Brother Watchman Nee once told us that what is most important and precious in reading the Bible is to touch the spirit of the writer. When Paul wrote the book of 1 Corinthians, no doubt there was a specific burden in his spirit. As we read this Epistle, we need to get into the writer’s spirit.
In order to touch Paul’s spirit in 1 Corinthians, we need to know something of the background both of Paul himself and of the believers in Corinth. Paul was a typical religious Jew, absolutely committed to the religion of his forefathers. Because of his absoluteness for Judaism, he was opposed to the gospel, to the name of Jesus, and to the church. As we know, when he was opposing the church, the Lord Jesus came to him, called him, separated him, commissioned him, and charged him to preach Christ. In obedience to the Lord’s commission, Paul did preach Christ.
On a particular journey of ministry he visited the city of Corinth, a cultured city in Greece, where many philosophical people lived. To these people Paul preached Christ Jesus. Some of the philosophical Greeks in Corinth received the word of Paul’s preaching, accepted Christ, and were saved. When they were regenerated, they received the initial gifts: eternal life and the Holy Spirit. These initial gifts were sown into them as spiritual seeds. However, after receiving the divine life and the Holy Spirit, they did not live by these gifts. Instead of living by the divine life and by the Holy Spirit, they still lived a life according to Greek culture. This means that they lived a life of wisdom and philosophy, not a life of Christ. They lived according to their philosophy and worldly wisdom, not according to the divine life and the Holy Spirit.
Due to the worldly wisdom of their philosophy, the believers at Corinth had different minds and opinions. They spoke different things and had different preferences and choices. Some said, “I like Paul”; others said, “I prefer Cephas”; and still others said, “My choice is Apollos.” Certain of the Corinthian believers even said, “I like Christ.” These different opinions and ways of speaking opened the door for many evil things to come into the church life, things including strifes, quarrels, fornication, and lawsuits. Regarding married life, there was also confusion and differing opinions. Some said that a brother should leave his wife if she was not willing to go along with him to believe in the Lord. Others advised against this. Thus, among the believers in Corinth there were differing opinions. Even though they were genuine Christians who had received the divine gifts, they were not living a Christian life, but living a Greek life. They were not living a life of divinity, but living a life of philosophy according to their worldly wisdom. As a result, there was confusion among them. This was the background of this Epistle.
As Paul was writing this Epistle, he was burdened to guide the distracted, philosophical Christians in Corinth back to Christ. These believers had been distracted by their wisdom, philosophy, and culture. Thus, Paul’s spirit was burdened to bring them back to the very Christ whom he had testified to them. This burden in Paul’s spirit is especially evident in the first two chapters of this book.
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