The one central idea of 1 Corinthians

What is the one central idea of 1 Corinthians? What is the one sentence Paul would most like his readers to know by heart? Here it is:

"Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you should be in agreement and that there should be no divisions among you, but that you should be united in the same mind and the same purpose" (1:10).

New Testament scholar Ben Witherington is one among many scholars who observe that Paul uses familiar Greco-Roman rhetorical devices to reach the people of the church in Corinth. The Corinthian house churches were predominantly Gentile in demographic, and the Corinthians highly valued a rhetorically skilled presentation. Witherington argues that ancient listeners from a prominent Roman city would have recognized v. 1:10 as the exordium, or the theme sentence of the letter. (Incidentally, Paul's letters were public documents, intended to be read out loud in church gatherings.) All the issues Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians -- morality in the church, the Lord's Supper, spiritual gifts, and so on -- are to be seen in the context of the apostle trying to get the Corinthian Christians to be in complete unity. The church isn't itself when it is divided.

So there it is. 1 Corinthians is all about healing divisions in the Corinthian house churches and laying out a vision of what unified Christians will be all about -- loving and serving one another in humility, and seeing our churches as parts of a universal whole.

What about us? How does Paul's letter to the Corinthians change the way we think and behave as Christians? How does it influence our approach to being the church?


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