During his stay in Ephesus, Turkey, Paul seems to have written two letters to his friends in the new church in Corinth, Greece. The first of these letters (referred to in the second) has been entirely lost. The second of these letters is commonly known as 1st Corinthians (291).
The Holy Spirit had led Paul to plant the Corinthian church several years earlier. And Apollos had had an effective ministry in Corinth, while Paul was in Ephesus. But by the time of this letter, a number of issues & questions had arisen in the Corinthian church.
There was division in the church. Some of the Corinthian Christians were lining up behind Paul, but some were lining up behind Peter & others were lining up behind Apollos. Paul appealed to the Corinthian believers (& to us) not to permit any such divisions in the church.
Different teachers may emphasize different things about Jesus. But the most important thing for all members of the body of Christ is to remain focused on Jesus, not on specific church leaders.
Sexual misconduct by church members was going uncorrected. Paul’s corrective was that all believers should ask God, often, to point out anything in us that is offensive to him.
The lust for physical satisfaction & emotional comfort is so powerful, that we easily lose sight of how our selfish sexual sin is offensive to God.
Marriage was being treated as a temporary relationship for worldly convenience, instead of as a permanent union to glorify God.
In his letter, Paul responded to various questions about marriage:
- Isn’t it better to remain single than to marry? Staying single is good for those who can do it in a godly way, said Paul. But he stressed that marriage is intended by God for most people, — in part to provide godly expression for those natural human sexual appetites with which God has created us.
- May husbands or wives abstain from sex in their marriages? Only by mutual consent and only for periods of prayer & fasting, said Paul. So long as the sex act was an act of love & respect, Paul opposed the unilateral withholding of sex by either marriage partner.
- May a believing spouse leave an unbelieving spouse? No, said Paul, because God may want to use the witness of the believer — both to bring the unbeliever to faith in God, and to raise their children up unto God. But, if the unbeliever insists on leaving, then let him go.
(291) 1 Corinthians 1-7