Who were the Corinthians?


The next several planned studies come from 1Corinthians.  Before we study, it can be helpful to see what kind of church this was.

Corinth was a center of trade on the Mediterranean, so was a melting pot of all nationalities that lived and traded in the area. In this way it was much like the U.S.A.. As a result, many different religions were represented in this region, and there were many people of low moral character. It is not really surprising, then, that a number of carnal problems were within the church, as well as the infiltration of philosophies from some of the other religions. Paul addresses some of these issues, such as factions, lawsuits, immorality, abuse of the Lord’s supper, and others. He also answers questions they had about things such as spiritual gifts, church finance, the resurrection, and other.

As we look at some these passages, we should examine our own lives and ask the Lord to reveal what we need to know about ourselves and our walk with Him.

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13 Responses to Who were the Corinthians?

  1. Glen Leath says:

    Is there a book more misread/misunderstood than the Bible? I am so new at this, but I have been waking up most every morning at 3 a.m. and doing about 3 hrs of reading, studying and praying for some 3 years now. During this time I have read many things that confuse me. [1] Paul is adamant about his teachings that they be followed; 1 Corinthians 14:37 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 4:16 Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. Romans 2:16 In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to MY GOSPEL. Romans 16:25 Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to MY GOSPEL, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the {revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,}
    It seems to me that the Apostle Paul was teachings some things a little different from the 12 apostles contemporary with Jesus…..ie, justification and works.
    PETER: Acts 10:35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and WORKETH RIGHTEOUSNESS, is accepted with him.
    PAUL: Romans 4:5 But to him that WORKETH NOT, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
    JAMES to the 12 tribes that were scattered: James 2:24 Ye see then how that “by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.”
    PAUL: Galatians 2:16 Knowing that a man [[is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ,]] even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: [[for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.]]

    So, I have a question; Were the Jews held to a different standard during the time of the original apostles as apposed to what the Apostle Paul taught to Jews {first} and then to gentiles when he came on the scene and was declared the “apostle to the gentiles” by Christ? Have a blessed day.

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    • When speaking of “works” in these examples, the authors had different kinds of works in mind. When Paul said that he that worketh not is counted righteous, he was referring to the works of the Old Covenant for Israel, especially physical circumcision. In fact, that is in the immediate context of Paul’s quote in Romans 4. Other things you will read about as you study Paul’s writings include the Jewish dietary laws, the keeping of the Jewish feasts, and ceremonial laws such as sacrifices and washing. These things have no spiritual value as works in the New Covenant.

      On the other hand, Paul absolutely held up the need for works of righteousness, and for putting away all unrighteousness. For example, in Romans 2 he warns that those who willfully continue in sin will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Romans 6-8 is full of warning to stop sinning, and to walk in the Spirit and work righteousness. Paul warned that he who sows to the flesh will reap destruction, but he who sows to the Spirit will reap life (Galatians 6:8). True righteousness is not in washings and physical circumcision, but in our hearts and minds, in a spiritual circumcision or cutting away of the flesh.

      If you look at the history of Paul’s missionary work, he was constantly being pursued by unbelieving Jews, and by legalistic, falsely-Messianic Jews who tried to convince believers they must also become Jews through circumcision to be saved. In fact, these false teachers had some success in Galatia, which is why Paul was so stern with them. In fact, this is the only church who Paul did not address as saints of God, because a legalistic approach will not save you. If you become physically circumcised as a religious work to be saved, then you are a debtor to keep the whole law perfectly.

      When we read the other apostles and biblical writers, when they refer to works of righteousness they are not referring to ceremonial laws, feasts, or circumcision. They are talking about learning to live a righteous life unto God, the same as Paul.
      Thus, Paul’s writings are not in opposition to the other Apostles, nor do they hold a different standard. Rather, they approach the same subject, with the same standard, from different directions.

      When James says we are justified by works, and not only by faith, he was not contradicting Paul, but clarifying. Faith and belief strongly imply that you act on your belief. James taught that mental assent to the truth is not enough, but that your faith must transform your life. “Even the demons believe – and tremble.” (James 2:19). Paul taught in Romans 12:2 that we must be transformed by the renewing of our mind.

      Thank you for your question. I am always happy to help, if I can.

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  2. Glen Leath says:

    I was just looking in here seeking to find out of what nationality the “Corinthians” were and in this case, Jew or gentile. And I think you answered my question with the “melting pot of nationalities” mentioned at the beginning. The reason for my question was a Bible search in the (KJV) Bible of “my people”. It is mentioned 211 times in the OT in reference to Israel. It is mention 1 time in Matthew and again in Acts in reference to Israel and 2 times in Romans in reference to gentiles and 1 time in Corinthians in reference to gentiles,…… I think. And all of this came about by another question I had; When did God begin dealing primarily with gentiles for their salvation and it all seems to point to Paul and his epistles, but it was for everybody, Jew and gentile alike. Now, a greater question I have is; Is it okay for a gentile to insert himself or herself into a conversation or the teachings God was directing to Israel in the OT and the 4 gospels? And floating around in my mind is “water baptism”. Matthew 10:6 and 15:24 comes to mind. I am a novice about this, so please forgive me for inserting myself into a conversation on a subject you may not be having.

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    • We must be very careful how we handle the Old Testament as it relates to the church. Many of the stories have spiritual significance that can be applied to the church. For example, the story of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, passing through the sea, pictures water baptism in the New Covenant. Also, the Hebrew word for Egypt means stronghold, and when we are saved, God has made a way for us to be delivered from the stronghold of sin (2Corinthians 10:3-5).

      On the other hand, the Law was part of the covenant between God and Israel. Some carry over the things of the law that were for the old covenant into the covenant of Christ, and this is wrong. For example, the Law had some strict dietary regulations the Jews were required to follow. The only dietary law that carried over is to avoid eating blood, which is repeated in the New Testament.

      Regarding prophesies in the Old Testament that are directed at Israel – they are ONLY for Israel. The church did not replace Israel. Romans 11 teaches that the hardening of Israel in part is only temporary, and that they will be restored at the end of this age. Many O.T. prophesies also tell us this. Some prophesies have a spiritual application that can apply to the church, but we must be very careful in seeking God about these things.

      The Gospels are a different matter. While Jesus taught under the Jewish dispensation, the vast majority of His teachings were universal – applying to all believers, both Old Covenant and New Covenant. He did not come and expound on Law, but came preaching the Kingdom of God. Through the gospels we can learn how God thinks in reality. These teaching apply to the church. We read in a couple of places that Paul was preaching the Kingdom (even after he stopped going to the Jews first, and stuck with just Gentiles). In fact, just before He ascended back to heaven Jesus told the apostles to make disciples in all nations, teaching them to observe all that He commanded them (Matt. 28:20). They wrote their gospels for the church so we could know what Jesus taught – not for unrepentant Israel. Matthew wrote with a focus on Jewish converts, and often referred to fulfilled prophecy – but they were still the church. Mark wrote with a Gentile audience in mind – his account is a little more fast paced. Luke was a historian and doctor, and wrote his account for a Roman official. John took a slightly different approach – instead of only telling us what Jesus said and did, he often built upon it, giving us deeper insight of its significance.

      Regarding water baptism – immersion is the preferred form. Baptism pictures the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, and of ourselves with Christ. Sprinkling is acceptable if there are reasonable problems with immersion, such as health issues. Baptism is not required for salvation, for we are saved by grace through faith, alone. However, it is a fulfillment of all righteousness, and every believer should desire to be baptized as soon as possible.

      Hope this helps. Any more questions, feel free to ask and I will answer if I can.

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  3. Hey, brother! I am going to take this post as another little bit of confirmation. For what? I am actually going to be starting a study on Sunday nights through 1 Corinthians. I have been feeling the desire to do so for the last couple of years. It should be interesting. I just pray that God will give my congregation patience ;-)

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  4. Kim says:

    Thank you so much for your insight it was very helpful.

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  5. Kim says:

    Hello, I was wondering if you could shed some light on whether or not it is a sin to for a man to have long hair. I know what 1 Corinthians says about bringing dishonor on a man but was this specifically for the people of Corinth? Any thoughts would be appreciated.

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    • This largely depends on the motive of the heart – God is more concerned with the inward condition of a person that their outward appearance. Often times, when men and boys wear their hair long it is out of rebellion for authority. Others do so because they are effeminate. But this is not the case for everyone.

      While the instruction was not just for Corinth, a little understanding of that city can help us understand what motivated Paul to teach about long hair to them. Corinth had a major temple to Apollo. Central to worship of Apollo was homosexual acts, and the temple employed attractive men and boys as temple prostitutes. As part of their role, many would wear their hair long. Thus men wearing long hair in that region suggested that they were involved in Apollo worship. Thus it was dishonorable for Christian men to wear their hair long.

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    • Kim, I couldn’t help but reply when I saw this (if Christopher doesn’t mind). I think hair of any length is bad.

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  6. thebiblestop says:

    Thanks for the welcom

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  7. revdw1 says:

    Thank you for checking out my blog and leaving your comments. I am looking forward to your Bible studies . welcome to the blogoshpere!

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