Instructions for Church Unity
“Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.”
~1 Corinthians 1:1-2
Paul was the church planter of the church in Corinth and the author of this power-packed letter to that body of believers. As a world missionary, Paul traveled a lot and brushed shoulders with many people, planting churches and building relationships throughout the Roman Empire. However, there were two locations that Paul voluntarily spent extended periods of time: Ephesus and Corinth.
We read in Acts that Paul first visited Corinth during his second missionary journey and spent eighteen months in this large city. From the Acts account and based on 1 Corinthians, we know that the gospel spread in this worldly city despite opposition and that a church was established. After eighteen months of ministry in Corinth, Paul moved on and continued his travels sharing the gospel. However, at some point the young church in Corinth began having serious issues with unity, blatant sin, and overall confusion as to how Christians should conduct themselves in a pagan culture.
Therefore, from his three year ministry base in Ephesus, Paul penned this letter to the Corinthians, correcting false doctrines, disciplining those in error, sharing truth, and calling the Corinthians up to their position as saints in God. While Paul used very direct words and at times let his exasperation and frustration show in his writing tone, he also makes a point of affirming the believers at Corinth and reminding them of his heart for them as their spiritual father.
“I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me.”
~1 Corinthians 4:14-16
In the midst of some hard truths and strong words of discipline, Paul shares this nugget that reveals his heart of love for the Corinthians and purpose for writing. He wrote strongly because of his great love and concern for the Corinthians’ spiritual health and well-being. As their spiritual father and church planter, Paul had a place to speak tough words of truth to this body of believers and used his position to deliver vital instructions for church health and maturity that are not only applicable for the church at Corinth but also for churches throughout the world today.
So as we dive into this book full of strong words and weighty exhortations, may we never forget Paul’s heart as a father of the church in Corinth. This letter was written in love and because of love. And though the message was not necessarily easy to receive, the purpose and motive was to build up, restore, and make strong the church of Christ at Corinth. Therefore, as we study what God inspired Paul to write to the Corinthians, may we keep this purpose in mind and heed the warnings, admonitions, and exhortations so that we also may attain the maturity, unity, and wholeness that the Church of Christ ought to possess as His redeemed Bride.