If Paul’s rebuke of the Corinthian church surprised you yesterday, be warned: the fare is even heavier today. The first chapter focuses on a case of sexual immorality, with a charge to “Purge the evil person from among you.” The first half of chapter 6 takes on the issue of believers taking one another to court, before returning to sexual concerns in the second half and carrying that through for another chapter. Notice Paul’s personal concern, in the middle of chapter 7, that “I want you to be free from anxieties.” Our reading ends with a concern about making others stumble by eating meat that has been offered to idols, which we’ll address more tomorrow.
The Corinthian letters are not mere case studies; they deal with real events taking place in a real church. Place yourself in the room when the Corinthian church reads this letter, not as a mere intellectual exercise, but because that’s what Paul himself would have to do. Undoubtedly some would be upset that Paul had come after them personally. Perhaps some would take up their cause that Paul has no business questioning their freedom. Others would be delighted that Paul had weighed in on what they perceived as corruption within their midst. And still others might just wish the whole thing would go away.
Today’s accusations are even more disturbing and personal than yesterday’s: “Chloe’s people,” and perhaps others, have given Paul some heavy details. What impact would calling people out so boldly and publicly have on this fragile foothold? Paul apparently thought confrontation necessary; consider the history of the Christian church through chapter 18 of Acts – where this letter and the Acts story intersect – as appropriate background to Paul’s response.
Perhaps telling is his accusation that opens chapter 5: “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among the pagans…” as well as his rhetorical challenge in chapter 6: “Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers…? These hint that Paul is as disappointed in the church itself as he is concerned by the offenses.
Our verse for this week is Genesis 1:1: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
1 Corinthians 5 through 8. Now let’s read it!
1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.