Not only is 1 Corinthians a letter in which the Apostle Paul gives counsel and instruction on important issues of Christian faith and conduct, but it also throws a revealing light on the serious problems facing a young church not long after its founding in the middle of the first century. Apostle Paul had brought the message of Christ to Corinth during the course of his second missionary journey.
The city presented a tremendous challenge to the Gospel, both as one of the great cosmopolitan center of commerce in the ancient world and as a place notorious for profligacy and licentiousness. If the messages of the cross-had power to reach and transform the lives of men and women in such a setting, then it was powerful indeed. And this is precisely what happened. Moreover, the members of the young church had been enriched with a variety of spiritual gifts- a confirmation to them, and to the world that God was present and working powerfully in their midst.
But it was not long before serious error of doctrine and practice which threatened the well-being and even the survival of the Christian community there, arose within the ranks of the believers. To the correction of these errors, the book of 1 Corinthians is mainly devoted. In the first place, deplorable division has split the church into hostile factions, shattering the unity in which all who profess brothers in Christ should be bound together.
Secondly, one of their numbers had been guilty of gross immorality, of a kind, which even, the profligate society of that pagan city would have condemned, and yet the congregation had failed to impose discipline upon the offender by expelling him from their fellowship.
Thirdly, members of the church had been dragging each other before pagan secular courts for the settlement of disputes that had arisen between them, instead of resolving their quarrel in a spirit of Christian love within the community of the church, or being willing, after Christ’s example, to endure wrongs without retaliation.
Fourthly, some had been committing fornication with prostitutes and attempting to justify their conduct by arguing that body only was involved and that the deeds of the body were of no consequence.
Fifthly,the supper of the Lord, which should have been an expression of loving harmony had degenerated into an occasion for irreverence gluttony and uncharitable behavior.
Sixthly, there were disorderly and unedifying scenes when they met together for public worship, especially in the exercise of spiritual gifts with which they have been endowed. Apostle Paul finds it necessary to remind them that the gift which is best of all and most to be coveted is the gifts of love, apart from which all other gifts are worthless.
Seventhly, heretical teaching, which by its denial of the fact of Christ’s resurrection and indeed of the possibility of any resurrection from the dead, struck at the very cornerstone of the Christian faith, had gained a footing in the Corinthian church. These matters every one of them scandalous, receive careful and urgent attention in this epistle of Apostle Paul to the Corinthians.
Apostle Paul also offers instruction on certain other questions, which had been raised by the Corinthians in letter,they had sent to him. These questions which had been raised may be summed up as follows: Was is advisable for Christian to enter into the married state, should a husband or wife after being converted continue to live with an unconverted partner, what should be the attitude of a Christian toward the eating of meat which had previously been offered in sacrifice to idols? Should women have their heads covered when attending public worship, what is the significance of the variety of spiritual gifts, what arrangements should be made with regard to the collection for the relief of the poverty-stricken Christian in Jerusalem.
It would be a mistake to imagine that the content of the epistle are only relevant to a particular situation of the church in Corinth of the first century. For, although in circumstance and outward form the problems of the church vary from age to age, yet in essence they remain the same, and the principles which Apostle Paul has laid down are applicable to our present day and situation no less than to his own.
THE OUTLINE OF THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS: GREETING AND THANKSGIVING-CHAPTER 1:1-9
The Salvation -Chapter 1:1-3
Thanksgiving for spiritual riches of the church-Chapter 1:4-9
The Serious Failing Reproved- Chapter 1:10;6:20
Divisions and factions-Chapter 1:10;4:21
Christ is not divided-Chapter 1:11-17
The preaching of the cross-Chapter 1:18-31
The Apostle Paul’s preaching in Corinth-Chapter 2:1-5
The True wisdom-Chapter 2:6-16
The Division a sign of unspirituality-Chapter 3:1-4
The proper conception of Christian Ministers-Chapter 3:5-9
Building on the one foundation-Chapter 3:10-15
The Temple of God – Chapter 3:16-17.
Prophet conception of Christian ministers resumed-chapter 3:18; 4:17
A warning to those who are “Puffed up”-Chapter 4:18-21
The condemnation of gross immorality-Chapter 5:1-13
Litigation before pagan courts-Chapter 6:1-11.
Fornication with prostitutes-Chapter 6:12-20
Paul replies to a letter the Corinthians had sent him -Chapter 7:1-14:40
Questions concerning marriage-Chapter 7:1-40
Limitation of Christian liberty-Chapter 8:1-11:1
Problem of meat which had been offered to idols-Chapter 8:1-13
Necessity of forbearance and self-discipline-Chapter 9: 1-27
Warning example of the children of Israel-Chapter 10:1-13
The table of the Lord and pagan altar are incompatible- Chapter 10:16:22
Practical advice respecting this particular problem Chapter 10:23-11:1
Veiling of women in public worship-Chapter 11:2-6
Disorderly and uncharitable behavior at the Lord supper Chapter 11:17-34
Concerning spiritual gifts-Chapter 12:1-14:40
Diversities of gifts flowing from one spirit-Chapter 12;1-30
An encomium of love, the best gift of all-Chapter 12:31-13:13
The right use of spiritual gifts-Chapter 14:1-40
THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY-CHAPTER 15:1-58
Christ’s Resurrection a central fact of the faith-Chapter 15:1-20
Sequence of events -Chapter 15:21-28
The resurrection and Christian suffering-Chapter 15:29-34
The Distinction between the present body and the resurrection body Chapter 15:35-49
The complete victory over death-Chapter 15: 50-58
Collection for the poor Christian at Jerusalem-Chapter 16:1-4
Paul’s plan for visiting Corinth-Chapter 16:5-9
Exhortation,Directions and salutations-Chapter 16:10-24