In writing 1 Corinthians around AD 56, Paul was responding to some disquieting reports he had received about the community. First Corinthians addresses real, not theoretical, situations. Paul's knowledge of what was going on was based on verbal accounts from reliable sources, letters from members of the community, and Paul's own eighteen‐month experience of living amidst this community (Acts 18, 11 ).
First Corinthians is a particularly fruitful source of reflection for our contemporary church because it raises so many issues that are still relevant: divisions based on ideologies or different world views, incest, lawsuits among Christians, scandal, marriage and celibacy, theology of woman and the participation of women in the church, the proper way to celebrate Eucharist, charismatic gifts, and belief in the Resurrection. We, like the Corinthians, are challenged to find the right role and qualifications of leadership in a pluralistic society. Like the Corinthians we need to recognize that behavior is an indicator of what we believe.
In a sense, the singular “community” might misrepresent the Corinthians. We may tend to think of the community as a specific group that met at the house of a particular individual in a city. But the Corinthians were not a single large community. It is probable that in that particular city there were several Christian communities that congregated at different houses. Apparently these communities represented different competitive factions. Each community was developing divergent expressions of Christian life and worship. Some groups were homogeneous, preferring to worship with like‐minded people from similar social and religious backgrounds, who followed certain diets and enjoyed certain prestigious spiritual gifts.
A variety of liturgical celebrations developed. The Corinthians disagreed about whether Christians ought to marry or, if married, should remain married after baptism. Paul responds to these issues among the Christians at Corinth. Although our problems and divisions may be expressed somewhat differently, Paul's admonitions to the Corinthians on the importance of unity, charity, and mutual respect based on a common faith provide us with a model for approaching our own problems. First Corinthians discloses to us the pastor Paul, who encourages the Corinthians to imitate him as he imitates Christ ( 11, 1 ).