Corinth was a wealthy city, and quite influential in the ancient world. When Paul first visited, in Acts 18, he landed himself––as he often did––in a legal tussle. The magistrate Gallio decided that since the friction was between the Jews and what––to him––seemed to be only a sect of the Jewish faith (i.e. the Christians)––that he had no business interfering with this dispute. This was an important precedent, and is a clear instance of God moving the heart of kings to His own ends. In this decree, it allowed Paul future freedom in other cities to teach the Gospel freely.
However, after the establishment of the church in Corinth, it would seem that Jewish Christians came along and began teaching a spin on the implications of the resurrection of Christ. They taught that the resurrection was the inauguration of the Israelite kingdom, and that the Gentiles were considered inferior in God’s eyes, unless they fully submitted to the Mosaic law. While these Jewish believers were right in declaring that Christ’s resurrection was the inauguration of His kingdom, they seem to have been still clinging to a position which the Jerusalem Council had already decided against. In essence, Gentiles and Jews were one in Christ, and Gentiles need not be circumcised.
These errant teachings stirred up a partisan spirit in the congregation. Which is why Paul opens his letter to them by rebuking this party-spirit and declaring that we are all under the headship of Christ. Further, there were other issues in the Corinthian church, as the scathing rebuke of the incestuous man in chapter 6 indicates. This certainly wasn’t contributing to a healthy church. Finally, the sign gifts were being sought after as proofs of greater spirituality, and thus contributing more to sectarianism than to unity.
It is striking that the false teaching about the resurrection, which stimulated Paul to write to the church, is the very topic he concludes the letter with. This return to the resurrection of Christ reminds us all that the Christian faith lives or dies by this important event. If Christ be not raised, we are to be pitied. However, if Christ be raised, it is the commencement of a new creation in which every nation, tribe, and tongue are to be joined together in Him as one body, with many members, all to the glory of the Father. The doctrine of the resurrection truly is foundational, and if it is being tinkered with, it is the duty of godly men to fight like hell against false interpretations of it.