This interview with author Michael Halcomb answers questions about our latest publication, OneBook: Daily-Weekly—The First Letter to the Corinthians.
What is Paul’s primary message to his audience in 1 Corinthians?
Paul’s “big idea” with regard to those in Corinth is this: Our core beliefs (e.g. baptism, resurrection, etc.) should influence all we say, think, feel, and do. Proper views (orthodoxy) tend to result in proper living (orthopraxy). Improper views (heterodoxy) tend to result in improper living (heteropraxy). The former nurture unity in Christ while the latter neglect and destroy it.
Why did Paul write this letter and why do you believe it is included in the Canon for God’s people?
Paul writes 1 Corinthians as a response letter. We know he had both been to Corinth before and had written a prior letter (Proto Corinthians), which remains unknown to us and is not included in the canon. He writes this time, however, because a small delegation of folks from Corinth have informed him about looming threats of division. Many of the problems (i.e. sexuality, diet, spiritual gifts, etc.) flow out of a misunderstanding of baptism and resurrection. And those misunderstandings ultimately lead to beliefs and practices that threatened unity in Christ among those in Corinth. Paul’s “big idea” as he writes, then, is to correct bad theology that not merely leads to bad belief and praxis, but threatens to divide believers. As such, this letter remains timely for the church today.
What are some themes in 1 Corinthians that don’t get enough treatment in typical Bible studies?
There has been no shortage of debate about major themes in 1 Corinthians: sexuality, spiritual gifts, women in ministry, and so on. Those are certainly given attention in this study and rightly so. In this study, too, I give ample attention to the overarching theme of “unity in Christ.” I also try to explore how that relates to numerous other strands of thought throughout, including all the aforementioned issues. I would also suggest that healthy views of baptism and resurrection are important throughout the epistle.
Are there any special features of this work that remain hidden from plain sight, for which some advanced Bible study might prove helpful?
Familiarity with some of Paul’s other works is certainly important. Throughout his letters, for instance, Paul tells his audiences to “imitate him.” In this work, I suggest, in fact, that his call to do, when misunderstood by others, may have contributed to some of the problems taking place. Having some knowledge of discussion about “the weak” and “the strong,” as well as “headcoverings,” and “foreign tongues/languages” could be beneficial for readers.
How would you recommend people understand the relationship between Paul’s first and second correspondences to this community?
While 1 and 2 Corinthians are, in general, written to the same demographic and deal with some of the same issues, I would contend that there are some important differences. 1 Corinthians focuses on nurturing unity in Christ by promoting healthy beliefs and practices among the Corinthian Christians, while also critiquing bad beliefs and practices. In short, 1 Corinthians focuses on those in Corinth. 2 Corinthians, however, is largely an epistle where Paul must defend his credibility as an apostle. Paul had promised to return to Corinth but, in fact, had not yet been able to do so. This caused some to grow suspicious of him, his ministry, and his status as an apostle. Thus, he writes to explain his circumstances and defend himself. At the risk of grossly oversimplifying things, I would say that 1 Corinthians focuses on the Christians in Corinth while 2 Corinth focuses on the legitimacy of Paul’s status as an apostle.
What would happen in the lives of God’s people if they took the message of this Bible study to heart? What would happen in the world?
If God’s people took 1 Corinthians to heart, they would realize two things: 1) There is a difference between “unity,” which can become an idol, and “unity in Christ.” The former may bring disruption and division even under the guise of uniting over a cause, while the latter has the ability to foster healthy and holy living under Christ. 2) Sound theology is the catalyst for sound living. Many folks in the church tend to sneer at theology or downplay it. Such a disposition is incredibly dangerous. What we believe, like really believe, and not just say we believe, has everything to do with how we live. If God’s people can get a hold of these two points, it has the potential to revolutionize their devotion to Christ and his church. And, when that happens, the result will be healthy and holy homes, neighborhoods, towns, cities, states, nations, and continents.
Get The First Letter to the Corinthians Bible study from our store here.
If First Corinthians was a show, it might be slotted into the daytime melodrama genre. This letter has it all: fighting, sex, jealousy, divorce, money, and death. Like many of the apostle’s works, First Corinthians reminds us how dysfunctional the early church was. Two thousand years on, the church’s warts show no sign of fading. In some ways, that’s good news. If Paul held out hope for this stunted community, God’s people today are in no less position to receive his transforming and sanctifying grace.
The difference is that we have the opportunity to learn from their moral failures, not to mention their gross misunderstanding of the gospel. But it’s also a cautionary tale—many of the behaviors celebrated within the church today are patterns the founders of our faith ardently opposed. Thus, we’re left to wonder: Can this epistle offer some guidance on such things? Amid the turmoil present in this letter and paralleled in our present world, there is hope. This study will walk us through a vision of what a life of faith in Jesus Christ, God’s Son, can look like.
- Sunday school classes
- Weeknight small groups
- Individual Bible study
In these pages you’ll:
- Gain an in-depth understanding of the Apostle Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians
- See parallels between the ancient church’s struggles and our modern context
- Appreciate how the saving grace of God in Christ transforms us into his holy people
Get it from our store here.