The Thirty-Second (and Final) in a Series of Sermons on Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians
In the last chapter of 1 Corinthians, we are reading someone else’s mail. As Paul wraps up this epistle, we learn a number of things. We find Paul’s personal comments about those in the Corinthian church who have earned the Apostle’s respect and who should serve as examples to the Corinthians. We read of several exhortations which Paul extends to members of this church who are struggling to leave behind pagan ways of thinking and doing. We also learn of Paul’s personal desires and future travel plans, and we see the Apostle bristle a bit in defending his flock. So, even though this letter is addressed to a particular congregation (Corinth), we learn much about the early church and the expectations that the Apostle had for this congregation which he helped to found. But what Paul says to the Corinthians, he says to us as well.
As we conclude our series on 1 Corinthians, we now come to the end of our study of this remarkable letter. As we look back at the ground we have covered, it is apparent, I hope, how important this letter is for those of us living in the midst of a pagan culture here at the beginning of the 21st century. There is, perhaps, no letter in the New Testament which speaks as directly to the issues we face as a congregation as this one. The religious and cultural issues facing the Corinthians are very similar to those with which we must deal here in Southern California. As we have seen, the comparison between Orange County in 2010s and the Corinth of 55 A.D. is simply remarkable.
One of the problems with preaching through an entire letter like this one is that Paul intended this letter to be read aloud in the church in one hearing. If you listen to an audio file of 1 Corinthians, it takes about 40 minutes or so. But it has taken us thirty-two, thirty-minute sermons (and nearly an entire year) to make our way though this letter. Because of this, many of us have forgotten a number of the things Paul has addressed earlier in this epistle. So, I would encourage you to sit down and read through this entire letter again (or listen to it on audio in one sitting), now that we have concluded our study. It is an interesting exercise to see how such a letter strikes us both before we study it, and after we spent so much time working through it. But I do hope that we see the importance of this letter and that we become as familiar with it as we are with Romans and Galatians.
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