ImmerseMessiah NLT - Page 137



IMMERSED IN 1 CORINTHIANS
T H E P E O P L E I N T H E C H U R C H at
Corinth, a Greek city renowned for its
immorality, were struggling. They were grateful to Paul for introducing
them to Jesus, but now they were convinced they had moved beyond
Paul in some key ways. The Corinthian community was deeply influenced by the Greco-Roman religious culture around them. Many of
their ideas came from this cultural environment, which they were trying
to integrate with their new Christian faith.
One set of ideas supposed a sharp divide between physical and spiritual realities, including the body and soul. It was thought that physical
realities like the body were inherently evil while spiritual realities like the
soul were good. In this heresy, the body and what was done in the body
would have been considered insignificant; only the soul was important.
This view, so different from the Bible’s, went back many centuries to the
philosopher Plato. It was still highly influential, as evidenced in a religious movement known as Gnosticism, which would become a major
adversary to the early church.
Paul wrote this letter shortly after ad 50. After having stayed in
Corinth for a year and a half, Paul had moved on to Ephesus, just across
the Aegean Sea. The Corinthians took advantage of the short distance,
corresponding with Paul about the problems facing their church.
So what was going on in Corinth? A lot, it turns out. They seemed
to think that being “spiritual” meant being free from the bodies that
trapped their spiritual selves. This led them to ask questions about
marriage and sexual relations, including whether people should even
bother to get married and have children. On another extreme, some
boldly argued that certain actions done with the body had no effect
on the soul. This included things like eating food sacrificed to idols
and visiting prostitutes in pagan temples. Paul’s teaching about the
resurrection also raised questions for them. What was the point of the
resurrection, where the soul would return to the body, if the physical
body wasn’t important or even good? And besides, how would that
work? And what would those bodies be like?
The letter from the Corinthian believers to Paul provided him with
plenty of questions to answer. But Paul had also learned from some
friends who had visited Corinth that even more things were happening
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