Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: 1 Corinthians Studies|
Ch.1 - 4
General Introduction to this form of Bible Study
Before you start reading the Notes, may we recommend the following:
1. You pause and pray and ask for God's help for the Bible to come alive to you.
2. You have your Bible open infront of you and read the passage through completely first.
3. You work your way through the questions looking for answers in your Bible.
4. Then and only then, read through the commentary.
The primary objectives of these studies are a) to get you to read the Bible and b) to take in what you have read. At the end of each page of studies (normally a chapter) there will be a 'Recap' to remind you of what you have read. At the end of every 'set' (see the front Contents page) there will also be a 'Summary' and a 'Conclusions' that cover the pages in that set.
Chapters 1 to 4
Introduction to Chapters 1 to 9:
On his second missionary journey Paul had come to Corinth (see Acts 18:1 on) where he stayed for over a year and a half. There the church had been well established and he had obviously written to them once already (see 5:9,11) but we don't have that letter. Now, later on, two things prompted Paul to write to them yet again. First of all he had heard from some of them about some negative things that had been happening (1:11) and he wrote to deal with what had been told him. Second, the church itself had obviously written to him and he was replying to their questions (e.g. 7:1)
The Structure of these Studies
In line with what we have just said above, we can divide these studies into:
The Benefit of this Letter
This is a letter to a lively church about the problems that was troubling it. Any lively church is going to suffer difficulties from time to time, that is the nature of the Christian life. The problems that Paul deals with are common to any time and they give us a unique insight into the way the pastoral side of Paul's ministry worked.
PART ONE : “Division in the Church”
In this fairly lengthy first section (and we really do need to read it as a unified section of the letter) we will see the nature of the divisions that had been reported to Paul and the way he considered them. He doesn't just say “Don't have divisions”, but instead goes to some length to explain why there is no room for these sort of divisions and no room for exalting one leader above others. Watch out for the principles that Paul lays down in all this.
Chapter: 1 Cor 1
Passage: 1 Cor 1:1-3
A. Find Out:
1. How does Paul identify himself? v.1a
2. Why was he that? v.1b
3. What 2 groups of people does he write to? v.2
4. What 2 descriptions does he give of those in Corinth? v.2
5. How does he describe Jesus? v.2c
6. What blessing does he pronounce on them? v.3
In Paul's letters, his opening words and descriptions reflect something of what is coming. This is quite natural for he knows what is on his heart to write, and therefore even in his earliest words, there will be clues as to what is coming.
First, his DESCRIPTION OF HIMSELF: he writes as an apostle, one sent by Jesus to establish and build churches. There is a certain measure of fatherly authority in this. He reinforces it by saying his calling is from God. That is his authority. He comes to speak with authority into this church at Corinth.
Second, his DESCRIPTION OF HIS READERS: he gives three clues through three words. First “sanctified”, which means called and set apart by God to be different. Hint: this is what you should be like. Second, “holy”, which means set apart for God, to be like God and to be available to God. Hint: are you like God in your character? Third, “their Lord and ours”, a reminder that Christ is not merely Saviour, but he is also Lord, the one who owns, the one who commands, the one to whom we are called to be totally submissive. Each of these descriptions indicates the sort of church Paul expects them to be. They aren't!
A. Find Out:
1. Why did Paul thank God for them? v.4
2. For what had happened to them? v.5
3. What had happened, as Paul saw it? v.6
4. What didn't they lack and for what did they wait? v.7
5. What would Jesus do and with what result? v.8
6. And of what could they be sure? v.9
If Paul is going to do some telling off in this letter, it's going to come in an attitude of love. He lets them know from the outset that he's thankful for them, and that should make them feel good. He is aware of the extent of God's grace that has come to them. In what they say and in what they know it is clear that they have received much from the Lord. What the apostles testified, about the salvation of the Lord, has been proved in them. They have been blessed in abundance by God and they have in their church many spiritual gifts from God.
Yet there is also a hint that the Lord hasn't finished with them and they are only part way along the path in their walk with Him. Whether Jesus being revealed is a reference to the Lord's return or to Him being made manifest through His church is not made clear. Whatever it is, it is clear that it hasn't happened yet, but God will keep them and continue to bless them and make them strong in Him so that they will not fall and will not sin, and so will be blameless when they do eventually meet with Him, for He is faithful and will keep them. Even if they have areas of failure, He hasn't given up on them. Us too?
A. Find Out:
1. What did Paul ask, with what 2 consequences? v.10
2. Who had told him what? v.11
3. What had people been saying? v.12
4. What did he ask? v.13
5. How did he disassociate himself from this? v.14-16
6. What was he sent to do, how and why? v.17
The first of the problems that Paul addresses in Corinth is one that has come to his hearing through someone actually there in Corinth . Later (chapter 7) he will respond to a letter they have written to him as a church, but for now he deals with what has been passed on, presumably by some who had come to him (16:17), who he had met in their travels.
The problem is that of partisanship, of having favourites in the church. In a day when we have access to speakers through TV, videos and audio tapes, the Christian community is still prone to this. God does not want us to follow “big names”, only Christ! It becomes akin to idol worship when an individual or organisation becomes more the source of an individual's excitement than Christ does!
Paul is horrified. Count me out of this “favourites race” is basically what he says. I baptised hardly any of you, don't look to me as a great name, don't squabble over me! No, says Paul, I've only been sent to preach the Gospel, and that not in any great eloquent way so that the glory won't be taken away from Christ. It wasn't to be the abilities of a man by which people were saved! God forbid!!!!
A. Find Out:
1. For whom is the Cross foolishness and what to who else? v.18
2. What had God said previously? v.19
3. What has God now done? v.20b
4. What wasn't the world able to do through wisdom? v.21a
5. Yet how does God save people? v.21b
6. What did Jew & Greek want & how did they respond? v.22,23
Remember Paul has been speaking about the need for unity and the folly of arrogantly and proudly declaring for different leaders. He ended with reference to the Cross, and now he is moving on to show the weakness and humility of the Gospel message, with the inference that that is what needs to be at the heart of each of us.
He makes a number of assertions: first, that the message of Christ dying on the Cross is foolishness in the eyes of proud, intellectual men, for in their self confidence they can see no need for it.
Second, for the person who is aware of their state, aware that they are lost, it comes as a straw to be grasped by the drowning man.
Third, he observes that God has not revealed Himself to man through their searching for wisdom, for that is so often a self-centred quest. God has revealed Himself and that not through clever logical reasoning, it has to be received by faith.
Fourth, the preaching of the Cross is THE way that God has designed for men to come to Him and be saved.
Fifth, that Jews want to know through supernatural signs and Greeks look for clever thinking, but the simple fact of the Cross upsets the Jews (who don't see how it fits in with their understanding of their religion), or is rejected by the Greeks who can't see the sense of it.
A. Find Out:
1. What is Christ to those who are called by God? v.24
2. How is God compared to man? v.25
3. What does Paul then point out about them? v.26
4. Who did God choose for what purpose? v.27,28
5. What has Christ become for us? v.30
6. How does all this limit us? v.29,31
When we speak of “the Cross” we are using shorthand for “the death on a cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ”. In those hours of history two things were revealed: first the power of God as He raised His Son from the dead and, second, the wisdom of God as He revealed His means of making unrighteous men righteous. God's ways in all this leave man's puny intellect reeling. We couldn't have dreamt this up and indeed we even struggle with it when we've been told it!
The fact is that God chose a method of salvation that does not rely on a person being clever or strong, in fact being clever and strong often means a person is more self-reliant and finds it more difficult to surrender to God. It is weak people, poor people, who so often recognise their need first, these are the people who come gladly to embrace the Cross and who are changed. There is no room for anyone to boast about how they've achieved their own salvation, for it is a matter of receiving what God says about the Cross, and that only comes through an act of humility!
The wonder of the Cross is that through it Jesus has brought a way for
A. Find Out:
1. How had Paul NOT come? v.1
2. What had he resolved? v.2
3. How had he come? v.3
4. How had his message NOT come? v.4a
5. How had it come? v.4b
6. Why? v.5
Paul has just explained how the message itself is a message of foolishness to the world. He now explains how the messenger and the delivery of the message were also not in accord with the way the world would do it. Remember, he is still seeking to lay down a foundation to contrast the attitudes of strength in the church there that had caused division. If they heed this, then there is no room for such attitudes.
First he rejects the way that the world would come. He had not come with clever words, great wisdom, or persuasiveness. These are the ways we perhaps would prefer, but that was not Paul's way.
Next he reminds them how he had come. First he reminds them of his message: Jesus Christ and him crucified. As he has already said that is a message that is considered folly by those who feel strong and wise. Second he declares how he had felt: weak! This great apostle (as we often think of him) came feeling very weak and with fear, yes fear! He had not come with great confidence, but instead with trembling. But he had come! So, now they could look back and realise that their belief was not based on Paul's great character, but simply on the power of the word that came with the anointing of the Spirit. What a contrast this seems to how we so often go about it!
A. Find Out:
1. Who will or will not receive Paul's wisdom? v.6
2. What more does Paul tell us about this wisdom? v.7a
3. When did God decide it? v.7b
4. How did world rulers show they didn't understand it? v.8
5. What had been previously prophesied? v.9
6. Yet how was it revealed to us? v.10
Paul continues to write about God's wisdom and he tells us a number of things about it. First of all this wisdom is contrary to the wisdom of the world. We have seen previously that it was all about sending Jesus to die on the Cross, which is folly to the strong person. The ‘mature' in this passage are those who are mature spiritually, and that only comes through weakness and willingness to acknowledge personal failure and need. But the rulers of the world of the Middle East had not understood what was happening and that was why they crucified Christ.
Second, this wisdom is described as ‘secret'. Elsewhere (e.g. Col 2:2) Paul refers to it as a ‘mystery', something which was not comprehended by man until then. Within this, note also that it was something God planned long before the foundation of the world (see also Jn 17:24 , Eph 1:4, 1 Pet 1:20 , Rev 13:8, 2 Tim 1:9, Tit 1:2).
The third thing to note is that this hidden wisdom was only finally received by man when the Holy Spirit came and He imparted understanding to the apostles (e.g. Jn 14:26, 15:26, 16:13). Today we understand because the Holy Spirit imparts that to us in the same way.
A. Find Out:
1. What does the Holy Spirit know? v.11
2. What have we received and why? v.12
3. What did Paul say they taught? v.13
4. Why doesn't the non-Christian receive the Spirit's words? v.14
5. What does he say about the ‘spiritual man'? v.15
6. What question had been posed & how is it now answered? v.16
Paul has just said (v.10) that the mystery hidden for ages past, that was fulfilled in Christ on the Cross, has been revealed to us by means of the Holy Spirit. Now he explains that.
First he explains about the BRINGER of the message, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit alone knows the mind of God, because He is the third person of the trinity.
Second, he explains about the RECEIVER of the message, us. We have received the Holy Spirit when we came to God in repentance and received His salvation. It is the Holy Spirit who teaches us and gives us understanding of all that has happened, and so when Paul preached about the Cross he was able to say that it was the Spirit who gave him the words of truth about the Cross. Many preachers would identify with this that, as they preach, the Spirit gives them understanding, even in the act of preaching. So it was for Paul.
Obviously, says Paul, the unbeliever can't understand these things because they haven't received the Spirit and don't have the help in understanding. The man with the Spirit weighs up all things and comes to an understanding as the Spirit enables, but the non-Christian is still “in the dark” and can't see the sense of it all.
A. Find Out:
1. How did Paul view them & how had he treated them? v.1,2
2. How did he view them and why? v.3,4
3. How did he answer that? v.5
4. What different roles did he describe? v.6
5. What conclusion did he draw? v.7
6. What pictures did he use of them? v.9
In 1:10 Paul had starting speaking against the divisions he had heard about in the Corinthian church. In this he had gone on to show that the message of the Cross and the way of it's delivery was the way of humility and weakness, the inference being that they had no room to boast about anything, or even take sides with any particular preacher. Now he returns more directly to the matter of divisiveness.
First of all he says it is a sign of their worldliness, of their immaturity. When he came to them he taught them as little children, for so they were when they first came to Christ. The trouble is that they haven't grown up, they are still like little children with their petty squabbling over who is the best preacher.
Look, says Paul, take note of a few simple facts: first each of us is only a servant of God. Second, whatever gifting we have it has been given by God, and that for a limited purpose. Third, whatever that purpose, it is God Himself who brings life and growth, so (implied) don't give us any glory. We're just workers for God, you are the place of Hs planting, you are the building He is forming, we are just workers there in the background to bring forth something great.
A. Find Out:
1. What had Paul done and what had followed? v.10
2. What had been the foundation ? v.11
3. What variety of “materials” could be used to build on? v.12
4. How will their quality be revealed? v.13
5. What will happen if it survives? v.14
6. What will happen if it is destroyed? v.15
The gist of this passage can perhaps be summed up as “the reality of the various ministries you have been arguing over will be revealed in God's time and (by implication) I shouldn't make to much of them until God does that”.
Paul knows his own role: to put down the foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to bring people into the kingdom of God . Other people had different roles: to build on that foundation and to establish, teach and mature the new disciples. Paul makes the point at the outset that what he did he did by the pure grace of God, and therefore, by implication, all other ministries should also be recognised as coming by the grace of God and not the strength or wisdom of man. There is no room here to glorify man, no room for division.
To emphasise that, Paul goes on to warn that each of their works or ministries will be shown up for what it really is on the day when testing comes. This is not the Day of the Return of the Lord but the Day of Testing. When a disciple is tested will they stand in the face of difficult circumstances. If they stand, the leader's ministry will be validated and he will be given the satisfaction of seeing it. If they fall then the leader will anguish over the inadequacy of his ministry.
A. Find Out:
1. What are we and why? v16
2. And what does Paul say about that? v.17
3. What should the “wise” do? v.18
4. How does God view the “wisdom” of the world? v.19,20
5. So what instruction does Paul give? v.21a
6. With what supporting reason? v.21b,22
Paul has just shown that all the various ministries over which they are arguing all came from God. Now he reminds them that the church itself is God's dwelling place, because the Holy Spirit dwells in each Christian. So, he says, if you destroy the church with all your arguing and divisions, you destroy the place where God lives and God will come and deal with you for it is a sacred place, belonging to Him.
Then he goes back to talking about the so-called wisdom of the world. They obviously thought of themselves as mature Christians, wise in outlook. “You joke!”, is virtually what Paul is saying. Wisdom, as the world sees it, is seen as pure folly by God. It just leads men into pride and foolish living and to destruction. Men, whoever they are, left to themselves, are in a hopeless mess.
There is no room to boast over men. If they are spiritual and have a ministry that is purely because it is a gift of God (see Rom 12:3,6). Apart from that they have nothing of lasting value, so cut out the boasting of being a follower of this man or that one. Look, he goes on, (by implication) the Spirit is yours and all things are yours that you need in Christ. You have no need to lay claim to the blessings that have come from a particular man's ministry. All things are yours in Christ.
A. Find Out:
1. How did Paul say apostles should be regarded? v.1
2. And what is required of them? v.2
3. What was Paul's view about himself in this? v.3,4
4. Yet what did he say not to do, and why? v.5
5. What had he done and for what cause? v.6
6. What conclusion does he reach? v.7
Paul still pursues this whole question of division in the church because of rivalries. If you look at us apostles, he says, see us simply as servants of God (and by implication, no more!). We've been given the responsibility, he continues, of imparting the truth hidden from the past and as such we are required to be faithful and are held accountable. I'm quite happy, he goes on, to be assessed by anyone in this matter, for my conscience is quite clear, although I'm aware that that isn't the final arbiter, the Lord is.
Look, he goes on, don't you go judging and extolling us, leave it to the Lord to do that at the appropriate time when He returns. He will reveal what is good and what is not and reward accordingly, so leave it up to him, don't you go assessing and glorifying men. Just remember that everything we have comes from God so we have no room to boast about anything we have or anything we do, because it is all his.
In all this Paul shows clearly that there is no room to go assessing ministries with a view to extolling and praising them, for they all come from God and He alone is worthy of our praise.
A. Find Out:
1. What does Paul say his readers have become? v.8
2. Yet how does he describe the apostles by contrast? v.9
3. What 3 further contrasts does he give? v.10
4. How does he describe the state of the apostles? v.11
5. What does he say about how they act? v.12,13a
6. How does he finally describe them? v.13b
Remember Paul has just been saying that they should not assess different ministries but leave it up to the Lord to do and to give praise to his servants. Now he continues by showing how the apostles' ministry is not something glamorous, not something worthy of adulation, and certainly not something not to be the basis of argument.
First he describes the state of the ordinary church member there in Corinth : rich rulers, wise, strong, honoured. Is all that true? Well, at least in comparison to the apostles on a worldly scale it is, and he is talking to worldly people remember. They think so well of themselves so it's almost as if Paul humours them.
Then he describes the life of an apostle by contrast. They are there to be seen by all and sundry as slaves of Christ, fools in the eyes of the world for what they do and say, weak, having to completely rely on Christ. Frequently dishonoured and rejected by men. Often hungry and thirsty not knowing where the next supply is coming from. Often in rags, having no home, badly treated. Yet in it all they are ambassadors for Christ so when they are cursed they bless in return, when slandered they answer pleasantly. They are seen as outcasts, as the dregs of the world, certainly not worthy of adulation!!!
A. Find Out:
1. Why was Paul writing? v.14,15
2. What did he ask them to do and how would he help them? v.16,17
3. What had happened? v.18
4. So what would Paul do? v.19
5. What did he say about the kingdom? v.20
6. What two ways could he come? v.21
As Paul draws to an end of his writing about their divisions, he uses gentle but firm language. He addresses them as his children, for he is their father. He was the one who had come and preached the Gospel to them and been the means of them coming to salvation. He had taught and nurtured them, therefore he had a unique place in their history, he had a unique relationship out of which he could speak.
He has spoken much about the life of an apostle, and now he is able to say imitate me. Not only that he will send Timothy to them to remind them of his lifestyle. That is an amazing challenge. How many of us can say, imitate me?
Finally he says he intends to come and see them again if that is possible in the Lord's will, and when he comes he will sort out these arrogant people with their brash words. OK, he says, let's see if all they have is words. I come with the Lord's power and authority, for that's what the kingdom is all about; let's see if they have it as well and (by implication) if they haven't watch out! Also by implication, he says, sort yourselves out before I come. I can come with discipline and pain or I can come with love and gentleness. Which do you want? He has done much explaining but now ends with a strong challenge.
In this first group of 14 studies we have seen Paul write about :
All of the above proclaim the same message: there is no room for divisions in the church because of preferring leaders!
1. We must not allow divisions in the church.
2. We must not argue about which leader is best.
3. All ministries are God-given, so there is no room for comparisons.
4. All gifts are God-given, so there is no room for boasting
Thank the Lord that He has given us the gifts in the church.
PART 2 : "Immorality & Marriage"
In this next Part Paul covers the second issue that he has heard about, that of immorality in the church. Again, watch his careful arguing over this new subject.