The Church at Corinth

The apostle Paul preached at Corinth during his 2nd missionary journey and stayed there about a year and half to teach the word of God (Acts 18:1-18). 

1st and 2nd Corinthians are the letters that the apostle Paul wrote corresponding to the report about Corinthian church that Chloe’s family brought and the letter from Corinthian church members with their questions. There were serious problems in that report and Paul answered one by one with a burning heart rather than giving up on the problems. 

Where is Corinth?

The city of Corinth was on a narrow isthmus of land that joined the mainland of Greece to the Peloponnese.

The city that Paul visited was very wealthy and terribly pagan. The inhabitants worshipped the gods of Greece and Rome, including Poseidon, god of the sea, and Aphrodite, goddess of love.

1. The context of the church of Corinth    

1) The social context

  • mostly populated by freedmen – ex-slaves 
  • ordinary
  • Wealthy

2) The moral context

  • Kept the former way of life
  • ‘sexually immoral … idolaters … adulterers … male prostitutes … homosexual offenders thieves … greedy … drunkards … slanderers … swindlers’.

 3) The Spiritual context

  •  Its members had been baptized in the Spirit and exhibited many gifts of the Spirit in their worship.  

Pawson, David. Unlocking the Bible 

2. Cultural influences

1) Pagan morality

     Corinth was a typical seaport when it came to sexual permissiveness.

2) Roman Law

     This in itself was not a bad thing.

     They would take each other to court rather than settle matters amicably, and Paul felt the need to address the issue.

3) Greek Philosophy

     The worst aspect of Greek thinking is the separation of the physical and the spiritual.

     So Paul has to remind the Corinthians that their body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. What we do with our bodies does affect our souls.

Pawson, David. Unlocking the Bible 

3. Outline of 1st Corinthians

   Chapter 1-13 : The problems of the church at Corinth and Paul’s answer 

The problems that beset the church at Corinth 

(1)Division. Cliques had arisen centered on individual leaders. Some of the people were followers of Paul, some of Peter, some of Apollos – rather as today, some Christians focus their loyalty around church leaders of the past or the present. 

(2) Immorality. There was incest and prostitution taking place in the church, without any discipline being exercised. 

(3) Litigation. Church members were taking each other to court rather than settling matters among themselves.

(4) Idolatry. Some of the Christians in Corinth were mixing worship of God with pagan practices. 

(5) Men and women. ‘Feminist’ beliefs had led some people to seek to abolish gender distinctions. 

(6) Food offered to idols. They were wondering whether it was appropriate for them to buy meat at the market that had been offered to idols. 

(7) The Lord’s Supper. In those days the Lord’s Supper was celebrated as a full meal, the bread and wine being consumed as part of a larger meal. But in the Corinthian church the Lord’s Supper was being abused – some people were overeating and others were getting drunk. A love feast at which they were meant to remember Jesus had become something of a farce.

(8) Spiritual gifts. The exercise of spiritual gifts had made the church gatherings chaotic. Paul told them that if unbelievers entered one of their meetings and heard people speaking all together in tongues, they would conclude that the church members were mad. 


    Chapter 12: Spiritual gifts

    Chapter 13: The importance of love, Spiritual gifts without love

    Chapter 14: The spiritual gifts with love

Pawson, David. Unlocking the Bible 

    Chapter 15: The resurrection of the saints

    Chapter 16: The collection for Jerusalem church 


K. Schiller