Introduction to 1 Corinthian
Acts 18: 1-28
Considered the greatest human missionary who established churches during his 3 missionary
journeys, Paul the Apostle wrote 14 books in the New Testament known as the Pauline Epistles. The
longest among those epistles were 1 Corinthians. It was named and addressed after the city of
Corinth to whom it was written. Except for 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon, most of the Epistles
of Paul were addressed to local churches bearing the name of the place or city where it was located.
Our text can be found in Acts chapter 18 for it is where the start of the Corinthian church was
recorded. So, don’t be surprised if our topic is about the beginning of the Corinthian church but our
verses were in the book of Acts. I will also give you an illustration about the importance of people
within the church because a church is a local assembly of saved people.
Illustration: The Cure
William Barclay gives us an excellent insight into the nature of the true church. He writes:
“Suppose a great doctor discovers a cure for cancer. Once that cure is found, it is there. But before it
can become available for everyone, it must be taken out to the world. Doctors and surgeons must
know about it and be trained to use it. The cure is there, but one person cannot take it out to all the
world; a corps of doctors must be the agents whereby it arrives at all the world’s sufferers.
“That precisely is what the church is to Jesus Christ. It is in Jesus that all people and all nations can
be reconciled to God. But before that can happen, they must know about Jesus Christ, and it is the
task of the church to bring that about. Christ is the head; the church is the body. The head must have
a body through which it can work. The church is quite literally hands to do Christ’s work, feet to run
upon His errands, and a voice to speak His words.” Morning Glory, Sept.-Oct. 1997, p. 19
I. Background and Setting
A. The city of Corinth
1. Located on the narrow isthmus between the Aegean and the Adriatic seas,
Corinth was a port city and wealth commercial center.
2. In Biblical times, it is one of the largest, richest, and one of the most important
cities of the Roman Empire. Its population of 400,000 is surpassed only by Rome,
Alexandria and Antioch. It is “a renowned and voluptuous city, where the vices
of East and West meet”.
3. It is a center of commerce, and wealth, covetousness and unbridled lust.
4. The city boasted an outdoor theatre that accommodated 20,000 people; athletic
games second only to the Olympics are held there causing more people traffic.
5. In Paul’s time it was capital of Achaia, and seat of the Roman proconsul (Ac
18:12). Its people had the Greek love of philosophical subtleties.
6. The immorality was notorious so that “to Corinthianize” literally means to
“practice fornication” or to “practice sexual immorality”. The city of Corinth had
no other rival in its practice for sin and sensuality.
7. The worship of Venus or Aphrodite, the goddess of love whose temple was on
Acrocorinthus, was attended with, 1,000 temple prostitutes being maintained
for the service of strangers, wealthy merchants, and powerful officials who
frequented the city. Hence, arose dangers to the purity of the Corinthian church
(1 Corinthians 5-7).
B. The church at Corinth
1. The church at Corinth was founded by Paul during his second missionary journey
in about A.D. 55.
2. Acts 18:1, tells us that after Paul departed from Athens, he arrived at Corinth.
3. At Corinth he met a Jew Aquila and his wife Priscilla who were tent makers like
him. He and his wife had fled from Italy because of a command from Claudius
that all Jews must leave Rome (Acts 18:1-3)
4. At the synagogue in Corinth (Acts 18:4) we see that Paul reasoned in the
synagogue every Sabbath. He preached about Christ and His role as the Messiah
to the Jews.
5. Eventually he was joined by Silas and Timothy, who had just arrived from
Macedonia. Apparently, they brought a gift from the Macedonians which
enabled Paul to fully devote himself to the Word, so that he gave all of his
efforts to preaching Christ (18:5).
6. Of course, there was a stiff opposition from the Jews which also blasphemed the
Lord Jesus Christ. Paul clears himself of the blood of those Jews, whom he had
now preached the gospel. He said, your blood be upon your own hands; I am
clean. (Acts 18:6)
7. Paul moved his residence then to the home of Justus a Gentile who by God’s
grace was converted. (Acts 18:7). Justus’ house was adjacent to the synagogue.
8. Through his preaching, Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue believed
together with his household (Acts 18:8). Because of this, “many of the
Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized”.
9. God comforts Paul in a vision (Acts 18:9).
10. Paul stayed in Corinth for eighteen months before departing (Acts 18:11)
11. Apollos then took over and pastored the church in Corinth (Acts 18: 24-28)
II. Purpose of writing
A. About 3 years after Paul left Corinth, while he was in Ephesus, a delegation of
leaders from the Corinthian church arrived to consult him about some very serious
problems and disorders that is happening. It was in this occasion that this letter was
written. The problems and disorders are as follows:
1. Division within the church. Chapters 1 – 4
2. Fornication within the church. Chapter 5
3. Lawsuits against members within the church. Chapter 6
4. Marriage and Singleness. Chapter 7
5. Liberty in eating meats. Chapter 8 – 9
6. Idolatry. Chapter. 10
7. Headship and Head-coverings. Chapter 11
8. Lords Supper. Chapter 11
9. Spiritual Gifts. 12 – 14
10. Resurrection. Chapter 15
11. Collections. Chapter 16
B. Accordingly, Paul had earlier written another letter, but is now lost (1 Cor. 5:9).
Some scholars think that probably there were more letters but only the one we have
at present (1 and 2 Corinthians) were included in the canon of the Holy Scriptures;
the others were lost.
A. Lots of the problems, troubles, and questions that the Corinthian church were facing
are still present today. Churches still struggle with divisions, with immorality, and
with the use of spiritual gifts. We should have learned from them, we should have
learned from history, but it looks like we did not.
B. The Apostle Paul’s warning, rebukes and corrections are still very much applicable in
our time. To sum it up, 1 Corinthians brings our focus back to where it should be—
on Christ. Genuine Christian love is the answer to many problems (chapter 13).
C. A proper understanding of the resurrection of Christ, as revealed in chapter 15, and
thereby a proper understanding of our own resurrection, is a very important Bible
Doctrine which all of us must learn. The resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus
Christ is where Christianity stands or fall.
Illustration: Love of Christ
When Hudson Taylor was director of the China Inland Mission, he often interviewed candidates for
the mission field. On one occasion, he met with a group of applicants to determine their motivations
for service. “And why do you wish to go as a foreign missionary?” he asked one. “I want to go
because Christ has commanded us to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,”
was the reply. Another said, “I want to go because millions are perishing without Christ.” Others
gave different answers. Then Hudson Taylor said, “All of these motives, however good, will fail you in
times of testings, trials, tribulations, and possible death. There is but one motive that will sustain you
in trial and testing; namely, the love of Christ”.
A missionary in Africa was once asked if he really liked what he was doing. His response was
shocking. “Do I like this work?” he said. “No. My wife and I do not like dirt. We have reasonable
refined sensibilities. We do not like crawling into vile huts through goat refuse…But is a man to do
nothing for Christ he does not like? God pity him, if not. Liking or disliking has nothing to do with it.
We have orders to ‘Go,’ and we go. Love constrains us.” Our Daily Bread
The church in Corinth was started by the Apostle Paul in the place where sinfulness like
immorality and idolatry are rampant. Among the New Testament church, the Corinthian
church is the most carnal and problematic church. I invite you join us as we take a look
on the rebukes and advices of the Apostle to believers who are still called “saints”
despite of their failings and shortcomings.