food would cause a weaker brother to stumble, it would be better not to eat, for we are to seek, not just our own advantage, but that of others. Yes, ‘whether eating or drinking, we are to do all things for God’s glory.’ (1 Cor. 8:1-13; 10:18-33) Paul’s counsel on headship, on woman’s role in the congregation, on speaking in tongues and on congregational meeting procedures likewise appear to have been in reply to questions from Corinth. There were other matters, however, that Paul said could wait until he visited them again.—1 Cor. 11:34.
THE MORE IMPORTANT THINGS
It is indeed ironical—yet so true to human nature—that the foregoing matters about which Paul was asked were not nearly as weighty as those about which he received reports, for these were really disturbing to him. True to human nature? Yes, for it is prone to be more concerned with the form and externals than with the substance and that which lies underneath.—Matt. 23:23.
Paul was distressed because there were divisions among them due to their glorying in personalities. As a result, ‘Christ existed divided’ among them! But Christ, not one of their teachers, died for them! God makes things grow; all that Paul and Apollos could do was to plant and water! Continuing, Paul stressed that the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God and that no one has any grounds for boasting. Why not? Because whatever a person has he has received in the first place! Their fleshly thinking even had them ruling as kings!—1 Co Chapters 1 through 4.
Paul was also greatly disturbed by a case of gross immorality in their midst. He was very plain. ‘A little of such leaven ferments the whole lump,’ and so they should ‘remove the wicked man from among themselves’! (1 Cor. 5:1-13) Paul likewise heard of their taking one another to worldly courts. Surely among them there were men capable of judging such matters, especially since the holy ones will even judge angels. Besides, would it not be better to suffer wrongs at the hands of a brother than to take him to court? (1 Cor. 6:1-8) With such conditions prevailing in their congregation it is not surprising that Paul also had to reprove them on the way some were observing the Lord’s Evening Meal. Certain ones even used the meeting place to eat and drink ahead of the celebration to such an extent that they did not discern the meaning of the Lord’s Evening Meal.—1 Cor. 11:17-34.
The fact that some of them were saying “there is no resurrection of the dead” served as a basis for Paul’s giving them an extensive treatment of this teaching, for which Christians since then have been most grateful. He established that Jesus was raised from the dead, absolutely proving that there is a resurrection. Then Paul went on to show the importance of the resurrection hope and gave further details regarding when and how the resurrection will take place. Most fittingly, he closed that fine exposition with an appeal to action: “Consequently, my beloved brothers, become steadfast, unmovable, always having plenty to do in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in connection with the Lord.”—1 Cor. 15:1-58.
SELF-CONTROL AND LOVE
In addition to the foregoing, Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian Christians contains many other gems to help them and all Christians since then to be better imitators of Paul, even as he was of Christ. (1 Cor. 11:1) Thus he writes: “I pummel my body and lead it as a slave, that, after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.” (1 Cor. 9:27) Plainly he tells them: “What! Do you not know that unrighteous persons will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers . . . will inherit [it]. . . . And yet that is what some of you were.” (1 Cor. 6:9-11) And after listing some of the bad things the Israelites did in the wilderness, Paul tells them that “these things went on befalling them as examples, and they were written for a warning to us. . . . Consequently let him that thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall.”—1 Cor. 10:1-12.
And what fine things Paul writes them regarding love: “Love builds up”! (1 Cor. 8:1) More than that, “love is long-suffering and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, does not get puffed up, does not behave indecently, does not look for its own interests, does not become provoked. It does not keep account of the injury. It does not rejoice over unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” What a standard to aim for!—1 Cor. 13:4-8.
Truly, God’s holy spirit inspired Paul to give the Corinthian Christians in his day, and Christians since then, fine counsel so that they may all keep “standing” and “not fall.”—1 Cor. 10:12.