Good Morning, Siblings!
Today’s readings are 1 Corinthians 1-4
Quick facts about 1 Corinthians:
•The author of 1 Corinthians is Paul. We learn this in 1 Corinthians 1:1 and 16:21. His Greek name, Paulos, means “little”. His Hebrew name, Saul, means “Asked”. In case you wanted to know that.
•Subject: Paul is writing this letter to the assembly at Corinth. Corinth was a bustling town of commerce and around this time had at least 12 large Pagan temples so idolatry and syncretism were rampant.
•Important notes: Paul had spent 18 months teaching in this Assembly around four years prior to this letter. We also know that this is not the first letter he wrote them and that a previous letter was misunderstood per 1 Corinthians 5:9.
•While this letter is pretty straightforward on most points, it is important to keep in mind that we do not have the benefit of knowing the contents of the letter Paul is replying to and therefore we are essentially reading only one side of a complete conversation.
We need to understand the “why” behind Paul’s writing of this letter to the Corinthians. This is a Messianic community made up of Jews and former idol worshipers which he founded (Acts 18:1-18), so it is personal to him. However, at this point he has been receiving deeply disturbing reports about them (1 Cor 1:10-12. 1 Cor 5:1, & 1 Cor 11:18).
During the time of the writing of this letter, Corinth was a booming city of trade and commerce, which made it a highly populated city that served countless travelers. There were at least 12 completely pagan temples , including a large temple for Aphrodite, which, by some reports, had over 1000 temple prostitutes.
This influence would have significantly added to the culture of immorality which was already prevalent and glorified in the city. No doubt some of the members of this community had been directly involved in many of these temples and it appears from 1 Cor 5:1 that Paul considered their reported activities to be even worse than what took place in the culture around them.
As believers, we are held to YHWH’s standard, which will always be higher than the world’s standards.
Further, we will see that people are declaring faith in Paul and his associates rather than faith in Messiah. They had fallen to the level of following men who represented the Father instead of the Father. It is heartening to see how adamantly Paul refutes these practices. He has nothing to do with them putting him on a pedestal to worship in place of Messiah or the Father. It is important to note that Paul’s opposition to this gives us confidence that he would share this same opposition to Pauline based theology we often see today.
While reading, keep in mind the context: this is a letter Paul has written to a specific group of people. While we are told some of what he is addressing and we can easily see that the behavior he is trying to correct is dire, we are still not privy to the exact reports he has received and so we have to avoid the temptation to fill in the blanks or apply every admonition universally to everyone in the faith today.
Some Key Verses:
1 Cor 1-3 – I want to point out that Paul, again, begins his letter by establishing his identity in terms of his relationship to YHWH. This is how we should begin each day of our lives. Establish our identity in terms of our relationship to YHWH and then move forward on all fronts with that identity in mind. Note also that he extends grace to others towards the end of this passage, which gives us the second action step in our daily battle plan.
- Firmly place our identity in YHWH
- From this place, knowing how much Grace He has shown us, show that Grace to others
- Proceed with our day
1 Cor 1:22-25 From here we see two different mindsets of approaching YHWH. The Jews seek signs and the Greeks seek knowledge. I would propose that these two different mindsets still exist today and each of them offers its own stumbling block to be overcome when approaching the word. As we see in 1 Cor 1:25, YHWH’s wisdom is above all.
1 Cor 2:1-5 is a pivotal statement from Paul. This shows us that his usual approach was greatly modified when it came to teaching this young congregation. In fact, this description of how he taught them prompted me to write the note “Wonder what THAT visit was like!” in my Bible margin as it is such a departure from what we will come to know as Paul’s style. We see more of the “why” behind his behavior in 1 Cor 3:1-3:
But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 1 Cor 3:1-3
They were young believers, new to the faith. If Paul, one of the most ardent apostles in the Bible, can soften his tone and delivery with grace, compassion, and understanding, how much more should we urge our own flesh to do the same? Be patient with others. Most believers have never even read the whole Bible and so it is understandable that they do not know how to live by it – and in many situations they do not even know that they are not living according to it. Hold their hand, help them, encourage them. Direct them to the word in every situation. Try not to give advice from your own heart and mind, but rather, show them YHWH’s wisdom for whatever situation they face. In doing this, you are leading them to the fountain of wisdom itself and encouraging them to drink more deeply day by day.
I’m not referring to people who have read and studied the whole Bible and then made a conscious choice to continue in their own wisdom or to piecemeal YHWH’s wisdom that suits them and discard the rest. We will read more about them in tomorrow’s reading and Paul expressly advises avoiding close relationships with them. From the wisdom of YHWH’s word and my own experience, I agree. It’s like I told a close friend who was very deep in the faith when they started dating a person who was very much not in the faith “You’ll either pull them in or they will pull you out.” We need to guard our inner circle.
Note that in 1 Cor 4:21 Paul chose the spirit of gentleness over the rod in dealing with this assembly. They were young in the faith and Paul showed them compassion and grace, without compromising on the truth.
My notes are brief as I move on to write tomorrow’s notes before I can get my house ready for Sabbath. Shabbat Shalom!
Test everything, hold tight to what is good.~ 1 Thess 5:21
We are saved by Grace alone: Obedience is not the root of our salvation, it is the fruit!
May YHWH bless the reading of His Word!