The church in the city of Corinth was in an awful mess. They had been plagued with sexual immoralities and they were split by issues that had believers dragging each other to court. The church was in need of serious attention and a radical overhaul. The book of 1 Corinthians is an answer from the Apostle Paul to many questions the believers in Corinth had, and a window into the corrupt nature of this bustling city.
In the fall of A.D. 52, the Apostle Paul made his first stop in the city of Corinth. When he arrived, he found a city that was a mixture of many nationalities as Corinth was a port city. Geographically, it was a wonderful hub for commerce between Italy and Asia. Along with the flow of merchandise and goods between the continents, Corinth also received travelers from both the East and the West, creating ethnic diversity among the city’s inhabitants. Many people who came into Corinth on ships would stay for long periods of time, and some eventually become residents of the town.
The commercial success of the city of Corinth was rivaled only by its excessive moral decay. The immorality of Corinth was so well-known that even Greek plays during the time period often depicted Corinthians as drunkards. The town was full of idolatry and people who worshiped many different gods and statues. The people who lived in Corinth were notoriously immoral, pagan, selfish, and had a true lack of love for each other.
While the Apostle Paul was in the city of Corinth during his second missionary journey, he planted a church. The congregation was made up of a mixture of nationalities. Although some Jews had converted to Christianity, most of the believers were Gentiles. After 18-months of teaching and growing the church, Paul left the church in the hands of Aquila and Priscilla so he could continue on his travels.
Over the years, Paul penned as many as four letters back to the church in Corinth (The people of Corinth are called Corinthians, just as people of America are called Americans). Of the four letters, two of them have been lost. Two others, however, are part of our Bible and are entitled 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians. In the order of their writings, these would be the second and fourth letters that Paul wrote to the Corinthians.
Paul wrote the first of these two letters sometime about A.D. 56. At that time, Paul was on his third missionary journey and was ministering in the town of Ephesus, a city across the bay from Corinth. While Paul was in Ephesus, he had received word from the church in Corinth. One letter was a disturbing report from the household of Chloe, and spoke of the immorality in the church. Apparently the young Christians had failed to protect themselves from the culture of the city. Some of the believers within the church were identifying themselves with different Christian leaders, rather than as followers of Christ (3:1-9). Legal issues (6:1) and sexual immorality (5:9-11) were also a problem in the church, even though Paul addressed these concerns in a previous letter.
A second message that Paul received, and answered in the book of 1 Corinthians, asked questions about marriage and singleness (7:1-40), and Christian liberty (8:1-11:1).
The book of 2 Corinthians was written by the Apostle Paul shortly after the writing of 1 Corinthians, probably also in the year A.D. 56. There had been positive changes within the church in Corinth due to the previous letters, however, false teachers were trying to smear the name of Paul throughout the city. They accused Paul of walking by the flesh, being deceitful and lying to the church, intimidating the church with his letters, and defrauding people. It is true that Paul had asked the church to take a collection for the poor believers in the city of Jerusalem, but the false teachers pointed out that they felt that Paul was misusing this money for his own benefit.
Although Paul addresses some of the concerns in 2 Corinthians that he spoke of in 1 Corinthians, the remainder of the book is Paul’s personal approach to defending his ministry. His main message in 2 Corinthians is to prove that his ministry is authentic, sincere, and genuine. He also makes a strong point to reassert his authority as an Apostle of Jesus Christ
An important message that modern-day readers can take from the book of 2 Corinthians is that false teachers are always going to be working to disrupt our faith. Even today, it is not uncommon to hear somebody speaking against the Biblical truths that Christians live by. We must stay strong, and understand the Holy Bible is the inerrant (without errors) Word of God, that is passed down to us so that we can have a personal relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.