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The Corinthian Letters

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New Believers Study
An Overview of the New Testament
by Pastor Ron Beckham

Fifth Study:
The Corinthian Letters

The Books of 1st and 2nd Corinthians are called "epistles," which simply are "letters."  They were letters sent by the Apostle Paul to believers in the city of Corinth, which, at the time, was the most important city in Greece.  Corinth was a center of banking and commerce, with a degraded culture that is similar to Western Civilization at this moment.  There was much idolatrous religion there.  Paul founded a church at Corinth (Acts 18:1-17) and these letters are each addressed "To the church of God which is at Corinth."

Theologians tend to question the authorship of all Books in the Bible.  Who wrote them is important for a number of reasons.  First and most important is that the human authors were, for the most part, eye witnesses of 1) the historical events involved, and 2) the presence of the Holy Spirit of God in relation to those events.  Paul had been a non-believer until he met the risen Christ (Acts Chapter 9).  Christ is presented unmistakably in Paul's letters as having been in eternity prior to His birth, and then born as a human child.  Jesus suffered, died, and then rose again after three days.  All of this was revealed to the Apostle.  Paul who become someone who encountered the risen Christ and was changed by Him, which is presented clearly in these letters.  Both letters are lucid, clear, and full of faith in the Lord.  If Paul is the author, and we have become convinced that he is, then 1st and 2nd Corinthians force us to make a decision that Jesus Christ indeed is the Son of God and we should reasonably worship Him.

In A.D. 95, Clement of Rome wrote to the church at Corinth and cited Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, as to the continuing problem of factions in that church.  Paul has been considered the human author of both letters for 2000 years.  It has only been in the last 200 years or so that serious attacks on his authorship have been made.  The serious evidence from manuscripts, church fathers and tradition all points to Paul as the author of both letters.

Paul was teaching in Ephesus in his third missionary journey, when reports from the house of Chloe came to him about quarrels in the church at Corinth (1st Corinthians 1:11).  Three men (16:17) were sent to Corinth who then apparently brought back a letter requesting Paul's opinion on the problem (7:1).  1st Corinthians was written in response to that letter.

Opposition to one another among Christians at Corinth continued.  In Macedonia, Paul wrote the letter we call 2nd Corinthians and sent it with Titus and another brother (2 Corinthians 8:16-24).  This took place in A.D. 56.  Paul then made his third trip to Corinth (12:14, 13:1-2, Acts 20:1-3), where he wrote his letter to the Romans.

Prayerfully read the Books of First and Second Corinthians.  Read other works that are helpful in understanding these epistles.

You are encouraged to test yourself after the completion of “The Books of I & II Corinthians, using an essay (written) format.  What do the Corinthian Letters mean to YOU?  The next section in this study is entitled “Questions” and it is suggested that you may 1) answer one or more of the questions in that section, and 2) send your answers to Ron@FridayStudy.orgIf you would like, your answers will be “graded” and responses given.

There are excellent websites where you may visit and copy or print the writings of some truly remarkable theologians from past centuries.  A good, simple to use “search engine” for that purpose is “Google,” where you can enter words like “Bible Commentaries” to search for some really great Bible commentaries from the past, including the following suggested locations:

bullet Go to Google as a Search Engine.  (Try others but this materials
came from Google).  Look up Bible Commentaries (there is no
cost to download or copy much of the material)
 
bullet A suggested address is
 
http://bible.crosswalk.com/Commentaries
 
bullet Another is
http://bible.christiansunite.com/commentary.shtml
 
bullet And 
http://www.gospelcom.net/eword/comments/

 
bullet Also read Ron Beckham's commentaries on these Books:
1st Corinthians -and- 2nd Corinthians at www.fridaystudy.org

 

There is much "freeware" on the Internet available for your study of the the Corinthian Letters.  Matthew Henry, who wrote about 250 years ago (“Matthew Henry’s Commentary”), is strongly recommended, along with others of that time, such as John Calvin, John Wesley, and John Gill.  You will find wonderful material in those writings.  Also recommended is Dr. J. Vernon McGee (but there may be a small charge for his materials). 


Questions

  1. What is the "church" to Paul? Is the church a building? A denomination? If not, what is the church? Explain.  Use examples in your answer.
  2. Paul speaks of "contentions" (quarrels) in 1 Cor. 1:11-12 and context.  Do we have such "contentions" today.  How do we avoid them?  SHOULD we avoid them?
  3. What is the purpose of naming "Sosthenes" in 1 Cor.  1:1 and Timothy in 2 Cor. 1:1?  Who were they?
  4. What does it mean that God has chosen "foolish things" and "weak things"?
  5. How are some "of Paul" and some "of Apollos" today?  Is there carnality in our midst?  How may we guard against it?
  6. In what way(s) should we "imitate" Paul? (1 Cor. 4:16)
  7. What does it mean, "Christ, our Passover"? (1 Cor. 5:7)
  8. Discuss Paul's statement in 1 Cor. 6, that we are to be "judges"
  9. Discuss marriage, divorce & remarriage in relation to 1 Cor. 7.
  10. Discuss the wider applications of 1 Cor. 8.
  11. What does the "dress code" of 1 Cor. 11 mean to you?
  12. Discuss "spiritual gifts" in relation to 1 Cor. 12 & 14
  13. What does 1 Cor. 13 mean to you?
  14. How does the resurrection apply to you?
  15. Read 2 Cor. 2:1-11.  Can things happen to you that are beyond your ability to bear them?  Will God allow this?  For what reason?
  16. Discuss the "fragrance" of Christ in relation to 2 Cor. 14-17 and context.
  17. How can we be "epistles" (letters) as in 2 Cor. 3:2 & context?
  18. What does it mean to you that Christ is the "image of God" (2 Cor. 4:4?
  19. The "earthly house" of 2 Cor. 5:1 - Is it to be restored to us in eternity?  How does that work?  What does it mean to be "clothed" (following verses).
  20. How are "old things passed away" in YOUR life? (2 Cor. 5:17)
  21. How are we the temple of God (2 Cor. 6)
  22. How do we rejoice in tribulation? (2 Cor. 7)
  23. How does affliction relate to giving? (2 Cor. 8:2 & context)
  24. Discuss giving (2 Cor. 8 and 9)
  25. What are false apostles?  Can Satan actually be in the church and deceive others in the church? (2 Cor. 11:13-14 & context)
  26. Discuss Paul's afflictions in 2 Cor. 11.  Could this happen to someone else?  Why?
  27. Discuss weakness and strength in relation to 2 Cor.  12:7-10.
  28. Was the "vision" in 2 Cor. 12, Paul's vision, or was it someone else's?  What makes you think so?
  29. Should we "examine" ourselves as in 2 Cor. 13:5)?  To what end?

Your assignment in the Books of 1st and 2nd Corinthians is to read the whole of those Books, with the above Questions in mind.  Always remain in prayer when you read Scripture, trusting in the following verse:  “Until now, you have asked nothing in My Name.  Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24).  Go into the Internet at the places cited, and read from the theologians offered, especially Matthew Henry (and you can find his excellent writings as “freeware” on the Internet).  Read whatever other authors you find appropriate for this section.

The next New Believers Study will be in Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians.

Write with any questions:
Pastor Ron Beckham 
Ron@FridayStudy.org