Friday, January 28, 2011

St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians

I (Kevin) am currently writing a Bible study on 1 Corinthians. Last year, I was sitting in on a class at the Augustine Institute with some missionaries who were visiting Denver. My friend and mentor Dr. Sri was teaching the class on 1 Corinthians and made the remark to everyone, "If I were going to write one Bible study for college students, it would be 1 Corinthians." So, this year I decided to do just that.

The amazing part about 1 Corinthians is that despite being written almost 2,000 years ago there is so much application for college students (and all of us) today.

For instance, St. Paul talks about how the Corinthians trust in the wisdom of the world and the philosophies of their day instead of the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1-2). It's easy to think the Corinthians are foolish, but then we realize how much we do this today. How do we allow the media to influence how we think and act? How do we allow the philosophies of today dampen our faith or trust in our Church? (See CCC 2727) Are we willing to stand up in the classroom for what we believe in the face of the wisdom of our professors?

One of the main issues in the letter seems to have nothing to do with us--the eating of meat sacrificed to idols (1 Cor 8-10). Some of the people in Corinth think it is okay to eat because they know that there is only one God. St. Paul reveals that they are setting a bad example for other Christians who still struggle not to worship pagan gods. They also are subjecting themselves to the temptations that the pagan temples bring--drunkenness and sexual immorality.

College students are faced with similar challenges today even if they don't involve meat sacrificed to idols. There is nothing wrong with drinking if you are over 21, but should you really go to a party that is surrounded by a culture of drunkenness and sexual immorality? Is this a good example for other Catholics on campus? What kind of temptations are you subjecting yourself to?

In a Corinthian culture that loved Olympic games, St. Paul uses an athletic analogy. If an Olympic athlete can exercise and work hard to win an event (and a crown of withered celery), how much harder should we work to preach the Gospel to others to earn an imperishable crown? (1 Cor 9:24-27). I don't have to do too much work to see how this applies to us today.

The study also addresses topics like: choosing a Vocation, the influence of the media, the Church’s teaching on contraception, the pursuit of holiness, developing the zeal to evangelize, and discerning our spiritual gifts among others.

Overall, the theme for the study on Corinthians is: What does it mean to live in the world, but not of it? We are a people set apart, but we are also called to engage the world and bring Christ to it. As our culture is beginning to look more and more like the pagan city of Corinth, my hope is that this Bible study can help students learn and live out the valuable insights of St. Paul.

(For an introduction to 1 Corinthians as a whole, check out  the study bible my friend, Mark Giszczak wrote.)


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