God's Truth Brought To His People
Paul's letters to churches were God's plan for us to read the Apostles' doctrine for ourselves, and let God speak to us today. Although two letters, written by Paul to Corinth, currently exist (1 and 2 Corinthians), each of those mentions another epistle. In 1 Corinthians 5:9-11 he refers to an earlier letter warning against sexual immorality. In 2 Corinthians 2:3-9 and 7:8-12 he comments on another letter full of stern rebuke, which cost him much grief to write. So, this letter we are about to study, may be the fourth written to Corinth, supplementing at least three personal visits. It unpacks important doctrinal truth and the godly character of the Apostle – we need to learn both.
This church was special to Paul. He planted it when he first came as an artisan worker mending tents, and preaching about Jesus in the Synagogue. Some believed. When others protested, Paul set up a teaching centre in the house next door (Acts 18:1-8). It was spiritually hard ground: there was no public welcome to the gospel in the huge, two-port trading hub, full of immorality, slave labour and pagan worship. Leading that church brought huge challenges.
Paul's travels and preaching were not his own initiative; God commissioned him (Acts 18:9-11). As a 'founding apostle' (those who had been personally commissioned by the risen Christ), Paul had divine authority to teach the truth and command them to repent. That authority had been challenged by power-hungry teachers who had infiltrated the church. So, Paul and Timothy, his assistant missionary, who were probably in Macedonia, wanted the church to know that they belonged to Jesus. He had made them special to Himself and wanted them to stop tolerating sin and arguing, and to receive His grace and peace.
In many places, today's church is much more like 1st Century Corinth than we might wish to believe. Arguments against what the apostles wrote are rife in our time; so are power contests to exert authority and even manipulate money. Every teacher who wants to redefine the apostolic bedrock of the church seems very sincere. But if they ignore or contradict what Paul, Peter and John have written, they do not have God's authority. Believers today need to be warned to stay true to what the apostles taught. Paul's motive was obedient love – wanting to draw God's people into the safety of His grace and peace - while power-hungry imposters ignored truth to create destructive lies. Be on your guard, and be godly despite the pressure of false teaching: we shall learn how and why as we explore this heartfelt letter.
© Dr Paul Adams