Part II, Introduction – Literary Analysis

Literary Analysis

With a clear view of the information we gleaned in our exegetical approach to the Corinthian letters, we can more distinctly hear and understand what Paul said to the recipient’s particular situation.  Exegesis is concerned with the “then and there.”  We do historical and literary analysis under the banner of exegesis.  From what we hear him say to their unique situation we can learn many divine principles.  Of course, we must understand the content of each sentence.  Now we are speaking about literary analysis.  We ask questions like; “Why did he say what he said here in this block of scripture?”  We think about what he said and then how this principle functions to solve the problem(s) in the Corinthian church we learned about in Part I.

We can apply these principles to similar situations that may arise in our own encounters in the church and the world realm.  We bring divine principles to the here and now – this is what hermeneutics means.  This is how we find the wisdom of God (I Cor. 1:20, 21).  It is not within mankind to know and to think on the level of God’s wisdom; therefore, we must do good literary analysis (I Cor. 1:25).

There are two other principles we apply for good interpretation.  One, we need to follow the style of the writer as we read through the document.  We will be careful to do this as we progress through the letters.  The other principle is we need to know what they knew.  Paul spent a year and a half in Corinth teaching the wisdom of God to this young church.  He told them about life in God’s kingdom and the graces based on the cross (Acts 18:11).

What was of “first importance” was, as he said; “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”  I Cor. 6:11.  This required the wisdom of God (I Cor. 1:30).  Faith in His wisdom is the power of the cross (I Cor. 1:17; 15:1-4).  This is the grace of God based on the cross of Jesus and mankind’s faith in the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God (II Cor. 5:21).  Because Paul said “this is of first importance” did not mean it was “all that is important.”  Some preachers would lead people to believe the cross of Jesus is the symbol for the Christian religion.  Satan would have us believe faith in the cross will keep us out of hell and get us into heaven.  The fact is, faith in the cross gives us peace with God, as well as ourselves, so we can overcome selfishness and share in His glory (II Cor. 5:15; Rom. 5:1, 2).

There are many other elements of the Christian religion we must know about and accept in faith before the practice of baptism will accomplish a new birth (I Cor. 1:13-17).  Paul had taught all these other important things to the church at Corinth.  Before we can fully understand what he is saying to them we need to know what they knew or should have remembered.  Paul merely mentioned some of these great “wisdoms of God” doctrines because he assumed they remembered what he had taught them.  If we don’t know what Paul thought they knew, we will need to “catch up” on what they knew.

Paul often referred to the four capacities of a human being in these letters.  He revealed God’s nomenclature of a human being – the mind, heart and conscience all wrapped up in a perishable body.  These three constitute the spirit of mankind – a spirit that came from God and will return to God (Heb. 12:9; Eccl. 12:7).  This is each person’s “treasure in jars of clay.”  II Cor. 4:7.  Evidently, he had fully taught the Corinthians about these capabilities.  They are the separate entities that make up a human being.  God speaks to these capacities He created in us.  The content of these letters must be interpreted in the context of how God created us.  How could a Gentile have imagined his spirit knew his thoughts unless Paul had taught him or her (I Cor. 2:11)?  Lesson One in Part II is entitled “A Living Being.”  I Cor. 15:45.

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