Andrew Wilson, Teaching Pastor at King’s Church London, UK, has authored the 1 Corinthians volume in The Good Book Company’s God’s Word For You commentary series, one intended to read, feed, and lead you through books of the Bible.
- Read—you can read the book as you would a normal book. Wilson explains the themes, encouragements, and challenges of 1 Corinthians.
- Feed—You can use this for your personal devotions or for your own study.
- Lead—You can use this to lead a Bible study.
Verse references are marked in bold, and any words used rarely in everyday language outside of the church are marked in gray. The book is twelve chapters long, a nice way of condensing Paul’s long letter.
I’ve reviewed a few books by Wilson before (Unbreakable, Echoes of Exodus) and I really enjoy his stuff (read him at Think Theology). Wilson notes that unlike some of Paul’s other letters (like Galatians and Philippians), in 1 Corinthians Paul spends a lot of time talking about a lot of different topics. This letter summarizes central themes of the Christian faith: the cross, grace, God, mission, love, the gospel, and hope (7). Because of the sin and chaos that went on in this church as well as Paul’s response to it, we get a clue as to how spiritual gifts function in Christian worship, how church services worked, and how the Lord’s Supper was done (at least, in part). As Wilson writes, “The Corinthians were a mess, and God loved them anyway” (8). 1 Corinthians drips with grace. Paul had spent 18 months with these people, yet his letter is filled with tenderness and affection for God’s people.
Wilson writes that the church was probably no larger than 200 people in a city of 40,000-60,000 people. Seeing that there were roughly 100 Christians to 50,000 non-believers “might encourage us to realize how similar those numbers are to the situation of many churches today—and it might help us understand how outnumbered the christians were and what implications that had for the life of the church” (9). Unlike other letters we read, it appears as though “the boundaries between the church and the world had disappeared” (9). The Corinthians were incorporating a “pagan, promiscuous, competitive and idolatrous culture” into their faith and church” (9).
In all of this mess, the cross brings us salvation. The mutilated corpse that hung on a cross—what once symbolized Roma Victor—now means Christus Victor because that corpse rose again. Jesus brings honor to those who believe in him, people who have often been the most shamed in society. He returned the ethical frame of reference right-side up again, and we feel this today.
In regards to chapter 11 and head coverings, Wilson gives five of the issues over which scholars debate:
- Was the head covering a hood/veil or was it the women’s hair?
- Why is he concerned about it?
- What exactly does the “head” metaphor mean?
- This passage contains a few “theological curveballs” that would be challenging if they were found in any other passage:
- “the head of christ is God” (11:3),
- “woman is the glory of man” (11:7),
- “because of the angels” (11:10).
- This is a difficult passage for us today because talking about the relations and differences between men and women are extremely controversial.
- So what are we supposed to do with this passage?
Before diving into the passage, Wilson briefly puts forth his opinion of what is going on and why it matters. In regards to the “head” metaphor, though someone who is the “head” could be in authority over another and/or, just as God is the “head” he is the “source” of everything, Paul’s “head” metaphor deals with honor and shame. The “head” is “the one whose reputation is either honoured or shamed by the actions of others” (119). So if a man prophesies with his hood/veil one, he dishonors his head—Christ. If a woman does so with her hood/veil off, she dishonors her head—her husband. This stems from the creation account.
But Paul doesn’t say men are superior and women are inferior. They are both dependent on the Lord and need each other to flourish (121). Paul wrote this to distinguish between men and women and how they dress, “and to avoid a sexually provocative or maritally inappropriate appearance in gathered worship” (123).
Wilson writes clearly and is able to simplify big ideas. He believes spiritual gifts such as the gifts of tongues and prophecy continue today, and he makes a good case for it. He trusts the Bible and it’s authority, and he uses good illustrations, asks good questions, and keeps the grace and cross of Jesus at the center. This book would be very helpful to any lay-level Christian trying to understand 1 Corinthians.
- Series: God’s Word For You
- Author: Andrew Wilson
- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: The Good Book Company (August 1, 2021)
- Look Inside
Buy the Book on Amazon or from The Good Book Company
Disclosure: I received this book free from The Good Book Company. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.