Historically the city of Corinth had been counted as ” wealthy Corinth ” by Homer. Thucydides tells of the Corinthians naval architecture, and enterprise. They were known, also, of their commerce and wealth by Thucydides. Strabo speaks of Bacchiadae who ruled Corinth and made profits for 200 years from it’s merchandise. Cypselus overthrew them in 655 B.C., whose wealth was attested to by a large statue of beaten gold presented by him to the temple at Olympia.Under his son Periander, Corinth was the most prosperous of the commercial cities of Greece. Strabo accounts the preference of the traders between Asia and Italy to carry their goods across the Isthmus. T^he Corinthians controlled the port and land routes by imposing tolls. Strabo refers to Isthmian festivals as a source of profit for the Corinthians. As proof of their wealth. Strabo records the increase of wealth of Corinth, he speaks of the temple of Aphrodite’, which was served by a thousand courtesans, ( highly – placed, and refined, prostitutes ). This is sad proof that in Corinth abundance of material good had produced it’s frequent result of self-indulgence and gross sin.
Corinth was the capital of the Roman province of Achaia, and the residence of the Roman pro-consul. It could only be in a democratic city such as Corinth, under the rule of Rome, that the members of the Church of Corinth could have their meetings take place with such unmannerly, and brawling behavior, and without heeding rules of order and courtesy. It was only in an enviorment as that the parties could have formed which divided the Church. There was a rudimental sense of equality and independence that led men to knock around with each other confusedly, then to get together contrary to the desires of Christ. This was a city of wealth. In this community there would only be the love of money and not of morals. Licentiousness was dignified in their worship. The temples, no less than the streets, swarmed with coutesans, more than a thousand of whom served as priestesses in a single temple to the goddess Aphrodite’. Corinth was a caulgron of wickedness and evil. Corinth had the reputation of corruption.
The Jews demanded signs from heaven, I COR. 1:22. At such Hebrew skeptics the apostle in Corinth was compelled to ” shake out the folds of his cloak “, ACTS 18:6. The majority of the converts were Gentile. At the time of his arrival the Jewish population were mostly refugees from Rome when Claudius banished them from Rome by decree, ACTS 16:9&10. Among them were Aquila and Priscilla. Their home was always open, ROM. 16:5; I COR> 16:19. Paul became friends because they were tent makers too. While there he used many contrasts from the landscape of the city; the conquers of the Isthmian games compared to an ” incorruptible crown ” of the Christian warrior. He would observe the ” stadium ” comparing that to the race a Christian would run. When he ” fought with beasts at Ephesus “, he probably used the backdrop of the Amphitheater where victims were thrown to wild beasts, or when gladiators fought till death. And when he was pressed above measure with hardships and indignities, it may have seemed to him that he was ” set forth as the last in the file of combatants appointed to death “. He undoubtedly used the city, as a whole, the columns, the temples, and all it’s wealth, and made an illustration in I COR. 3, that we build on a sure foundation, not ” wood, hay, or stubble “, but ” gold, silver, and costly marbles “, that so when ” the day that is to be revealed in fire prove every man’s work “, so that our work may ” abide “. Paul also took note on their emphasis on intellect, wealth, commerce, their schools and their fondness of physical conditioning, and the wicked temples which Corinth gained much notoriety from licentious passions were honored forms of worship. From ACTS 18 we learn that Paul went to the Synagogue, on the Sabbath, which was his custom to reason with, and persuade the Jews. They break out in vicious ridicule, and blasphemies. He then shakes the dust off his robes, and tells them since they will not hear him, he will ” go to the Gentiles “.
He went to the house of Justus, and from there he preached to as many as would listen. Aquila and Priscilla also converted. I could go on, but in ACTS 18:8 we read that the congregation grew rapidly. ” Know you not “,Paul writes to them, ” that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor extortioners shall inherit the kingdom of God.And such were some of you “. take a look at the face of the Greek how he has froliced in the mire of the wickedness nestled in Corinth. Look at the low browed slave was guilty of being a pick-pocket, and a jailbird. And we have the sharp eyed Israelite, he has been making his wealth off the youth of the time.But there has been a GREAT CHANGE. There is another story besides the tales already floating around in Corinth. ” But you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God “. We know from history that there was a difference in their services than that of ours; where we have one who leads and keeps everything orderly, the Corinthians, on the other hand, allowed everyone, including the women, who, many of them came out of the temples, also spoke publicly not edifying our Lord in a way pleasing to God. After their services they would attend a love-feast, which was wound up with the breaking of bread in the Lord’s Supper; then after a brotherly kiss, then went home. Yes, a great difference indeed!
This letter repels any thought of holiness being displayed within the confines of their worship to our Lord Jesus Christ. We don’t find love order, and maturity, but spiritual childness, a universal spirit of division, blind self-conceit, resoluteopposition to the great and loving apostle, and GROSS SIN. But take a good look at this picture, Paul recognizes the imperfections of these Christians, and still considers them bretheren in Christ, sanctified, justified, the living temple of God, and to him, a source of thankfulness to God. This warns us not to treat imperfect forms of Christianity as worthless. Human nature is full of imperfections, and we them in ourselves. I wonder how Paul felt knowing how soon they went back to their heathen roots. He probably felt that he left them as orphans in a wicked and stormy world. We see how soon the banner of the cross of Christianity come falling onto the battlefield when there is nobody there to lead. Paul was probably fearful that the Church itself would not survive because of the departure of it’s founders. But just take a look at the miraculous power of God’s Holy Spirit triumphing throughout the Roman Empire, Greece, and forever becoming the religion of the civilized world. It is that same cross, then, that is preached today. It is still the weakness in humankind that is still doing the work of God today.
Having now a brief history of Corinth we can better understand the workings of our Lord through the Apostle Paul, and how the Holy Spirit directed his words to the Church of Corinth. Those people were steeped in sin. Understanding this we can see the conflicting emotions the apostle had writing this letter.There many cases of immorality that had been reported. Surprisingly he holds fast his self-control. The Corinthians were real people who knew no God except those that expected nothing less than to satisfy their fleshly lusts, and passions. Then we see Paul with a firm self-control about himself, learned, and intelligent. He had vast mental power and earnestness. This letter, in it’s entirety is condemning the all the revelry taking place about such a sacred gospel.
Let your women keep silent in the churches. We have a short history set before us to help us better understand the Holy Spirit of our Lord. This letter speaks to the sensual women in that particular church speak only in the home, but not publicly. The women are instructed not to teach, but to learn. Not to command, but obey. Paul reinforces his words with the natural position from the begining, GEN. 3:16; I COR. 11. The woman is to be confirmed by the command of God. And, she should be a practioner of modesty. The women in Corinth were way out of bounds in their thinking; having no intelligent thought accompanying the prophesies, and teachings they would engage themselves in. We find that women have many ministries in the Church of Corinth, but speaking out is not permitted; order had to be restored. This does not agree with the woman’s true position in the Church called by His name.
It had been foretold that ” your sons and daughters shall prophesy “, JOEL 2:28, and we read that Phillip’s daughters prophesied, ACTS 21:8&9. But Paul forbids it here. There, again, the Corinthians need order restored. Paul declares to them that their women should be taught of their respected husbands and relatives. The home is her center of her world. He suggests that husbands should be well versed in Scripture. The head of the household should not be an empty head. It is evidenced that women are not to be dupes of priests; they are to ask questions and not be kept ignorant. Intelligent service is expected from them. Meanwhile, do the Scriptures forbid women to preach?
There are three views to look at this question.
1.) Some hold the belief that what is said in this letter is to be held as official and conclusive. They believe women are to keep silent , and not speak; no matter how gifted they are.
2.) Then there are those who hold the belief that the authority of the apostle cannot settle the question. Paul forbade women to speak, but that he had no business to.
3.) There are those, also, that the Scriptures are the binding authority in matters of faith and morals, this and other injunctions are local, national, and therefore transient.
It was not the intent of Christianity to determine manners, customs, forms of government, and ecclesiastical institutions. It’s PRIMARY AIM is to build a new man in Christ. It is to this inspiration mankind is left with the utmost liberty in respect to the externals. This view is corroborated by the whole history of the Holy Scriptures. The modern Church is totally different from the early assemblies of the first Christians. The civil state has changed, and the family has changed. The economics, and commerce has changed. There is no organization that resembles any from the past, including the Church called by His name.The presumption is that when Christ was leaving everything else to the majorative wisdom of man, and His Holy Spirit, that He would not step in with this single subject and fix the position of women? Such a course would be contrary to the genius of our Creator in all directions. Such a universal limitation would be in direct opposition of the Jewish ideas. Women were far more equal to men among the Hebrews than among other nations. She was a public instructor.
NOTE — the cases of Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Huldah, Anna, and the prediction of Joel. The woman was a public instructor.
” Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy “, and Peter says, ” But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants and on my HANDMAIDS, ( WOMEN ), I will pour out in those days of My Spirit; and they shall prophesy,…………. and it shall come to pass, that whosoever, ( ANYONE – male and female alike ), shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved “, ACTS 2:16-21. This text, and the text in I TIM. 2:11&12 were addressed to the Gentiles, not to the Jews. Why the distinction? Look at the condition of the Greek women. The highest thought that that the Greeks had of women was that they were to stay at home. The woman was not permitted to go into the streetunless veiled, otherwise her reputation for virtue would be destroyed.
For a woman to do what is done by women in modern civilized nations, was to develop that which the poorest man toils to give his toils to give his daughters, to learn music, poetry, art, and philosophy, was to stamp her as a courtesan, ( a prostitute ). Now if that is the custom, what would have been the effect if a Greek had looked in on a Christian meeting and seeing a woman rise uncovered and pour out her heart? He would have said, ‘ So that’s Christianity, is it? Why then the Church is but a house of orgies. I understand your new religion. It teaches our wives that they must forsake their virtue, and go out in public and do as the courtesans do ‘. Therefore it was that Paul said, ” You shall not violate the customs of your country. You shall not bring disgrace upon the religion of Christ by doing that which can be interpreted but in one direction by every man who sees it. I forbid your women to teach in Greek communities “.
What, then, may be considered a fair interpretation of this question? Is it right to say that this is the last word which the genius of God for Christianity had for women? Are you to take a commandment that had a particular interpretation in one province of the globe and in no other, and make it criteria for judging women for their position and instruction everywhere? Shall this be done where Christianity has raised and inspired women, and shall a handcuff, which belonged to the degradation of the Greek period, be put on a woman; refusing her freedom from the yoke of this world? Christianity has made the woman a prophetess, and NO false interpretation of the text can ever close her mouth. This verse is subject to the argument of Peter in Acts 11:17; ” Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as He did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? “
If in the providence of God women are called to preach, if their discourse is accompanied with power from on high, and blessed towards the salvation of souls, then the Spirit itself bears witness to the right of women to speak, and who are we that we should resist God? The Apostle Paul did give us doctrine from on high having the Holy Spirit bearing witness, also, as to what Peter had said, ” For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you all are one in Christ Jesus “, Gal. 3:27&28. Faith, hope, love, learning, eloquence, and there we have no separation in our gender. Whoever can bring the kingdom of God nearer to men has the right to do so. We, men, have the voices of trumpets; let’s have some flutes. Women can sing and speak in the secular world more often, and mightier than men; why not, then, in the divine?
ALL ACCOUNTS, HISTORICAL AND COMMENTARY ARE FROM THE BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR