What are some of the church problems discussed in 1 Corinthians and what are Paul’s solutions to them.
Paul, in his wisdom given to him from Jesus Christ, addresses many problems of the church in his first epistle to the Corinthians. The Christian community in Corinth covered a broad spectrum of social classes. This led to a broad spectrum of moral problems that arose from the time Paul visited Corinth to the time he wrote the first epistle to them. These problems range from division in the church to general chaos reigning over church services.
First, the church appears not unified. Some were admiring Paul, some were admiring Apollos, and some were admiring Cephas, or Peter. Paul tries to reassure the people in Corinth that they should only follow Christ. Those who admire Christ are those who are want to avoid squabbles. He tells in First Corinthians 3:23 that they all belong to Christ and that Christ belongs to God. Paul tries to remind the factionalists there (who he says are carnal, fleshly, and sinful) that all Christians are fellow workers of the faith.
Paul also addresses the problem of immorality in the church in Corinth. There was a man among them who was living with his father’s wife. Although the woman was a non-Christian, and therefore outside of the jurisdiction of the church, Paul doesn’t postpone one moment the correction and rebuke necessary for the man and other Christians who are partaking in such flagrant sin. He attempts to resolve this problem by commanding discipline in the form of denial of social fellowship from the church. He also says that people living like this should not be able to partake in the Lord’s Supper. Some speculate that the issues of legal matters addressed in Chapter 6 are a connection with cases of immorality because the discussion occurs directly after the sections of church immorality and church discipline. Paul stresses to these believers that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and is therefore sacred. He also reminds them, and us, that we do not own our own bodies. Our bodies were bought with a price. Paul ends this section by commanding those in Corinth to use their body to glorify God.
Another problem Paul addressed in Corinth dealt with the Lord’s Supper. The Corinthians had among them factionalists, who were making a mockery of the Lord’s Supper, which was supposed to be a time of Christian fellowship. During the time of the Lord’s Supper, some Corinthians would come early, eat their meals, and take communion before others would have time to arrive. Some were even getting drunk. They were taking a sacramental view of the Lord’s Supper, and using it for nothing more than a social gathering. Paul told them in First Corinthians chapter 11:22 that maybe they should just go home to eat and drink. Paul reminds them of why they are taking the Lord’s Supper and of what expense was spared so they could partake in communion.
Other problems that Paul addressed in the church were issues of marriage and divorce, food dedicated to idols, bare headed women praying and prophesying in church, uncontrolled speaking in tongues, and the denial of a future resurrection of the body. Paul addresses all these concerns with a full apostolic authority given to him by the Lord. He demands that no one worship him or any others, calls for the discipline of people who are immoral in the church, and the settlement of law suits inside the church as opposed to going outside the church. He also commands the church that Christians should not divorce and remarry, and tells Christians that they should stay married to their unbelieving spouses unless that spouse wants to leave. He advises them that they are free to eat anything they desire as long as it is not a stumbling block to other people. He discourages the Christians there from participating in pagan banquets and tries to encourage them as to the true spiritual application of the Lord’s Supper.
As Paul nears the end of First Corinthians, he advises the Christians in Corinth to exercise tight control over speaking in tongues and advises them to use their spiritual gifts to show love toward one another as opposed to using them for their own private and personal edification. He also explains to them, as he did to the believers in Thessalonica, that their body will be resurrected in the same manner of Christ’s bodily resurrection.
In Paul’s final words of closing he says, “Be alert, stand firm in the faith, be brave and strong. Your every action must be done with love”. (I Corinthians 16:13). This is the ultimate command for the Corinthian Christians with problems in their church. This is the true ‘one solution fits all’ scenario. For to love one’s body is to not sin against it and defile it, and to love one’s brothers and sisters is to not sin against them, and to love God is to not sin against God. If indeed our every action is done with love, the problems of our church and our lives would be solved.