Date and Place of Writing
Paul wrote this letter from Ephesus around 55 A.D. to the church at Corinth. This was near the end of Paul's three-year ministry in Ephesus during his third missionary journey. He notes that he plans to visit the Corinthians soon although as we see in 2 Corinthians, a letter written later in the same year, Paul did not make that planned visit.
Occasion and Purpose
Corinth was a large, bustling, wealthy city. Because of its location, goods and people from around the world flowed in and out of its ports. It was a center for art, philosophy, and religion. It contained a number of pagan temples including large ones to Apollo and Aphrodite. The city had a reputation for vice, immorality, and debauchery. Paul spent 18 months establishing a church in Corinth during his second missionary journey (Acts 18:1-18). This letter, composed three or four years later, was written in response to reports and a letter Paul received concerning problems in the church.
The Corinthian church destroys the myth of the early church as the model for us to imitate! Seduction by the surrounding pagan culture and a hyper-spirituality had led this church into a host of problems. As a result, 1 Corinthians is full of information about how a Christian lifestyle differs from that of the culture as a whole. At points, there is difficulty in understanding 1 Corinthians because all we possess are Paul's responses. Thus commentators differ on whether some passages in the letter are meant as Paul's advice, or if he is quoting from their letter before refuting that position (e.g. 7:1; 10:23). Structurally, the letter falls into two parts. Part One (ch. 1-6) deals with four problems reported to Paul (1:11), while part two (ch. 7-15) looks at a variety of issues about which the Corinthians had written to Paul (7:1).
Bible Studies on 1 Corinthians
I have arbitrarily divided the 16 chapters of 1 Corinthians into 25 sections for discussion. I have found that in small groups (6 to 20 people) each unit takes about an hour to go through. I generally give the group members the handout the week before, although with one group I simply handed it out at the time of the study. The discussion questions are slightly different from traditional Bible studies in that they emphasize the application of the book to your life today. The Leader's Guides provide "answers" to some, but not all of the questions because many of the questions are designed to be a springboard to further discussion and there is no truly right or wrong answer. If you have questions or comments, please use the "Contact Me" button on the menu below. I guarantee that I will read your comments, however, as this web site gets more than 3,000 visitors per day, I can't possibly answer every one.
[Note to leader: I normally use the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible and take quotes from it. However, for this particular book (1 Corinthians), I found that the New Living Testament (NLT) was actually easier to understand and thus some of the Bible quotes in the various Leader's Guides are from the NLT. Which Bible you use is your choice, of course, and I'm not getting on a soapbox and suggesting that you switch to the NLT. In fact, in one of my Bible studies with about 20 men, I had men using five different version of the Bible, which occasionally led to some lively discussion.]