Who is the Christ of First Corinthians?
Paul's letter to the Corinthians provides many insights into the lives of members of the early Church. He attempts to correct many sinful habits and deeds that the people have begun to commit. In doing so, he gives examples from his own life, as well as from the life of Jesus, in an attempt to show the Corinthians the error of their ways. The Christ that Paul describes is the embodiment of Wisdom and Love, yet he also takes on the roles of Nurturer, Foundation and Judge of the Church of God.
Certain people during the life of Jesus Christ were considered educated and wise. For the most part, these people also were the rulers, or powerful members of the community. For during this time, knowledge generally meant power. Not all people had access to this knowledge though. Only the rich or nobly born were able to spend the time learning. However, they were spending time learning the wrong information.
The rulers of the time had spent their entire life learning how to control others so as to increase their personal wealth. They had been consumed by their lust for greed and power. When Jesus Christ came proclaiming the word of God, he was branded a fool by these so called "wise men." Throughout his life, these people attempted to discredit all of his work and teachings. Eventually, he was taken by these rulers and crucified for his so called crimes. "To the world the wisdom of God is folly and weakness, but to those who are being saved, Christ crucified is the power and wisdom of God. (Matera, 94)" When Jesus was crucified, Paul discovered the paradoxical intentions of God. God intended that his wisdom and glory be revealed through the foolishness of the educated man.
"Rather we speak God's wisdom, mysterious, hidden, which God predetermined before the ages for our glory, and which none of the rulers of this age knew, for, if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1Cor 2:7-8)" The hidden mystery that Paul talks of is the promise of eternal life. For most, this mystery is veiled from sight and comprehension. Only once Christ is embraced fully with an unyielding faith can the hidden be brought out into the light.
Paul also says that Jesus Christ is the Power of God. Paul goes to Corinth in order to spread the message of Christ. He goes not with fancy words and proclamations, but with his faith and a message that rings true in every sense. ". . .so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God. (1Cor 2:5)" There are also many instances throughout the bible of Jesus preforming miracles: a blind man healed so he could see, lepers cured of their horrible disease, and Lazarus returning to life from the grave. It is only because God had given Christ such power that he could preform such wondrous acts. In addition to his miracles, Christ also had the power to forgive. When he said that sins will be forgiven, they were. Even with his dying breath, Jesus demonstrated the love and power of God. "When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him and the criminals. . .Then Jesus said, ‘Father forgive them, they know not what they do.' (Luke 23:33-34)"
In addition to being a source of spiritual wisdom for the people, Jesus is also love. In one of the most beautiful chapters in Corinthians, Paul addresses the idea of love itself. ". . . if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. (1Cor 13:2)" According to Paul, love is the most important gift that God bestowed upon us all. In sharing His love with us, we are able to share it with one another. It takes the form of mercy, kindness and compassion. Love is even the driving force behind the Ten Commandments. Love thy neighbor is the most important commandment. If you have love, you will not be inclined to steal, kill or hurt others. Love is a driving force throughout Christianity. Jesus died on the cross for us because he had such love for humanity. Never did he raise a hand in anger or wrong another. Paul says that love is patient, kind, and never fails (1Cor 13:4-8). "It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1Cor 13:7)" Though Paul is talking about love here, he also is talking of Jesus. For he embodied all of these things perfectly. During Jesus' entire life he showed nothing but love and mercy for man. Even when dying on a cross, he had nothing but love and forgiveness. The thief, Dismas, who asked Jesus to save him a place in heaven was forgiven on the spot because Jesus was so full of love.
One of the disputes that Paul was attempting to solve in Corinth was "ownership" of a church going individual. People would say to one another, "I belong to Paul. . .I belong to Apollos. (1Cor 4:4)" Paul corrects their misconception by describing Christ as a nurturer. Paul describes himself and Apollos as ministers of God (3:5). The analogy of a seed growing is one Paul uses to describe his role in the church. "I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. (3:6)" Here, Christ is the being that gives life and spirit to everything. Workers might come before and ready the field. They provide an environment that is conducive to growth, but only the Lord can cause that seed to grow. Such is the way of the church. Paul describes himself as one of these workers, not as one who causes growth. So no man is able to possess or own another. All allegiance is owed to Christ, to God. A mere man cannot have any such power over another.
Another title that Paul bestows upon Christ is the foundation of the church. ". . . for no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ. (3:11)" Paul says that anyone can build upon this foundation, but only those that are worthy will remain. The unworthy additions will be destroyed along with its creator (3:10-15). The crucifixion of Christ was the final step in laying the foundation of the church. All through his life, Jesus was laying stone after stone, but it never was completed. His death and resurrection completed his work.
Paul recognized that the Corinthians were real people with real problems. In an attempt to bring a sense of order to their lives, Paul founded a small church there. When that church began to go astray, he wrote them a letter detailing the life and story of Jesus Christ. To Paul, Christ was everything. Paul's life revolved around serving the will of God and spreading the wisdom of God. It was his hope, that by imparting some of his knowledge on the Corinthian church, they could be turned toward the right path again. For Paul knew that Christ was the most important being that ever had walked the earth. He was God made flesh, so Christ possessed the qualities of God. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul points out and elaborates on several of the traits that he considers crucial: wisdom, power, love, a nurturer and the foundation.