Of all the churches that Paul founded we know most about the church in Corinth. Paul wrote a number of letters to the church there, two of which survive. The first of these is particularly informative, giving us all sorts of insight into what a Pauline church was like, and also into Paul's ministry.
What then was going on? What were the issues they faced, and how does Paul respond to them? We could answer these questions by working systematically through 1 Corinthians from the beginning; but I propose instead to start near the end of the letter and to look at Paul's discussion of the worship and spirituality of the Corinthian church, since this will give us clues that will illuminate other parts of the letter.
If this seems a topsy-turvy approach, maybe that is appropriate for what was a rather topsy-turvy church! But our starting point may also be justified from Paul's thanksgiving in 1.4–7, where he thanks God for the Corinthians and for the fact that 'you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed'. We notice from this that, like their Thessalonian neighbours, the Corinthians were looking forward to the return of the Lord; we observed before that 'Maranatha', an Aramaic cry for the Lord to come, was an important ingredient in their liturgy (16.22). But we also notice how Paul, as often, flags up key issues in his opening thanksgiving which he will come back to in the letter. One very important issue for the Corinthians was the issue of the Spirit.
If we could have gone along to the Corinthian church with a video camera on a Sunday (which is when they appear to have met for worship: 16.2), what would we have seen and heard? The answer is that we would have found a spiritually gifted church or, to use modern terminology, a 'charismatic' church, worshipping in an