The Corinthian letters are excellent primers on church: what it is and how it should be done. Even considering the specific cultural context in which they were written, the problems that are addressed and the solutions Paul models are helpful to churches centuries later and in any cultural situation. Primarily, this is because his solutions are grounded in an application of scriptural truth and a reliance on the Holy Spirit. Such an approach shows how any problem a church may face should be dealt with. That being said, most of the common problems that every church faces at some point seem to have been dealt with in Corinth in the few short years between the time Paul founded the church and when he corresponded with them.
The best message one can take away from the Corinthian letters is that, as imperfect as every church eventually is revealed to be, it is not the church’s holiness or maturity that makes them the body of Christ in the world. The church, every church, is a collection of saints made holy and assembled together by God for His purpose and to accomplish His plan in the world. If we can simply keep our eyes on Christ as the head of the church, we will be useful to the advance of the Kingdom of God—something that is already at work in us, just not yet perfected the way it will eventually be.
At the end of the first of these letters, we see a list of people’s names. These were real people. This was a real church. It is likely that it was not much different from any church you have ever been to or been a part of. Most churches tend to be similar whether they are mega or small, American or Asian. That can be frustrating when we realize how our humanity so often gets in the way of what we are to be doing. On the other hand, it is also encouraging to know that God will use real people in His plans.
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