The 1 Corinthians epistle is modeled on the Greco-Roman concord discourse. It was a form of oration and writing that implored divided factions to respect the natural hierarchal order of things. Only by submitting to the natural order of class and status could harmony be achieved.
Paul appeals to the Corinthians for order but his basis for doing is subversive.
Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. (1 Cor 1:10)
The basis of Paul’s appeal is their familial relationship as brothers and sisters, and is in opposition to the idea of keeping a hierarchy of class and status. Just as a Roman orator might implore his audience to be in harmony for the sake of Caesar, so does Paul appeal to their loyalty to Christ as a unifying commitment. Keep in mind who Christ is in Roman eyes: A crucified criminal. He is the one who “emptied himself of power.” (1:17) Instead of the all-powerful Caesar as the central figure, Paul inserts the lowly despised crucified criminal.
Paul goes on to make this reversal explicit:
18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. … 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Cor 1:18, 21-22)
Then, as Hellerman points out, Paul identifies his readers as examples of “God’s alternative cosmos.” (98):
26 Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29 so that no one might boast in the presence of God. 30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 in order that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord." (1 Cor 1:26-31)
The practical implications of living as brothers and sisters are spelled out later in the epistle. Possibly the most telling example is Paul’s instruction on marriage in Chapter 7. Hellerman reminds us that the Greeks and Romans were deeply concerned about the past and future of their kinship groups. (101) You honored your elders and ancestors, and you created new generations for the future. Paul writes:
3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. (1 Cor 7:3-4)
This idea of reciprocal authority in the marriage relationship regarding sex is a remarkable departure from male domination into treating each other as people with equal status. Then Paul goes on to give this advice to widows:
8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. 9 But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion. (1 Cor 7:8-9)
He acts as though unmarried widows have the right of self-determination apart from input by their male kin over what is best for the kinship group! This same self-determination is assumed with regard to believers married to unbelievers (male and female.) Then later in the chapter, he actually extols the single life, which means no continuation of a biological line!
The various social roles are still in evidence in the Christian community but the allegiance to the Greco-Roman kinship model is severed. Preserving family honor and continuing the family linage takes a subordinate position to discerning where God is leading and following as siblings in Christ. The old roles are entered into with a new orientation of being siblings in Christ with God as the paterfamilias of the household. Paul uses this epistle to demonstrate that the basis of concord within the Christian community is fictive family and to undermine allegiances to a world order of status and domination that is passing away.