According to the arrangement of the books in the New Testament, Romans comes immediately before 1 Corinthians. Although both Epistles were written by Paul, they are different in their style of composition. Romans is composed according to doctrine and reveals the truth in a doctrinal way. At the beginning of Romans there are sinners, but at the end of this book there are local churches. In Romans 1:18-32 we have a description of sinners under God’s condemnation. But in Romans 16 we read of churches. For example, in verse 1 Paul says, “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a deaconess of the church which is at Cenchrea.” It is marvelous that those who were sinners can be justified, sanctified, and eventually go on to have the full experience and enjoyment of the Spirit as the firstfruit. As a result, they become the Body of Christ expressed in a practical way as local churches. Romans 16 speaks not only of the church at Cenchrea, but also the church in the house of Prisca and Aquila (v. 5). The church in Rome met in the house of this couple. It certainly is interesting that such a doctrinal book as Romans begins with sinners and concludes with local churches.
Romans and 1 Corinthians are composed of sixteen chapters each. In contrast to Romans, the book of 1 Corinthians is not a book of doctrines, but a book of practices. Nevertheless, this Epistle is quite complicated. Usually doctrinal matters are complicated. It seems that whenever and wherever we discuss doctrines, we face complications. However, it is strange that in a doctrinal book such as Romans there are no complications. For this reason, from the time I was a young Christian, I enjoyed the book of Romans because it did not have any complications. But I did not care very much for 1 Corinthians. Sometimes in my reading of the Bible I skipped over this book, wanting to avoid all the complications and problems it contains.
Examples of the complications in 1 Corinthians are found in chapters one, five, and fifteen. In 1:10 Paul beseeches the believers at Corinth that there be no divisions among them. Then in verses 11 and 12 he proceeds to speak of strifes and divisions: “For it was made clear to me concerning you, my brothers, by those of the household of Chloe, that there are strifes among you. Now I mean this, that each of you says, I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ.” To be sure, the report received by Paul concerned a complicated situation.
In chapter five Paul deals with the gross sin of fornication. This matter is so terrible that I do not even like to talk about it. Then in chapter fifteen we learn that some of the believers claimed that there was no resurrection. By considering these three chapters we see what serious complications there were among the believers at Corinth.
Because 1 Corinthians involves the complications in the practice of the church life, there is a sense in which I do not like this book. But in a very different sense, I love this Epistle very much. This may appear contradictory, but it is actually a way of viewing two different aspects of this book. Many things in the Bible appear contradictory. For example, God is one, yet He is triune. The Spirit of God is one; nevertheless the book of Revelation speaks of the seven Spirits. It also seems contradictory to say that Christ is both God and man. In keeping with the principle of seeing both sides of the truth in the Bible, I can say that, when I view 1 Corinthians from one angle, I do not like this book, but when I view it from a different angle, I like it very much.
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