I imagine most people don’t have a high opinion of the church at Corinth — we remember Paul responding to reports of poor practice during the Lord’s Supper, regarding the practice of spiritual gifts, sectarianism, and a lack of love highlighted in 1 Cor. 13.
However things had not always been bad in the church at Corinth. I got a totally different impression of them as I read the opening chapters of the First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthian church — Clement was Bishop of Rome and the Corinthians appear to have asked for some help (in case you don’t own your own copy it is available here and here to read online). The church was undoubtedly in a bad way but it had not always been so, in fact their demise appears to have been sudden and severe — surely there is a warning to all of us in such comments.
Below are the first two chapters that Clement wrote to them — I hope you, asI did, feel the joy, the vigorous faith and the love that had undoubtedly been a hallmark of this church in recent times. This was a place that surely lived out the name of their Lord and Saviour and on that I imagine most of us would experience His presence within.
Owing, dear brethren, to the sudden and successive calamitous events which have happened to ourselves, we feel that we have been somewhat tardy in turning our attention to the points respecting which you consulted us; and especially to that shameful and detestable sedition, utterly abhorrent to the elect of God, which a few rash and self-confident persons have kindled to such a pitch of frenzy, that your venerable and illustrious name, worthy to be universally loved, has suffered grievous injury. For who ever dwelt even for a short time among you, and did not find your faith to be as fruitful of virtue as it was firmly established? Who did not admire the sobriety and moderation of your godliness in Christ? Who did not proclaim the magnificence of your habitual hospitality? And who did not rejoice over your perfect and well-grounded knowledge? For ye did all things without respect of persons, and walked in the command-merits of God, being obedient to those who had the rule over you, and giving all fitting honour to the presbyters among you. Ye enjoined young men to be of a sober and serious mind; ye instructed your wives to do all things with a blameless, becoming, and pure conscience, loving their husbands as in duty bound; and ye taught them that, living in the rule of obedience, they should manage their household affairs becomingly, and be in every respect marked by discretion.
Moreover, ye were all distinguished by humility, and were in no respect puffed up with pride, but yielded obedience rather than extorted it, and were more willing to give than to receive? Content with the provision which God had made for you, and carefully attending to His words, ye were inwardly filled with His doctrine, and His sufferings were before your eyes. Thus a profound and abundant peace was given to you all, and ye had an insatiable desire for doing good, while a full outpouring of the Holy Spirit was upon you all. Full of holy designs, ye did, with true earnestness of mind and a godly confidence, stretch forth your hands to God Almighty, beseeching Him to be merciful unto you, if ye had been guilty of any involuntary transgression. Day and night ye were anxious for the whole brotherhood, that the number of God’s elect might be saved with mercy and a good conscience. Ye were sincere and uncorrupted, and forgetful of injuries between one another. Every kind of faction and schism was abominable in your sight. Ye mourned over the transgressions of your neighhours: their deficiencies you deemed your own. Ye never grudged any act of kindness, being “ready to every good work.” Adorned by a thoroughly virtuous and religious life, ye did all things in the fear of God. The commandments and ordinances of the Lord were written upon the tablets of your hearts.