Vegas Stole Its Town Motto from Corinth: “What Happens in Corinth Stays In Corinth” (Intro to Our Study of 1 Corinthians)

Posted: June 8, 2015 in 1 Corinthians
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1 Corinthians (Background) — There are cities today that are known for their wide-open lifestyles, Las Vegas and Amsterdam come immediately to mind. Las Vegas makes it part of their advertising campaigns by saying, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” If the city of Corinth back the 50’s (no, not the 1950’s, the original 50s, when our years only had two digits, had an advertising agency to draw in tourists, they may have used this phrase to describe their city.

Las Vegas and Corinth have some things in common. As you know, Las Vegas was a created city. It originally was simply a railroad crossing where two railroads met. It was not until the 1930s with the building of the Hoover Dam that it became a real city. With all that influx of unattached men, the city became ripe for raucous entertainment and increasingly degraded morality. Anything went in Vegas in those days. If you wanted to find immorality there, you did not have to look far. Although Vegas may have cleaned up its image a great deal in the last 20-30 years but Vegas is Vegas and if you are looking for immorality there, you can still find it with maybe just a little more effort than back in the wild days of the 1930’s-1970s.

Corinth was similar in that it was a created city. It had been destroyed by Rome in 146 BC and lied in ruins for around a century with virtually no inhabitants. However, in 46 BC, Julius Caesar saw its strategic importance as a seaport and how it could enrich the empire so he began to rebuild it. It quickly grew into a very cosmopolitan city and by the time Paul was there in 50 AD or so, it was a large thriving city. Because it was a seaport and was located on an isthmus between the Mediterranean Sea and the Aegean Sea, people from all over the Roman Empire and other non-Roman quadrants would on occasion pass through Corinth. It was kind of like the Atlanta airport – people from all over the place would be there at any given time. Add to that, it was home to a Temple to Aprhodite, the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation. Part of the worship at that temple included the ability to have sex with one of the thousands of temple prostitutes who worked at and often lived close around the temple. Additionally, sex of all kinds was easy to find in Corinth. Homosexuality was equally easy to find.

Needless to say, Corinth was a wide-open city with loose sense of morality. Things were so morally degraded there, to live a life of debauchery and sexual immorality was often referred to in the Roman Empire as “corinthianizing”. People from all over could come to Corinth and have a weekend like what was depicted in the movie, The Hangover. Las Vegas may even seem tame compared to Corinth. In Corinth sex was on full display. Amsterdam of today is very similar in the way that it advertizes sex in certain quarters of the city. It was the most unlikely of places to start a church plant. It was not the easiest place to start a church much less maintain one. With this backdrop, we find this canonical first letter to the church at Corinth. There were believed to have been four letters Paul wrote to this church during his Christian ministry but only the second and fourth ones are in the Bible as 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians. No wonder there were four letters to this church, it was in the sin city of all sin cities. Young Chrisitians in a city that glorified immorality and physical pleasures. It was a tough place to be a new Christian, especially those who had Roman or Greek backgrounds and did not grow up in the Jewish tradition.

Tomorrow, we will get into the first passage, but today I wanted us to understand a little bit about why this letter was written and in that fact we find something that we can identify with. Many of those who do not know Christ as their Savior and even sometimes those who are followers of Jesus often see the Bible as not speaking to issues that we deal with today. But the downright truth of it all is that man has not changed a whole lot between those days and now. Oh sure, the technology has changed. But the basic nature of man has not changed. When you read about the background of Corinth, you go, wow! Man, that’s not a whole lot different from the way things are now.

Corinth was not too different from the society in which we live today. We now live in a culture that glorifies sex outside of marriage. We now live in a society that glorifies homosexuality. We now live in a society that glorifies premarital and extramarital heterosexual sex. Anything went in Corinth. Anything goes now. Whatever felt good in Corinth, you did it. Whatever make you feel good today, you are beckoned to do it. Physical pleasures are glorified. The world tells us today that whatever makes us feel good we have an inalienable right to do it. In Corinth, those who saw sex as sacred between a husband and a wife were considered square and were most likely ridiculed. It was really hard being a new Christian in that environment and it raised many questions for them as to what being a Christian really means in a world that seems to be opposite of what Paul had taught them. Sound familiar?

That is the beauty of God’s Word. It is ageless and timeless. It is God’s Word after all. It spoke to man in the original 50s and it will speak to man in 2050. It is the inspired truth of our Creator. His Word will never change and that is something we can count on. That is something that we can count on in a world where the bar of morality is lowered with each generation. God is the same yesterday, today, tomorrow and forever. Man is the one who changes morality to fit his current needs and desires. So, let us dive into 1 Corinthians tomorrow and look the guidance of Paul to a church full of new Christians living in a world seeking self-pleasure. We will find that this letter to the church at Corinth could have easily been written to churches in 2015. See you back here tomorrow. And as Paul would often open his letters, “May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give your grace and peace!” See you manana!

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