The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians

New Testament Teacher Resource Manual, (2002), 174–86


timeline

Author:Paul is the author of 1 Corinthians (see 1 Corinthians 1:1–2; 16:21). He had already written at least one other letter to the Corinthian Saints (see 1 Corinthians 5:9). Unfortunately we have no record of the earlier letter.

Audience: Paul established the Church in Corinth during his second missionary journey around A.D. 50. While there he received a revelation directing him to speak openly and fearlessly to the people God had prepared to receive the gospel (see Acts 18:1, 9–11). He remained there a year and a half proclaiming the gospel and organizing the Church. However, the Corinthian Saints became divided and combined pagan beliefs and rituals with some of the true gospel principles and ordinances Paul had taught them. Paul had a sincere concern for the Saints in Corinth, so when specific needs and requests came to his attention, he responded by writing them this letter.

Historical Background: Corinth is situated on an isthmus connecting mainland Greece with the Peloponnesian peninsula (see Bible map 13). This choice location allowed for a flow of commerce, philosophy, and religion from the East and the West. Idol worship dominated Corinth’s religious culture. People worshiped in twelve temples throughout the city. They engaged in ritual prostitution in the temple of Aphrodite, and their leaders encouraged immoral behavior. Paul wrote to these members from Ephesus during his third missionary journey between A.D. 55–57 (see 1 Corinthians 1:3–8; Bible Dictionary, (“Pauline Epistles,” p. 743).

Unique Features: Paul addressed several issues and doctrines in 1 Corinthians that set this letter apart. He taught that the body is a temple for the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 6:19), he gave instructions regarding missionaries and marriage (see 1 Corinthians 7), he explained the gifts of the Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 12:1–12), he expounded on the virtues of charity (see 1 Corinthians 13), and he testified of the doctrines of resurrection and baptism for the dead (see 1 Corinthians 15).

Theme:Paul encouraged the Corinthian Saints to be unified. He taught that this could be achieved through the gospel of Jesus Christ, the influence of the Holy Ghost, and the spiritual maturity of each member.