First Corinthians: Disciples in the Most Unpromising of Places

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Regarding Scripture: I Cornithians 6.9-11

Society in 21st century America is vastly different than that of the 20th century. While standard of living and economic bounty have increased by the forces of the free market and our commercial enterprise system, many would say that there is a general quality of life that has changed. Because of this, we may ponder if it is possible for America to regain its heritage. This month’s lesson will not examine possibilities of rebuilding or sustaining our National heritage; instead our study of First Corinthians is to show that in the midst of worldliness Christianity can spring forth.

Many cities in modern day America are very much like the Roman city of Corinth. American cities are defined by their commerce, their political debates and exchanges, their intellectual stimulation, and the general nature of the free flow of ideas, whether the ideas speak of righteousness or unrighteousness. Our society has changed from its agricultural roots. Increasingly, American citizens are more dependent on work found within and near cities than they once were. Because of this and the abundant influence of all types of media, we seem to be living in one great big Corinth. We may express it in many different ways, but we seem to ask “can anything good come out of America?” The answer has to be a resounding Yes.

Like Corinth, modern America is defined by paganism; and the churches of America are experiencing the struggles that accompany such a society. One commentary states, “Paul [in First Corinthians] addresses a variety of problems in the lifestyle of the Corinthian Christians: factions, lawsuits, immorality, [and] questionable practices… .”1 Are these problems all that different from our problems? We live in a society that is full of factious or quarrelsome divisions. Our society is defined by its lawsuits. Immorality and questionable practices abound. Is it any wonder that our churches struggle to remain “called out” of the world?

The same commentary states that Corinth’s “prosperity brought both luxury and immorality.”2 We can see this in American society as well. We might even be willing to say that for some to live as an American they would be living as a Corinthian, meaning they would “live in gross immorality”.3 Another commentary stated, “The sinfulness of [Corinth] was notorious” and noted that Corinth was the place where “the social forces of the age met” and that both religions and the licentious shameful behavior of other nations were endorsed and practiced. 4 One example is Corinth’s open promotion of prostitution and extolling the practice as worship. While only select America cities promote prostitution, America certainly promotes sexual immorality and extols it as virtuous.

America is a modern day Corinth. And America, like Corinth, requires much teaching and instruction, but also patient longsuffering, in order to remove unrighteous behavior. The 21st century Christians, who make America their home, need to be like Paul. He was not afraid to affirm and teach truth in the midst of such scandalous behavior. He was willing to stand for righteousness in the middle of an unrighteous society. We can be like Paul and be a beacon of truth into a world of darkness. And, like Paul, we will see fornicators, idolaters, effeminate, thieves, coveters, drunkards, revilers, and extortioners become Christians.

1 Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts; First Corinthians; p. 386; ISBN 0-7852-1154-3.
2 ibid.
3 ibid.
4 Dickson New Analytical Study Bible, KJV, p. 1321.