Paul had once spent a year and a half in the city of Corinth making disciples of Jesus. Some time after he’d moved on, he received word that things were not going so well. Largely, because, when left unattended or unchallenged, humans tend to revert back to what they know. For the Gentiles in this group, it was mix and matching Christianity with their old pagan practices. For Jews, it was creating legalistic lines to not cross (an old trick they learned, post-exile, to avoid making the same mistake twice).
Other disciple-makers had made their way through town and had shared the good news of Christ in their own distinct way. This created clubs and fan groups, surrounding whose take on the gospel resonated the deepest.
A theme I see woven throughout this book is the undeniable fact that all people are different, and connect with different things. The multi-faceted nature of God, reflected on a diverse humanity, means some people will identify with His creativity, while others with His closeness, others with His vastness, etc. We will see, in this book, how Paul unfolds the importance of all our differences coming together in unity. Our uniqueness has the power for dynamic collaboration, but can error in the other direction, becoming reasons to resent one another. All this to say, this book is an always timely reminder to re-frame our differences and focus on the core of the gospel.
“Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no division among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgement.” (1:10)
This verse makes me want to laugh out loud and say, “Dream on, Paul”, so he can hear me from wherever he is. (Hey, maybe he’s in the part of heaven hovering over Italy, since he died here. Maybe he caaaaaan hear me! *that was some weird theology, right?*).
Admittedly, I can totally picture myself joining the Apollos vs Paul vs Peter vs Jesus debate. “Apollos? What–just because he’s Senior Fancypants McBigwords? No thanks, I think I’ll stick with someone who at least MET Jesus, aka Peter. But then again, he is a little impulsive, and since I see impulsiveness in myself, I need a leader who is super steadfast, so maybe Paul. But wait! Jesus is an options? Than yeah, I’m just going to stick with Jesus.”
Right when I’m up on my wise-guy horse, Paul hits me with this:
“Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1:20)
Honestly, I don’t know what to do with that, but I generally take it as a reminder to not try and out-think everything. Especially since, The LORD has sent His Messiah and He did a lot of very surprising things. Because of 1:18-31, I believe any child or child-like believer, who claims closeness with the LORD. That seems about right. I can be wrong, that’s totally fine.
As we prepare to spend the next week or so in this letter, let’s commit to a few things.
- Seeking to understand Paul’s mandates to the Corinthian church in their context. Not everything will apply to us in a cut-and-paste way. What are the over-arching principles to glean?
- Remaining humble and willing to identify the faults of the Corinthians within ourselves.
- Taking personal inventory of our own walks to see where we’ve sought to align ourselves with one Christian celebrity or theologian, or reverted to a cultural reaction or application.
- Remaining gracious with ourselves and others, leaning into an appreciation of differences over resentment.
What caught your attention in these first few chapters? Which side of the aisle would you fall on? Are you more like a Jew or a Greek? Would you feel safer following Paul, Apollos or Peter?