Sex in the City
Corinth was infamous during the first century. As a center of commerce and trade it was a cosmopolitan city, a Roman colony known for its bronze workers, wealth, and temple prostitutes.1 It has been called the “New York, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas of the ancient world.”2 The phrase “to live like a Corinthian” meant to live a life of drunkenness and sexual debauchery.3
It was against this background that Paul wrote his first letter to the church at Corinth. Many of the problems of society had infiltrated (or more likely never been excluded from) the church.
Paul had previously spent a year and a half in Corinth, preaching, teaching, and establishing the Church there. After leaving, Paul wrote at least four letters to the church at Corinth. In spite of its name, 1 Corinthians was actually the second letter. (We no longer have the first.) Paul writes it after receiving reports that that the Corinthian Christians were theologically confused.1
Following his customary greetings, Paul addresses division in the church, sexual immorality, marriage, rights versus responsibilities, idolatry, proper worship, spiritual gifts, love, and Christ’s resurrection.
In 1 Corinthians we find guidance that is especially applicable to our lives in a 21st century American city. In many ways our city resembles Corinth, and God is calling us, just like he called the Corinthian church, to be a light to a darkened world, to live a life that is noticeably different from the corruption around us, yet not to physically separate ourselves but to be a witness by our actions, to be in the world but not of it.
John McRay, Paul: His Life and Teaching
1. ESV Study Bible: Introduction to 1 Corinthians
2. Gordon Fee, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 3
3. William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians, 3