birth of the Corinthian Church

Read Acts 18

Corinth had Latins, Greeks, Syrians, Asians, Egyptians and Jews all mixing it up together in business and pleasure.  The Grecian city had an unsavory reputation.  To “Corinthianize” was popular Greek to mean: “to go to the devil.”  

One commentator described the people as “intellectually alert, materially prosperous, but morally corrupt.” 


It was into this international mixture of commerce and paganism that Paul’s second missionary journey carried him.  With his companions Timothy and Silas left behind in Upper Greece (Berea), and after having some discouraging events in Athens where seeming little fruit was born, Paul came into busy and intellectual Corinth humbled. 


For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.” (1 Corinthians 2:2–3, NKJV) 


Reading Acts 18 gives a good thumbnail of his arrival and meeting with Pricilla and Aquila.  Paul begins, as he did in so many cities through the extended Roman empire, in the synagogue where enough Jews lived in these international cities to necessitate a teaching house.   As usual, Gentiles were part of the audience.  


They were hungry for something real. 


These Gentiles gathered at the Jewish house of worship. They were dissatisfied with loose life and drawn to Judaism’s lofty hope in one God.  With every pleasure at their disposal in Corinth, they were burned out on self-gratification.  We remember that Jesus found many tax collectors and sinners at his knees. These people were like so many of us who became seekers.  They were spiritually dried out and done.  They had been drinking from the dregs of sin; they were hung-over and tired of it. 

They weren’t weary from pain. They were weary from pleasure. 


They wisely sought relief in Jesus and found it.  (Luke 15:1-2)   

In the Synagogue of Corinth, Paul found the same audience before him.  It was in this seedbed of discontent that Christ was born in the hearts of his listeners.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:6) 


Tuesday:  Corinth had problems

Read 1 Corinthians 3

Paul would spend a year and half at Corinth.  It was a church of great variety, not only ethnically, but in social class too.   Some people, like Erastus who was the City Treasurer, was part of the Corinthian Church (Romans 16:23).  But it had some people from the lower social strata too. We remember that Paul said to many in Corinth: 


For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.” (1 Corinthians 1:26, ESV) 


It is a beautiful thing to be in the Church of Jesus Christ and to find fellowship with people of every stripe and social class.  The new humanistic theories that address racial issues only tend to compound the problems rather than solve them.  


Only the Gospel that can truly overcome racism because only the Gospel can transform the heart that holds prejudice. 


Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” (Colossians 3:11, ESV) 


But let’s get this right: The Corinthian Church had problems. They had problems because people like you and me went there. 

They were carnal. They had too much world in them.   They had divisions, not based upon race or social class, but division about who they would attach themselves to:  Paul, Peter or Apollos.  Corinth had sexual immorality issues. They didn’t respect marriage properly.  Speaking of sexual immorality, Corinth had an incest situation where they didn’t put the offender in check.  Paul called them out for being quarrelsome and taking other church members to court.  Add to that, Paul was getting some disrespect from some. Though with Christ he brought them to birth, some turned on him like rebellious children.  


To read Paul’s letter to the Corinthians should be an encouragement to any pastor or church member who doesn’t have the perfect church!  


The good news is, Paul didn’t abandon them or cast them away. He dealt with them as a Father.  Friends, we see Christ in Paul.  For many years I carried a card on a ring with other cards of people’s names. It was a reminder to me: 

"People need someone to be tender and compassionate with them in their last gasp. People need someone to teach them God’s laws and principles so that the chaos of their lives will come into order.” 

It was based on a scripture: “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.” (Mark 6:34)


Now I carry it in my heart.  That is how Paul loved the people of Corinth. 

Wednesday:  Corinth had a lot of good going on too

Read: 1 Corinthians 12


It wasn’t all bad in Corinth. They really had received the wonderful grace of the God. 


I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you,” (1 Corinthians 1:4–6, NKJV) 


It is Paul’s to call them to progress. One of his chief exhortations is to erase every division and to be perfectly joined with each other. 


Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” (1 Corinthians 1:10, NKJV) 


In chapter twelve he enlarges them in the operation of spiritual gifts.  This is a theme that he addresses with many of the churches he has planted.  He told the Ephesians:


But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.”” (Ephesians 4:7–8, NKJV) 


He told the Christians in Rome: 

For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” (Romans 12:4–5, NKJV) 


He speaks of seven motivational gifts: 

Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” (Romans 12:6–8, NKJV) 


Jesus told his disciples about spiritual gifts and the responsibility that each of us has to develop them and to deploy them.


Therefore He said: “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return. So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Do business till I come.’” (Luke 19:12–13, NKJV) 


Paul helps them, not only as a Father, but as a coach—to teach them to work together as a team though they are very different in personality and gifting. 

Thursday:  Many different gifts, One spirit

Read 1 Corinthians 12

Blessing is found in our different giftings.  We have differences in aptitudes, heart leanings, and personalities. That’s the stuff we come into the world in our suitcases.   Suzie and were given a personality test in pre-marital counseling and everywhere I went up on a trait, she went down. Everywhere I went down on a trait, she went up.  But I can say after 36 years of marriage, that has made all the difference!  


Our differences are not a matter for concern. Our differences are a reason for confidence.  

“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.” 1 Cor 12:4


God has a mission purpose in our marriage together. Our different giftings uniquely equip us to do something together that we couldn’t do as successfully apart from each other. 


On a greater note, this is Paul’s point to the Church of Corinth and to the Church in Bell.  We have a mission together.  Our diversity is our strength as we serve one Lord together. 

We need each other like the body needs all its parts. 


With such a great purpose in front of the church, Paul would give them a warning against the enemy getting his tail where it doesn’t belong.  Worse than the devil is our own flesh. Most of us have caused ourselves more trouble than the devil ever has.   There is a dark side to our giftings when we are not under the Holy Spirit.


The differences in our giftings can be fertile ground for ugly things like pride. Pride says, “My gift is better than yours, more important than yours or more right than yours.”  But what does the Bible say, “The eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you.” 1 Cor 12:21


Therefore we are called to care for one another and to honor one another above ourselves as Christians. “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;” (Romans 12:10, NKJV) 


Then, there is no room for schisms.  “If one you is suffering, let the other suffer and sympathize. If one is honored, let both rejoice.”  1 Cor 1:26


If we honor and care for one another, with the Lord’s help, there will be no place for the enemy without or the enemy within. 

Friday: A more excellent way

Read 1 Corinthians 13

Many read 1 Corinthians 13 at weddings. I sure have.  I recently married off my son and daughter-in-law.  It was a privilege to do so and an honor to share scripture including this selection.  But I did so with the context of the Scripture on love.   


I was told by the mother of the bride that: “She was the perfect child.  She didn’t cry. She was joyful. She played for hours happily alone in her room.”  I was happy to share that my son had none of that growing up.  Everyone laughed with me.  


"Pragmatism, meet optimism.  “Optimism meet pragmatism. You are going to need each other.” 


This is what makes us good for each other.  But to tie that difference together is key.  For the believers in Corinth or Bell, we have great diversity, but we, like that couple, have the same Lord.   To be perfectly united as a church, or as Paul said earlier in his letter: 


Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” (1 Corinthians 1:10, NKJV) 


There is a more excellent way to do that.  Paul says, “earnestly desire the best gifts (12:31)” but remember this: 


You can have many spiritual giftings, golden oratory, prophetic clarity, depth of wisdom, unfathomable knowledge and faith that can move mountains.  But if you don’t have the love of Christ governing your heart—it is all chaff.   It won’t last.  Love is eternal.  Anything less than the Love of Christ, will always be temporary. 


Many of us are here today, who have lived long enough to see that many who are ‘successful”—aren’t. And those who aren’t ‘successful’, by the world’s standards—really are.  

The difference between those two characters is that: one has Faith, Hope and Love.  And the other doesn’t. The Bible says:


Faith, hope and love endure. But the greatest of these is Love