I will be using the work of Kenneth E. Bailey, Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes, for much of this study on the letter to Corinth
Monday, June 9, Chapter 2
Paul has to make a point with the Greeks especially, but also with the Romans and to some extent the Jews and others. The Greeks loved philosophies and philosophical speakers. They loved a good, hard-nosed debate in the classical logical style. Philosophers were the rock stars of Greece. Paul wanted the Corinthians to understood that he stayed away from that kind of speaking when he was with him. He wanted them to see the simplicity of the Cross of Christ.
He had just arrived from Athens where he was invited to speak on Mars Hill, the center of the intellectual world in the Empire. He gave an impressive speech that juggled the logical Greek with the story style of Jews. He successfully bridged two worlds. He did not found a church that day in Athens, but the city was ready and became the home of today’s Orthodox Church.
Paul walked from there to the city of slaves and sailors and assured them he would not use the ivory tower language of Athens with them, only the language of the Cross.
Notice the pattern in verses 7-10. In 7, God’s Wisdom is hidden, but in 10, it is revealed by the Spirit. In the second half of 7, God destined His Wisdom for us and in the second half of 9 He prepared it for us. In both 8 and 9, it is not understood by the people. They would not have crucified the Lord of glory, is of the Cross, right in the center of these matching statements. This is a pattern Paul uses throughout his letters.
In verse 11, Paul says we cannot know the thoughts of God. Only the Holy Spirit can know those thoughts. If we allow the Spirit to dwell in us, the Spirit will share that knowledge. Verse 13 is the central statement that we share that knowledge of God with others who do not have the Spirit.
Paul is talking about the three parts of man and the three parts of God. Humans are body, thoughts, and soul; or physical, mental, and spiritual. We control all three, but in doing that, we are unable to communicate with God. Only when we allow the Holy Spirit to replace our personal spirits can we know God.
Tuesday, June 10, Chapter 3
Go back and look at verse 1:4 where Paul is thankful for the gifts given. Now, in 3:1-3 Paul is saying that they failed to take in the gifts. The divisions and infighting are sure signs that the Holy Spirit has not taken over the worldly spirits.
Had they been filled with the spirit they would be showing love to one another, not jealousy. Let me quote from Kenneth E. Bailey. As children of the Enlightenment we have largely come to see the acquiring of truth as a head trip, and that a good mind and a willingness to work hard is all that is required to understand any form of truth, including theological truth. Paul disagrees. He was not willing to feed the Corinthians the “solid food” of theology because of broken relationships in their community….
The ancient Eastern churches did not have scholars or theologians, but rather “Fathers of the church.” The assumption behind that language is: Only when we see the authenticity of your piety, and your commitment to the church, will we take your scholarship seriously.
Read Isaiah 28:9 and apply it to Paul as a father feeding the Corinthians milk.
Paul tells them it does not matter who plants the seed, it comes from God. He uses images that come from Isaiah 41:19; 44:3-4; 60:20; and 61:3. You Corinthians need to grow and fill out the image of that which was planted within you.
Paul calls himself a diakonos, a minister/servant. He uses the same term for Apollos, Phoebe, and Timothy. He has no ownership of the people or the church, he is their servant.
In verse 5, Paul uses the image of farming and the farm, changing in verse 9 to buildings. What we add to the foundation will be shown on the day of Christ’s return, be it gold or straw (verse 13).
Verses 16-17 make up the central thought of this section. We, you and I, are the Third Temple. God dwells within us.
Theodore of Mopsuestia (410 AD) writes: The one who believes in Christ receives the Holy Spirit, who dwells in him by the washing of rebirth, and thus he is spiritual. But if such people then turn around and serve worldly passions, in that respect they are carnal. Paul says that those who have become spiritual according to their confession of faith may nevertheless still live as though they were carnal so as to become an insult to the Holy Spirit who dwells in them.
Ambrosiaster adds (370 AD): Paul says this in order to prick the consciences of those who have corrupted their bodies through evil living, especially the man who was having an affair with his father’s wife.
Paul ends the chapter and begins the next with one parallelism. It was the style of much of the Old and New Testaments. Jesus used parallelism in his parables and Paul uses it throughout his letters. This particular one is called an inverted parallelism because the lines that match one another end up looking like the March Madness bracket
A 18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age,he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.
B As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” 21 So then, no more boasting about men!
C All things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.
D1 4:1 So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. 2 Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.
D2 3 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. 4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.
D3 5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.
C’ 6 Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit,
B’ so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not take pride in one man over against another.
A’ 7 For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
Notice how A’ is a part of A or built on A. That is parallelism. The center three statements are of equal value, matching ideas rather than a building of ideas. In parables, the center is often the central point, even the climax of the story. With Paul in this letter, it is the Cross several times.
Wednesday, June 11, Chapter 4
Paul’s whole argument for the Corinthians is that they assumed only Paul knew the truth, or only Apollos, just as we often believe that only Baptists or Methodists or Lutherans or Catholics have the truth. Either we belong to Paul or to God, not both.
Starting in verse 8, Paul cranks out the sarcasm. It is a small parallelism with 8 and 10 matching and 9 the center. It is all sarcasm.
Yet the center contains an image of Christ. When a Roman general returned to Rome from a successful battle, the parade would always end with the captives in chains who would then be executed for the public’s enjoyment. That is what Paul is referring to, and it is what happened to Jesus, marched through the streets to a public execution.
Paul reminds us, backhandedly, that we should suffer with God. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it in a letter from prison: Christians stand by God in God’s suffering, and that distinguishes Christians from Pagans. Could you not keep awake with me one hour? Jesus asks in Gethsemane. This is the reversal of everything a religious person expects from God. Human beings are called to suffer with God’s own suffering caused by the godless world.
In Philippians 3:10, expresses the idea more strongly.
In verses 11-13, Paul speaks of the Apostles as traveling preachers in the language of Isaiah 58:7. And then in verse 16 he says to imitate him. Imitate the way he follows Christ. Imitate his willingness to suffer for Christ, even to die for him.
Verse 17 actually begins the new essay, this on sexual immorality. He tells them he is sending Timothy, and they would understand that Timothy carried a stick and a carrot. They could choose which it would be. Timothy is to lead them back into the way that Paul first taught them.
But he also tells them he is coming soon to deal with the arrogant people and he will bring the whip. Take care of the problem now, before I get there. That is a threat and a promise.
Thursday, June 12, Chapter 5
Given the nature of the City of Corinth, it should surprise no one that sexual immorality was so common, even in the church. This chapter will give us a description of the problems they faced and chapters 6-7 will get into some solutions.
Paul opens verse 1 with a strong statement: Everyone is reporting to me. The Old Testament penalty for immorality is stoning. It is one of the BIG sins and Paul wants it taken care of NOW!
People in the church were saying, I am saved, so I am free. If I am free, then nothing I do is a sin.
Paul has heard that a man is having sex with his father’s wife. Even Paul cannot come up with strong enough words to express his disbelief at this action. AND the man is proud. No wonder Paul called some arrogant.
In verses 3-5, Paul is saying the man must be excommunicated, kicked out of the church. He is not a follower of Christ. Perhaps living with the Devil again will remind him he needs to repent.
In verse 9, Paul mentions a letter already sent to the church. That letter has been lost. There seems also to have been a letter written between what we call the first and second letters. This church was so troubled that Paul sent a stream of letters to help them. We should also note that church leaders of the late first century and early second century wrote letters to struggling churches and many of them are preserved, but not considered scripture.
Paul does not tell us to avoid non-Christians; that would go against the Great Commission. Rather, we are to avoid people within the church who are arrogantly sinning.
Friday, June 13, Chapter 6
Remember that Paul had an unfortunate experience with the court system while he was in Corinth, even though he was released. It may be because Sosthenes is co-author that Paul is so upset that people in the church are going to court to resolve disagreements. Instead of acting in a considerate, loving relationship, these people are acting like street thugs.
In verses 7-8, Paul tells them to throw in the towel, it is over for them. Salvation will not be theirs because they take pride in their sins. Verse 9 leaves no wiggle room. And that is what you are.
Verse 12 is a powerful statement for the Corinthians, and for us; not everything is beneficial. Sometimes Americans forget that freedom cannot be absolute. I should not do anything that harms another person or anything that harms me. I cannot harm the body of Jesus, for that is what I am. I belong to my Master. WWJD?
Be righteous and do good.