Twenty-First Century Problems in a First Century Church (1 Corinthians 5–7) -- By: William F. Cook, III

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 06:3 (Fall 2002)
Article: Twenty-First Century Problems in a First Century Church (1 Corinthians 5–7)
Author: William F. Cook, III

Twenty-First Century Problems in a
First Century Church (1 Corinthians 5–7)

William F. Cook, III

William F. Cook, III is Associate Professor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition, he serves as senior pastor at Ninth and O Baptist Church, Louisville, KY. Before coming to Southern he taught at the Baptist College of Florida for nine years. Dr. Cook has written a number of scholarly articles and has extensive ministry experience.


The book of 1 Corinthians, written in the middle of the first century, is amazingly relevant. From the standpoint of pastoral ministry it may be the most contemporary of Paul’s letters. Many pastors only think they have a difficult church until they read 1 Corinthians. How could a church started by the apostle Paul be fractured by divisions, filled with arrogance, seemingly supportive of immorality, involved in litigation, and struggling over whether sexual relations are appropriate within the husband- wife relationship? These are just a few of the problems facing Paul as he seeks to deal with his spiritual children in Corinth (not to mention abuses of the Lord’s Supper, the abuse of Christian freedom, and doctrinal controversies over such issues as spiritual gifts and the future bodily resurrection of believers). The subjects Paul confronts are as relevant to the body of Christ today as when Paul wrote the letter. Although no church I know of is dealing with all of these problems simultaneously, every church faces similar difficulties. As the book is studied one observes how Paul—the consummate pastor and theologian—handles delicate issues with a spiritually immature people. He provides the contemporary church with a compass to guide her through the stormy seas of church discipline, internal conflict, and aberrant doctrine. What is clear throughout is that Paul loved the church and desired her to bring glory to God and be a source of light in the midst of a spiritually dark city.

The world is looking for authenticity. They want to see individual believers and churches that practice what they preach— purity of life, brotherly love, and healthy relationships in the home. Paul’s first century advice provides a healthy message to twenty-first century churches.

The Setting of Chapters 5–6

In chapters 5–6 Paul deals with moral sins affecting the church. The sins Paul confronts are issues that were reported to him by Chloe’s people (1:11). The church at Corinth struggled with problems stemming from spiritual immaturity, arrogance, and a lack of concern for corporate holiness. The shocking absence of corporate discipline in the church is seen by its apparent condoning of a case of incest (5:1–13). They manifested an att...

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