SECOND GROUP OF EPISTLES
GALATIANS. FIRST AND SECOND CORINTHIANS. ROMANS.
PROBLEMS OF EARLY CHRISTIANITY
#NAME?The new faith in Christ made large claims for itself. It marked an advance upon Judaism and maintained that in Christ was fulfilled all the promises made by the prophets of the coming of the Jewish Messiah. It radically antagonized the heathen religions. It had a double task to win men out of Judaism and heathenism. Only by a careful study of these great doctrinal Epistles, and the circumstances out of which they arose, can it be seen how really
great was this task.
+The Great Question+ was: "On what terms does God
save men? Does He owe salvation to any because of
what they have done, or does He bestow it as an
unmerited favor upon condition of trust and self-surrender?" Paul maintained that the sole basis#NAME?It is the contention of Paul in these Epistles that this Messiah has come in the person of Jesus Christ and
fulfilled all the promises made to Israel, and that, through faith in Him, believers are released from the observance of the precepts of the Mosaic law.
There were two parties of Jews who sought to check
the advance of the early church, with its all sufficient Savior. First, there were the Jews who denied any and every claim of Christ to be the Messiah; of this party were the rioters who drove Paul out of city after city and sought to kill him in the temple. Second, there were the Jewish Christians who "asserted that their faith was Judaism with a new prophet; that the law of Moses and Mosaic ceremonial practices were binding on Christians as well as on unbelieving Jews; that Gentile believers must first become proselytes to Judaism before they could become Christians; and lastly that circumcision was the only gateway to baptism." With the first class of Jews it was not so difficult to deal, for they were out and out antagonists, but the Jewish Christians, (who still clung to the Jewish law) were constantly making trouble not only amongst the Christian Jews, who had fully come out from under the law of Moses and expressed their faith in Christ, but also among the Christian Gentiles who had come out of the heathen religions. The masterly arguments of Paul, presented in Galatians and Romans, deal chiefly with the doctrine of justification by faith in Jesus Christ alone. In Gal.5:1-4 he calls the return to Jewish belief and practice, "falling from grace."
#NAME?#NAME?THE EPISTLES TO THE CORINTHIANS
+The Church at Corinth+ was founded during Paul's
second missionary journey (Acts 18:1-18). When the Apostle came to Corinth he found a home with Aquila and Priscilla and worked with them at his trade as a tent-maker. He preached in Corinth for over a year and a half. Although Paul was the means of converting
Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, and his family, he had no large success with the Jews and consequently turned to the Gentiles. The Gentiles gladly heard him and there was a great ingathering into the church.
Paul's sole purpose was to preach Christ for he says, "I determined not to know anything among you, save
Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1 Cor.2:2).
+The City of Corinth+ was the largest and most
important city of Greece. The commerce of the world flowed through its two harbours. The population consisted of Greeks, Jews, Italians, and a mixed multitude; it was excitable, pleasure loving, and mercurial. In this city was held a perpetual vanity fair. The vices of the east and west met and clasped hands in the work of human degradation. The Greek goddess Aphrodite had a
magnificent temple in which a thousand priestesses ministered to a base worship. While it was a center of wealth and fashion it was a city of gilded vice. In the philosophical schools there was an endless discussion about words and non-essentials and a strong tendency to set intellectual above moral distinctions.
THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS
+Occasion and Purpose.+-It was natural that the
pressure of heathen customs and practices should be very great upon this young church. It was also to be expected that parties and divisions would arise. The immediate cause of this Epistle was that strifes and divisions had arisen in the church. It was the reporting of these matters to Paul by those "of the house of Chloe" (1 Cor.1:11) that led him to write in the way in which he did. To settle the strifes of this church and to define the relations which Christians should assume towards the political, religious, and domestic institutions of the heathen was a matter of no little delicacy and difficulty. The mastery of Paul is shown in the laying down of principles, in accordance with the gospel of Christ, that were effective not only for the Corinthian church but which are applicable to-day to all such church difficulties and the conduct of Christians towards non-Christians.
+A Former Epistle.+ -- Previous to the one now called "The First," had been written to the Corinthians (1 Cor.5:9) and "it appears that the church had replied and requested further explanation and instruction on certain points" (5:11; 7:1; 8:1; 12:1; 16:12).
+Place and Time.+ -- This Epistle was written during
Paul's long stay in Ephesus (Acts 19:10; 1 Cor.16:19) and the date is in all probability 57 A.D.
+The Supremacy of Christ+ over all parties, His love as the touchstone of all service, and His resurrection are the great subjects of this Epistle.
+Principal Divisions and Chief Points.+
1. Salutation and thanksgiving (1:1-9).
2. Correction of divisions of party spirit (1:10-4:21). It having been reported to Paul that four parties
were striving for mastery in the church and there was great contention; he rebukes the party spirit, sets forth the principles of his teaching, and declares that Christ alone is the center of the Christian system. Faith stands not in the wisdom of men. The only foundation is in Christ.
3. Correction of moral disorders (ch.5-7). In
consequence of the close contact of the church with heathendom grave moral evils found their way into the fold. (a) The case of an incestuous person, Paul writes that such a person is to be expelled because the leaven of evil separates men from Christ. (b) The sin of going to law in heathen courts. Christians ought to settle their own disputes. (c) Sins of the body. No man should commit a sin as his body is the temple of the Holy Ghost.
(d) Advice concerning marriage. The purpose of the gospel is not to antagonize but to Christianize the natural relations between society and the believer.
4. Correction of social and ecclesiastical misconceptions (ch.8-14). (a) The question of eating of meats
offered in idol worship is decided on the ground of love rather than knowledge. (b) The preacher of the gospel has the right to be supported by the church. (c) The true Christian liberty to be observed in the matters of eating and drinking. The proper celebration of the Lord's Supper. (d) The use and abuse of spiritual gifts.
(e) The greatness of love (ch.13) The touchstone
of all is love. (f) The end to be sought in every spiritual gift is the edification and upbuilding of the church.
5. The true doctrine of the resurrection (ch.15), Paul lays great stress upon this doctrine. "If Christ be not risen from the dead, then is our preaching vain and your faith is also vain."
6. Parting directions, exhortations, and salutations (ch.16).
THE SECOND EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS
+Occasion and Purpose.+ -- Paul was quite anxious about the reception of his first letter by the Corinthian church. Not long after its dispatch he sent Titus (2 Cor.2:13) to see how it was received and to note whether the strife of parties had ceased, the+Place and Time+. -- This Epistle was in all probability written from Corinth during Paul's stay there in the course of his third missionary journey 58 A.D. (compare Acts 19:21; 20:1-3; Rom.16:23; 1 Cor.1:14; 2 Tim.4:20).
+Central Thought.+ -- The theme