Paul now moved on to
Corinth, where he was “the first to come all the way . . . with the gospel
of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:14). His preaching of the gospel led to the founding of a congregation which
seems to have been more gifted and more challenging than any of his
others. Echoes of the founding mission are to be found not only in a
reminder of what he had preached but also in the recollection of his fear
and trembling as he preached.
1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to
proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of
Christ might not be emptied of its power.
2:1-3 1When I came to you, brothers
and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty
words or wisdom. 2For I decided to know nothing among you
except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3And I came to
you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.
1 Corinthians 15:3-8 3For I handed on to you as
of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our
sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4and that he was
buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the
scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the
twelve. 6Then he appeared to more than five hundred
brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though
some have died. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all
the apostles. 8Last of all, as to one untimely born, he
appeared also to me.
Paul was assisted in those early days of church founding by Silvanus,
and by Timothy, when he returned from Thessalonica.
2 Corinthians 1:19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we
proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not “Yes and No”;
but in him it is always “Yes.”
Paul’s practice of supporting himself by a trade gave him a certain
independence, but in Corinth, strangely enough, this policy was
controversial, particularly when he accepted aid from Macedonia but would
not receive help from the Corinthians.
9:4-6 4Do we not have the right
to our food and drink? 5Do we not have the right to be
accompanied by a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers
of the Lord and Cephas? 6Or is it only Barnabas and I who have
no right to refrain from working for a living?
2 Corinthians 11:9 And when I was with you and was in need, I
did not burden anyone, for my needs were supplied by the friends who came
from Macedonia. So I refrained and will continue to refrain from burdening
you in any way.
The Corinthian congregation was probably gentile, like his other
foundations, though we do have to take into account the reference to
circumcision (1 Corinthians 7:18-20), which suggests the possibility of
some Jews in the church. The Corinthians were a kind of cross section of
Greek society: some slave, some free (7:21); some richer, some poorer
(11:21-22). Most were ordinary.
1 Corinthians 12:2 You
know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols
that could not speak.
1 Corinthians 1:26 Consider
your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human
standards, not many were powerful, not many were
of noble birth.
if the greatest number were ordinary, some were of considerable
intellectual and rhetorical ability, or at least were impressed by leaders
with these qualities. Nowhere but in 1 and 2 Corinthians is the apostle so
defensive about his skills in speaking and about his intellectual force,
and nowhere else does he take such pains to relativize wisdom and
first converts in Corinth were Stephanas and his family. They also seem to
have been his first converts in all of Greece (or Achaia), so that we
might conclude that his previous stay in Athens had not been productive.
1 Corinthians 1:14,16 14. . . I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius . . . . 16(I did
baptize also the household of Stephanas) . . . .
1 Corinthians 16:15 Now,
brothers and sisters, you know that members of the household of Stephanas
were the first converts in Achaia . . . .
with Galatia, Philippi, and Thessalonica, Paul had given the Corinthians
explicit instruction in the Christian life, and had passed on those
traditions that were central to the church’s existence. These
traditions include the gospel preaching (1 Corinthians 15:3-8; see
and the account of the institution of the Last Supper.
1 Corinthians 11:23-25 23For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord
Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, 24and when
he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is
for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25In the same way he took
the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in
my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”