Welcome to Corinth
Well actually, Paul isn’t in Corinth, but rather in Ephesus around A.D. 55. But while Paul is in Ephesus, he’s writing to a dysfunctional church in Corinth. Corinth is a bustling seaport town that had all the amenities of a modern city and was one of the major city of the Roman Empire.
[SIDE NOTE/INTERESTING FACT] Corinth was located on a 4.5 miles isthmus between Greece and Achaia. Realizing it was more efficient to cross 4.5 miles verses the 200 mile journey around Achaia, ship captains would pay to have their boats drug across a dirt road that connected the two bodies of water. No joke! They literally picked up the boats and drug them the 4.5 miles across the isthmus.
Corinth was a very successful city known for it’s commercialism and the center for manufacturing bronze to the region. Towering high above the city to stand as a reminder of what Corinth stood for, was the temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, fertility, and beauty. The Temple of Aphrodite became the epicenter for celebrating sexual immorality. So like I said, welcome to Corinth.
The Church in Corinth
Having a little background knowledge of this city only helps when we read about the struggles of this young, primarily Gentile church (Remember: Paul is known and called to be the Apostle to the Gentiles). In fact, sexual immorality is only one of the major problems plaguing this city, disunity was another.
As Paul opens his letter he begins to tackle one of the gravest issues in the church, disunity. This isn’t just an ancient church issue, disunity today has the ability to destroy and tear apart even the strongest of churches.
1 Corinthians 1:10-12 (NLT) 10 I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. 11 For some members of Chloe’s household have told me about your quarrels, my dear brothers and sisters. 12 Some of you are saying, “I am a follower of Paul.” Others are saying, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter,” or “I follow only Christ.”
Factions within a church is never good. Each person mentioned Paul, Apollos, Peter and Christ, all were different draws for different people. Paul was a Gentile and appealed to the Gentiles. Apollos was revered by the people because of his ability to speak eloquently. Since Peter was Jewish, he had influence over the Jews, and finally Christ was… well, Christ.
Church is a Team Sport
I think of it like this: I had the privilege of serving six seasons as an Assistant Coach for the Women’s Volleyball team at Olivet Nazarene University. Although we had a Head Coach, a Graduate Assistant, an Assistant, and a Student Assistant, each one of us had very distinct roles on the bench. It would have led to a ton of confusion, and dissension, if each player suddenly decided which coach they would follow. It’s important in any type of team sport that the team recognizes the head coach as the authority and plays in harmony.
The whole theme of 1 Corinthians is summed up in verse 10. Team Corinth might have been wearing the same uniforms, but they were all looking at different coaches. Paul was not only pleading with a church close to 2000 years ago, but he’s pleading with every church from then till now. So let’s listen in to what Paul recommends for us today: Live in harmony, don’t be divided, be of one mind, united in thought, and united in purpose.
Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”