There is no apparent meaning to the arrangement of Paul’s letters to the churches of Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi and Colossae. Theme, chronology, and geography appear to have no rhythm among them, just as we saw with the minor prophets. It is possible that they have been ordered according to length, with the longest books first: this is a simple answer to a fairly innocent question, whose true answer may be lost to history.
While the order of the books may have little meaning, the letters themselves are significant reflections of the concerns of the early church. Paul wrote the letter to the Corinthian church at some point in the 50’s A.D., some time after his visit there (which we read about in Acts 18). Roughly three decades have passed since Jesus was raised from the dead. Unlike the church at Rome, Paul had planted the church at Corinth and could write to it as a loving older brother.
After an introduction where Paul recounts the Gospel and the faithfulness of God, and gives thanks that because of the grace of God they “are not lacking in any gift,” Paul’s disappointment with the church is revealed: “For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers.” Factions have apparently formed around certain teachers, and Paul is both disappointed and embarrassed to be in the mix.
This creates an opportunity, though, for Paul to instruct his readers about the true origin and foundation of wisdom. He reminds them of whom they belong to – neither Paul, nor Apollos, nor Cephas, but Christ. He reminds them of the nature of Apostles, who are: “servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God,” required to be found faithful. And he reminds them of their true standing: “We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute…I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children.”
Our verse for this week is Genesis 1:1: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
1 Corinthians 1 through 4. Now let’s read it!
1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.