the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
Abbott's Illustrated New Testament Abbott's NT
- 1 Corinthians
by John & Jacob Abbott
IN ancient times, the city of Corinth was celebrated throughout the world for its wealth and magnificence, and also for its extraordinary wickedness. In the days of the apostles, however, its wealth and grandeur had greatly declined, while its excessive corruption was, perhaps, as is usual in the old age of vice, more hopeless than ever. The city was in this condition when the apostle Paul reached it in his travels, and commenced the public preaching of the gospel there, under the circumstances recorded Acts 18:1-18.
The church, thus established, afterwards fell, it seems, into a state of considerable disorder. This ought not, in fact, to be considered strange; for it is a great mistake to suppose that Christianity will effect the sudden and entire delivery of the soul from the excesses of sin. Previous habits of outward virtue have a vast influence on the consistency and steadiness of subsequent piety; and they who have been saved from the greatest lengths of depravity, should feel that they are in the greatest danger of relapse. It has, accordingly, always been found extremely difficult to maintain a high standard of moral excellence in a church which has been raised from, and is still surrounded by, a general corruption in the community. The church at Corinth fell into such a state as to occasion the apostle great solicitude and pain. They wrote to him, it seems, stating some of the difficulties under which they were laboring. Of others he heard by report, (1 Corinthians 1:11,1 Corinthians 5:1,) and this Epistle is the message of admonition, reproof, and solemn warning, which the case required.
When the intelligence which called for this Epistle reached Paul, he was about two hundred miles from Corinth, across the Egean Sea, at Ephesus. This appears from various circumstantial allusions contained in the Epistle itself, which will be noticed as they occur in the text. He was then intending to remain there some time longer, as he states in this Epistle, (1 Corinthians 16:8;) but he was driven away by the sudden excitement which arose through the means of Demetrius, and the manufacturers of shrines for Diana, as recorded Acts 19:23-41. On leaving Ephesus, Paul went to Macedonia, w here he met Titus on his return from Corinth, who informed him of the favorable effect which this Epistle had produced. It was on the receipt of this intelligence from Titus, that the Second Epistle was written to the Corinthian church, as will be more fully explained in the introduction prefixed to it.
The subjects of this Epistle, as might have been expected from the preceding, statement of facts, are, first, the evils and disorders which Paul had learned were prevailing in the church at Corinth and, secondly, the various points on which they had asked his opinion in the letter which they had written to him. The first part extends to the commencement of the seventh chapter, and the second occupies most of the remainder of the book. There seems to be an allusion, in 1 Corinthians 5:9, to a previous letter which Paul had written; but no other information, in respect to any such work, has come down to us from ancient times.