The First in a Series on 1 Corinthians
It has been said that the city of Corinth was the New York, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles of Paul’s day, all rolled into one. The parallels between the ancient Greek city of Corinth and modern Southern California are so striking and obvious that a number of theologians have seen fit to make the comparison independently from one another. The church Paul helped to found in Corinth was largely Gentile and was made up of new Christians recently converted from paganism. These new Christians found themselves struggling to learn the doctrines of the Christian faith and then to live out their new faith in a city and a culture well-known for its rampant sexual immorality and idolatry. To be a Christian in first-century Corinth was a lot like being a Christian in twenty-first century America. The similarities between the Corinth of Paul’s day and Southern California of ours mean that there is much for us to learn from Paul’s remarkable letter to the church in Corinth, that letter known to us as 1 Corinthians.
As we begin a new series on Paul’s first Corinthian letter, we will spend much of our time in this sermon introducing this epistle, so that we have the necessary background to tackle the issues Paul addresses in the body of his letter. Although Reformed Christians often pride themselves on being students of Paul–devoting themselves to the study of Paul’s letters such as Romans, Galatians and Ephesians–1 Corinthians is often overlooked despite the fact that many of the issues Paul addresses in this epistle are absolutely vital to the health of Christ’s church. In fact, many of the issues prompting Paul to write to the Corinthians are facing the church again today. The importance of 1 Corinthians becomes especially clear once we make the connection between the paganism of first century Corinth and the religious climate of contemporary Southern California. They are very much alike.
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