by John Lowe
And Timothy our brother.
Timothy was Paul’s assistant. He had grown up in Lystra, a city in the province of Galatia. Paul had visited Galatia on his first missionary journey (Acts 14:8-21). During that trip, he most likely met Timothy’s mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois (2 Tim. 1:5). On his second visit to Lystra, Paul asked young Timothy to travel with him (Acts 16:1-5). Evidently, Paul saw in Timothy a willingness to cooperate with Christ’s plan and an enthusiasm for the Gospel. These were necessary characteristics for an early Christian missionary. Timothy agreed to join Paul and, subsequently, traveled all over the Mediterranean world with him, helping to establish churches where ever they went. Timothy courageously shared Paul’s suffering and ridicule. Although Paul had other helpers, such as Titus, he developed a special relationship with Timothy, calling him a “son in Christ” (Phil. 2:22).
At times, Paul would commission Timothy as an emissary to a specific church. Timothy had visited the church at Philippi (Phil. 2:19), the church in Thessalonica (1 Thess. 3:2), and other Macedonian churches (Acts 19:22) in that role. He had always functioned as Paul’s emissary to the Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians, Paul not only informed the Corinthians that Timothy would come to them, he also endorsed Timothy’s message: “For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church” (1 Cor. 4:17). Apparently, Paul was slightly apprehensive of sending Timothy to the Corinthians, so he reiterated in that letter that they should treat Timothy with due respect (1 Cor. 16:10). It becomes clear in 2 Corinthians that the Corinthian church—or some group in the church—had rejected Paul’s authority, so some scholars have suggested that Timothy was the one who was rejected. Because Timothy represented Paul and his message, Paul interpreted their rejection of Timothy as a rejection of his own message. Whatever the case, it was clear that the Corinthian church and Paul had a rocky relationship. Inevitably, Timothy as Paul’s assistant and emissary, would have received the brunt of the Corinthian’s criticism. In 2 Corinthians, Paul took special care to identify Timothy’s message as the same as his own message (1 Cor. 1:19). It is significant, therefore, that Paul mentions Timothy at the outset of his letter. Although at other times Paul identifies Timothy as a “son” (Phil. 2:22), here Paul identifies him as a brother in Christ—a person on an equal level, instead of a subordinate. He is named as coauthor, but he had nothing to do with the actual dictation of the letter. Paul may have done this to bolster Timothy’s authority among the Corinthians and to smooth over any hard feelings left from his recent visit—“Now if Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear; for he does the work of the Lord, as I also do” (1 Cor. 16:10).
To the church of God which is at Corinth.
The expression “church of God” means that it was an assembly of believers belonging to God. It was not a heathen assembly, or some nonreligious gathering of people, but a company of born-again Christians called out from the world to belong to the Lord. “The church of God” has yet another meaning here—this is God’s church we are talking about. I hear people say, “My church,” and sometimes they act as if it were their church. They forget it is God’s church, that it is the church of the Lord Jesus Christ which he purchased with His blood. In view of the fact that He paid such a price for the church, you and I better not be cheap Christians, expressing our little will in the church.
Paul founded the Corinthian church around A.D. 50 on his second missionary journey. The core of this church was a group of Gentiles who would gather at Titus Justus’s house to hear Paul preach. Since Justus’s house was right next to the synagogue in Corinth, it can be reasonably assumed that many of the Gentiles were God-fearers—in other words, Gentiles who had attended the services in the local synagogue before Paul started preaching. The fact that the Corinthian Jews actively opposed Paul’s preaching supports the assumption—(see Acts 18:6). These Jews were probably reacting to a loss in membership at their synagogue. They were so enraged over Paul’s preaching that they took action, filing a formal complaint with Gallio, the governor of the province of Achaia (see Acts 18:12-17). But Gallio refused to hear their complaint. He thought these Jews were merely presenting a feud between two different sects of Judaism before him. With Jewish opposition thwarted in Corinth, Paul was free to stay in the city for a year and a half. He spent that time preaching and teaching so that the Corinthians would be firmly established in the truths of Christ.
Doubtless, as Paul wrote these words, he remembered how he had first gone to Corinth and preached the gospel there. Men and women steeped in idolatry and sensuality had trusted Jesus Christ as Lord, and had been saved by his marvelous grace. In spite of all of the difficulties that had later come into the assembly at Corinth, the heart of the apostle doubtless rejoiced to think of the marvelous change which had come into the heart of these dear people.
With all the saints who are in all Achaia.
In the first century, the southern portion of Greece functioned as a political unit called Achaia. It was a province of the Roman Empire. The northern portion of Greece was governed separately and was called Macedonia.
Paul addressed this letter to all the Christians in Achaia because he viewed Corinth as the center of Christianity for that province. Most likely, Christians throughout Achaia were aware of the situation in the Corinthian church. By addressing this letter to all Achaians, Paul would make it clear to every Christion in that region what his stance was with respect to the controversial issues in the Corinthian church. Furthermore, Paul wrote this letter with general spiritual principles in mind. Paul’s passionate defense of his apostolic authority (2 Cor. 10:1-18) and his eloquent comparisons of the new covenant to the old covenant (2 Cor. 2:12-3, 18) could benefit all Christians.
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