Trouble in the Church at Corinth
by Robert Randle
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Besides the usual salutatory greetings, the Apostle Paul gets right down to business. It seems that a church sister named Chloe reported to Paul that the congregation was splitting into several factions with members identifying with various preachers of the gospel. Some wanted to follow Paul, others Cephas, and another group Apollos; there were even some who rejected all of them or any human teacher and chose to follow only the voice of the LORD Jesus [Yeshua] Himself (Cp. 1 Corinthians 1: 10-13; 3: 3-6, 21-22; 4: 6). The record of Scripture is silent about Cephas [Peter] visiting the Corinthians but Apollos did, and on top of that, he was an excellent speaker (Cp. Acts 18: 24, 27-28; 19: 1). There were some in the assembly who were challenging Paul’s authority (Cp. 1 Corinthians 4: 18-21) as well as not disciplining a brother who was having sex with his father’s wife (1 Corinthians 5: 1-7).
In fact, the apostle wrote to them in an earlier letter [presumably lost], not to keep company with fornicators, especially those who are in the Church (Cp. 1 Corinthians 5: 9-13). The list of problems continues with Christians suing one another in Civil Court before unbelievers and the apostle remind them that believers are going to judge the angels and that it is a shame for them [us] not to be able to resolve matters of disagreement, or in some cases, to suffer injustice if such be the case (Cp. 1 Corinthians 6: 1-8).
Believers are once again warned against committing the sin of “fornication” (1 Corinthians 6: 15-20). Some members had written to the apostle Paul for instructions regarding premarital sex and when one should marry, or give his virgin daughter in marriage; marriage to an unbeliever, as well as divorce/remarriage (1 Corinthians 7: 1-29, 32-40). Following that issue is using one’s liberty in Christ as a stumbling-block for others who are weak in the faith (1 Corinthians 8: 1-13). There were some in Corinth who questioned whether Paul was really an Apostle or that he was somehow inferior to the “original” ones (1 Corinthians 9: 1-2; 15: 7-10).
Eating a meal in which the meat was offered in a pagan ritual and sacrificed to an idol god is probably not such an issue for believers today, but there is still some disagreement in Christian circles around the points elaborated on by the Apostle Paul in this eleventh chapter of 1 Corinthians. Should a woman have to wear a veil, hijab, scarf, burka or hat when praying, prophesying, or even speaking in tongues in the local assembly?
Also, the Apostle Paul wrote: “Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man has long hair, it is a shame unto him (1 Corinthians 11: 14)?” Maybe he forgot about the “Nazarite” vow where a man was forbidden to shave his hair during this time of consecration (Cp. Numbers 6: 1-2, 5), and what about Absalom, King David’s son, who cut his hair only once a year and when he weighed it, it was five pounds; according to the royal standard (2 Samuel 14: 25-26).
There were abuses while partaking of the Passover Feast which became the LORD’S Supper (“Eucharist”) such that believers became physically sick, and a few of them died because they failed to discern that this meal was in solemn memory and sacrifice of the LORD’S body on Calvary’s Cross (1 Corinthians 11: 17-34). The apostle Paul continues to focus on the theme of “divisions” among them, which must have been quite serious to mention it several times, again (Cp. 1 Corinthians 11: 18; 12: 25).
The urban or cosmopolitan Corinthian Christians were blessed with an abundance of spiritual gifts it seems but there was disorder and confusion as how, the purpose and when to manifest them (Cp. 1 Corinthians 12: 1-11, 25-30; 13: 1-8; esp. 14: 1-40). There were some believers in the Corinthian assembly who questioned the resurrection from the dead and what kind of body will it have, and Paul goes at length to explain and refute this growing heresy (Cp. 1 Corinthians 15: 12-55). Lastly, in this first letter the Apostle Paul is ordering the congregants to receive and submit to those fellow-laborers in the gospel of Jesus Christ [Yeshua Mashiach] that Paul sends to minister to their needs (Cp. 1 Corinthians 16: 10-12, 15-16).
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March 4, 2012
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