Paul visited Corinth on his second missionary journey. Corinth was the capital of the Roman province of Achaia, which comprised most of modern day Greece. The city was located on the Isthmus of Corinth, the narrow stretch of land between Peloponnesus and mainland Greece. It possessed two large harbours and was on the major trade routes of the ancient world. Thus it was one of the more wealthy cities of that era.
Paul probably arrived in Corinth from Athens about 50 CE. Upon arrival, he met Aquila and Priscilla, who had recently been evicted from Rome. As they were tent-makers, Paul resided and worked with them in their mutual trade.
Paul was readily accepted in the local synagogue, where he preached for a number of weeks. He was eventually forced to withdraw from the synagogue but continued to preach to the local God-fearers and other Gentiles. Altogether, he was in Corinth for 18 months, the longest sojourn in any one place during his second journey.
The church in Corinth gave Paul a difficult time, as his letters indicate. The Corinthians questioned his authority, teachings and moral edicts.
Today, let us turn to 1 Corinthians 15, which is our Easter reading. There appears to be some discussion in Corinth about the resurrection of the body; many there were having difficulty with this belief. Paul assures them that there is ample proof of the resurrection of Jesus, as witnessed by Peter, the 12, the 500, by James and finally by Paul himself. A number of these witnesses were alive at that time and would willingly testify to this truth.
In this portion of his letter, Paul is laying the theological foundation for the belief in the resurrection from the dead, first for Jesus and then for all who believe in Him. This is the message Paul proclaimed to the Corinthians (15:1); this was the kerygma (the proclamation) of the early church. This was fundamental to their faith, as it is for us today.
Paul writes, “For I have handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn have received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scripture, and he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scripture” (15:3-4). (“Handed on” and “received’ are technical terms referring to the passing on of an established tradition.)
Their scripture was the Hebrew Bible, and Paul was thinking of passages from the Prophets such as Isaiah 53, Hosea 6 and Jonah 2. The early Christians read the Hebrew scriptures through Christian eyes!
It is important to read this passage in its context. Thus I would suggest that you read all of this 15th chapter. Indeed, as a Lenten preparation for Easter, you could read all of this first epistle to the church in Corinth. It is a fascinating read and will give you a glimpse into life of the first century church with its struggles and growing pains and all that they encountered.
Each year at Easter, we reaffirm the Good News that Christ has died for our sins and has risen for our salvation, giving us new life in Him. Easter is our story. As Christians, we have been baptized into His death and raised up in new life to follow this Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. We are an Easter people! Praise God for this, his greatest gift to us, the gift of the Risen Christ. Christ has risen indeed, Halleluiah! Have a blessed Easter.