Implications for Missions from Paul’s Ministry in 1 Corinthians -- By: Benjamin L. Merkle
SBJT 6:3 (Fall 2002) p. 30
Implications for Missions from
Paul’s Ministry in 1 Corinthians
Benjamin L. Merkle received his Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is currently teaching in Southeast Asia. He has published articles in the Journal of the Evangelical Society and the New Holman Bible Dictionary.
When the theme of missions is studied, 1 Corinthians is often overlooked or ignored.1 The cause of this is obvious. First Corinthians deals primarily with the circumstances that existed within that congregation. Paul writes this letter in response to several questions the Corinthians had earlier written to him (concerning marriage, food sacrificed to idols, spiritual gifts, and the collection).2 Paul also writes because he has heard of some problems in the church from “Chloe’s household” (1 Cor 1:11). Problems such as divisions, incest, lawsuits, and immorality were plaguing the congregation. Thus, Paul’s primary focus is to instruct and admonish the Corinthians concerning their questions and problems.
Yet, 1 Corinthians has much to offer when considering missions and evangelism. Throughout this letter, even as Paul is focusing on the church’s internal struggles, Paul’s desire and heart for missions is evident. Many in the Corinthian congregation were consumed with themselves and Paul knows that ungodly attitudes and actions are not only dangerous for those in the church (since “the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God,” 1 Cor 6:9) but he also knows that it damages their testimony or credibility with those outside the church. This article will therefore seek to draw out some key implications for missions through the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul.3 We will look at (i) his message: “Christ crucified”; (ii) his method: “The foolishness of preaching”; (iii) his means: “Working with our own hands”; and (iv) his motive: “So that they may be saved.”
Paul’s Message: “Christ Crucified”
Paul makes it abundantly clear that the center of his message was always “Christ crucified.”
For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, But to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Cor 1:18). But we preach Christ crucified…. (1 Cor 1:23) For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified (1 Cor 2:2
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