SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
1 Corinthians 1:1 through 4:21
KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” (1 Corinthians 1:10)
The city of Corinth was one of the most prosperous Greek cities in Paul’s time. In this wicked society, Paul and his contemporaries planted a church. While there were some Jewish believers in the church, it was made up mostly of Gentiles with a pagan background.
The Apostle Paul had labored diligently in the city of Corinth, but after his departure, many problems surfaced, and division spread in the church. Soon, reports of these problems came to Paul, and a delegation of Corinthians brought a letter from the church requesting his guidance on a number of issues. Paul’s first letter, comprised of basic instructions to the church, was a response to those questions.
Paul was writing to a church in which some members were not doing as well as others spiritually. Possibly, some in attendance had not yet been converted. Some were saved but not yet sanctified. Others were sanctified but not yet filled with the Holy Ghost. Others had all three foundational spiritual experiences, yet were unwise in their use of the Spirit-endowed gifts they possessed. Paul’s goal was to point all of them to higher ground. Today, too, we have the same goal every time we hold a church service. Some comments may be directed to sinners, but that does not mean everyone in the meeting is a sinner. The spiritual level of those in the audience is varied, and so it was in the Corinthian church.
Paul began his epistle by addressing the need for unity and exhorting those in the church to resolve their differences. He reminded his readers that the Cross of Jesus Christ must be the foundation of His Church, and he asked them, “Is Christ divided?” He passionately encouraged the Corinthians to reconcile — to lay aside their selfish desires and personal preferences, and “grow up” in the faith.
Satan, the enemy of the Church, has not disappeared. He still would like to cause divisions within the church body. Like the Corinthians, we are called to live in peace with other believers. As Paul knew, unity is critical in a successfully functioning church!
SUGGESTED RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS
- What was the initial point of dissension in the Corinthian church that Paul addressed in his letter? (1 Corinthians 1:12)
Factions in the church were supporting different leaders and styles of worship. Each group thought its leader was superior, its teaching most profound, and its members most distinguished.
- In order to live in harmony with other believers, certain behaviors are required. What three things did Paul admonish the Corinthians to do in order to maintain oneness? (1 Corinthians 1:10) How can we be sure that we have an attitude of unity toward fellow Christians?
Believers were admonished to “speak the same thing,” to allow for “no divisions” between them, and to “be perfectly joined together” in the same mind and judgment. Bring out to your class that the word division comes from the word schisma, meaning “to separate, to rip, to tear, to split.” In contrast, the word translated perfectly joined was also sometimes used to mean “knitting together fractured bones.” Discussion should bring out that unity does not mean every individual has the same personal tastes, perspectives, and preferences. It is possible to differ without being divisive. Paul wanted the Corinthians to have an attitude of flexibility and oneness, rather than each individual doing what was right in his own eyes. Ask: If there are areas in our lives that might cause disunity, how should these areas be addressed?
- What does it mean to have “the mind of Christ,” as opposed to worldly wisdom? (1 Corinthians 2:16) How will possessing the mind of Christ affect unity within the church?
Having the “mind of Christ” is following the teachings of the Lord. It is seeing things as God sees them, valuing what He values, and hating what He hates. Worldly wisdom can be obtained through investigation, research, or experience, but the Bible is our resource for knowing God’s perspective. While no one can fully comprehend God, believers have insight into His nature, plans, thoughts, and actions through Scripture. When believers have the mind of Christ, unity will be a natural result, because as Paul established in chapter 1 verse 13, Christ is not divided.
- At the beginning of chapter 3, Paul refers to the Corinthian believers as “babes” in their spiritual lives. How would you define a “babe” in Christ? How does a “babe” differ from one who is spiritually mature?
Spiritual infants can only “drink milk” (understand the simple, elementary truths of the Gospel). In contrast, a spiritually mature person is able to accept and discern the things that come from the Spirit of God. Paul identifies a mature Christian as one who can “eat solid food” (understand the deeper truths of the Gospel). Bring out to your class the importance of new converts continuing to grow in their spiritual lives. Even after we are saved, sanctified, and baptized with the Holy Spirit, we still have lessons to learn, and godly attributes to develop.
- Paul said he could not address some of those who attended the church in Corinth as spiritual people because they were still carnal. How was their carnality manifested? (1 Corinthians 3:3-4)
The envy, strife, and divisions among some in the Corinthian church were manifestations of carnality. Bring out to your class that “carnality” refers to the carnal or Adamic nature of man. When a person prays through to salvation, he receives the assurance that his sins have been forgiven and the Lord will not hold them against him any longer. He has been pardoned: absolved from the wrongdoing in his past. Still, there remains in him that carnal nature from which those deeds sprang in the first place. That is why sanctification is needed. Salvation deals with the acts and guilt of committed sins, while sanctification deals with the nature of sin, the inward tendency inherited from Adam.
- In 1 Corinthians 3:23, Paul says that believers “are Christ’s.” What does that imply regarding our actions and attitudes as they relate to the maturing process?
The key thought behind this question is that if we belong to Him, we should be like Him. Ask your students to list the qualities of God that will be reflected in our lives if we are “Christ’s.” For example, we know that God is love, so if we are “Christ’s,” love will be the motivating factor behind all of our actions and attitudes. We will exemplify a compassionate, caring behavior to all, and this will preclude anything that would contribute to division in the church.
A follow-up point could be made that Paul obviously saw a need for the Corinthians to have further instruction in this matter. The fact is, wherever we are spiritually, we need to be open to instruction.
- According to 1 Corinthians 4:12-13, Paul and the other Apostles had suffered deeply at the hands of some individuals. Identify three forms of negative treatment that they had received. How did the Apostles choose to react? What can this teach us about how to deal with those who oppose us?
Being reviled, they blessed. Being persecuted, they suffered [allowed] it. Being defamed, they entreated. Ask your class to describe a natural response to being reviled, persecuted, and defamed. Lead them in a discussion of how the Apostles’ reaction helped to build unity rather than tear it down. Conclude this question by drawing some analogies to current-day situations in which we can exercise the same heart as the Apostles.
There is a big difference between knowing the Gospel and living the Gospel, and part of “living it” is getting along in peace and love with our fellow believers. Let us do our part to build unity in the Body of Christ!