The Corinthians needed a stern talking-to. It was about 20 years after Christ Jesus’ ascension, and the story of what he had done in Judea was starting to spread beyond the Jewish Middle East. That message had made it to Corinth, the great trading metropolis of Greece, and many had been baptized into the Christian faith.
But many of them weren’t getting it. They had been touched by the power of Christ, but they had not yet let it transform them. Paul had seen that light of Christ on the road to Damascus and literally been remade from the inside out—from Saul to Paul. But his words to the Corinthians suggest that some had basically tried the opposite. They’d tried to transform it into something that fit into their human lives. The result, as Paul told them in his first letter to the Corinthians, was only a shadow of true Christianity.
There were cliques and clubs and shockingly immoral behavior. But more than all that, there was a lack of understanding among many of what being a Christian truly meant. Paul needed to make this fundamental point again—and to do it forcefully. Figuratively looking around at the Corinthian church, he wrote: “For look at your own calling as Christians, my brothers. You don’t see among you many of the wise (according to this world’s judgment) nor many of the ruling class, nor many from the noblest families” (J.B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, I Corinthians 1:26).
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