A BRIEF HISTORY OF PAUL AND THE CORINTHIANS

A.  How Paul Came To Corinth – Acts 16-17

  • Second Missionary Journey
  • Started by revisiting churches in Asia Minor that he had planted earlier
  • Receives a vision to go to Macedonia (Europe) – Acts 16:9-10
  • Philippi – flogged, jailed and asked to leave town
  • Thessalonica – riot, accused of treason, had to leave town or be killed
  • Berea – the gang from Thessalonica runs them out of there
  • Athens – disheartened by idolatry and hardness, unfruitful ministry
  • Arrives in Corinth Acts 18 – “in weakness and in fear and much trembling” (1Corinthians 2:3)

B.  Paul’s Time In Corinth – Acts 18:1-17

  1. The City
  • Capital of the Roman province of Achaia
  • Key commercial center
  • Strategic city for the spread of the gospel
  • Population estimated at about 700,000

One man described it as “This mongrel and heterogeneous population of Greek adventurers, and Roman bourgeois, with a tainting infusion of Phoenicians; this mass of Jews, ex-soldiers, philosophers, merchants, sailors, freedmen, slaves, trades-people, hucksters, and agents of every form of vice.”

2.    The Events

  • Arrives in Corinth @ 51A.D.
  • Works as a tentmaker with Aquila and Priscilla
  • Preached in the Jewish synagogue as was his habit in a new town
  • Silas and Timothy arrive, transitions to full-time ministry, Jews reject him, goes to the Gentiles
  • The encouraging vision from God

Acts 18:9-10   And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”

  • Paul stays 18 months then leaves to return to Antioch

C.   Paul Writes 1 Corinthians    

  • Paul now on Third Missionary Journey in Ephesus
  • Wrote a letter to Corinth (1 Corinthians 5:9) about some concerns he had – “previous letter”
  • Receives a report of divisions and a letter from Corinth asking clarification on several points
  • Writes 1 Corinthians @ 55 A.D., three years or so after he had left

The Corinthians has four manifest problems: Divisions, Decadence, Disorder and

Doctrinal Deficiency.  All of which were manifestations of pride, worldliness and a serious lack of love for one another.  One thing is also clear, the Corinthians always had a “love/hate” relationship with Paul.  Thing were always uneasy between them.

D.  Between 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians

Paul wrote 1 Corinthians from Ephesus and expected Timothy to visit Corinth.

1 Corinthians 16:10 When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you

  • Timothy either returns or sends word with a bad report
  • Paul makes a brief “painful” visit – 2:1, where…
  • Paul is openly maligned by a member of the anti-Paul group – 2:5-8
  • This visit seems to have been a fiasco so Paul leaves and…
  • Writes a “severe/tearful” letter (2:4) urging the church to discipline the leader of the opposition
  • Titus carried this letter and arranged to meet Paul later to report
  • Paul goes to Troas and Macedonia to meet Titus – 2:12-13
  • Paul relieved by Titus’ report – probably writes Chapters 1-9
  • But then, apparently, fresh, disturbing news comes of opposition from false apostles (this was opposition from the outside not the same as opposition from the inside that characterized 1 Corinthians) – probably writes Chapters 10-13
  • Paul completes 2 Corinthians in Macedonia and sends it with Titus – 8:16-24
  • Paul later makes a third trip to Corinth – 12:14, Acts 20:3

To summarize…

3 visits – initial visit; painful visit; upcoming visit

4 letters – previous letter; 1 Corinthians; severe/tearful letter; 2 Corinthians

Murray Harris (Expositors) – what Paul hoped to accomplish (3 major, 5 minor, one overarching)…

MURRAY HARRIS (NIGTC, 44) – “All of the content of the letter can be related to a single, coordinated purpose in writing – to prepare for this imminent visit by seeking to remove present or potential obstacles that could prevent the visit from being pleasant.”

MAJOR:

1.  Express his relief and delight at the Corinthians positive response to his severe letter (chapters 1-7).

2 Corinthians 7:5-7 For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.

2.  To exhort the Corinthians to complete the promised collection for the saints at Jerusalem before his arrival on the next visit (chapters 8-9).

2 Corinthians 8:10-11 And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. 11 So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have.

3.  To prepare them for his forthcoming visit by having them engage in self-examination and self-judgment especially regarding the false apostles (chapters 10-13).

2 Corinthians 12:19-21  Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved. For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.

MINOR:

1.  To inform them of the intensity of his troubles in Asia and solicit their prayers

2 Corinthians 1:8  For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia.

2.  To explain his change of itinerary

2 Corinthians 1:15-17  Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a second experience of grace. 16 I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on my way to Judea. 17 Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time?

3.  To encourage them to reaffirm their love for the penitent wrongdoer

2 Corinthians 2:6-7 For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him.

4.  To insist they separate from idolatrous associations

2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.

5.  To describe the true nature of Christian ministry – 2:14-7:4

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