On Sunday evenings I am preaching through 1 Corinthians. As I have been studying the letter itself and other references concerning the culture at Corinth I have a theory as to why the church had so many problems with arrogant division. In sum:
In a culture of somebodies, a group of nobodies got saved and thought they were now somebodies that could fit in with all the other somebodies.
If you desire to study Corinthian culture you will find plenty of sources. And preachers love to talk about the city of Corinth (probably because it is so much like our culture) more than they do many of the other cultures in the Scriptures. Ben Witherington, I think sums up the Corinthian mindset quite nicely when he says, “In Paul’s time many in Corinth were already suffering from a self-made-person-escapes-humble-origins syndrome…” Corinth was a culture of “somebodies”.
However, in every culture there are also a group of “nobodies”. These are the unwise, the weak, the poor, the outcasts of society. A culture of “somebodies”always has a much larger amount of “nobodies” that want to be “somebodies”. Corinth was no different.
That all changed when the gospel came to Corinth. These nobodies received the foolish message of the cross and found “righteousness, sanctification, and redemption” in Christ Jesus. These nobodies became somebodies.
Those that were once lowly in society now saw became rich. The ignoble became kings. The poor became strong. The fools of the world became wise. Those in disrepute were now held in honor. Those that once were the scum of the earth have now became somebody.
Now they could fit in with the culture. In fact they had the answers that the culture did not have. Rather than being equal with their culture they were able to see through it—they were now above even their own culture. The Corinthians are now the new somebodies. So to reach the wise they had to prove that Christianity is wiser. To reach the powerful the Corinthians had to prove that Christianity is where real power lies. Whatever the culture had to offer Christianity could top it.
The Corinthians attempted to blend the gospel with the thriving, competitive, and self-sufficient Corinthian culture. As a result they were in danger of losing the gospel. Rather than unleashing the power of the gospel they were neutering it. And we do the exact same thing when we try to be “somebodies” to show that Christianity is a “somebody” type of faith. A crucified king is “foolish” lets just admit that.