About this letter
Although this letter is called the First Letter to the Corinthians, it is not really the first one that Paul wrote to this church. We know this because he mentions in this letter that he had written one before (5.9). The Christians in Corinth had also written to him (7.1), and part of 1 Corinthians contains Paul's answers to questions they had asked.
Corinth is a large city port in southern Greece. Paul began his work there in a Jewish meeting place, but he had to move next door to the home of a Gentile who had become a follower of Jesus (Acts 18.1–17). Most of the followers in Corinth were poor people (1 Corinthians 1.26–29), though some of them were wealthy (1 Corinthians 11.18–21), and one was even the city treasurer (Romans 16.23). While he was in Corinth, Paul worked as a tent maker to earn a living (Acts 18.3; 1 Corinthians 4.12; 9.1–18).
Paul was especially concerned about the way the Corinthian Christians were always arguing and dividing themselves into groups (1.10—4.21) and about the way they treated one another (5.1—6.20). These are two of Paul's main concerns as he writes this letter. But he also wants to answer the questions they asked him about marriage (7.1–40) and food offered to idols (8.1–13). Paul encourages them to worship God the right way (10.1—14.40) and to be firm in their belief that God has given them victory over death (15.1–58).
Love, Paul tells them, is even more important than faith or hope. All the problems in the church could be solved, if all the members would love one another, as Christians should:
Love is kind and patient,
never jealous, boastful,
proud, or rude.
Love rejoices in the truth,
but not in evil.
Love is always supportive,
loyal, hopeful,
and trusting.
Love never fails!
(13.4,5a,6–8a)
A quick look at this letter
1. Paul's greeting and prayer (1.1–9)
2. A call for unity (1.10—4.21)
3. Problems in relationships (5.1—7.40)
4. Honouring God instead of idols (8.1—11.1)
5. Guidance for worship and church life (11.2—14.40)
6. Christ's victory over death (15.1–58)
7. An offering for the poor (16.1–4)
8. Paul's travel plans (16.5–12)
9. Personal concerns and greetings (16.13–24)
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