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Table of Contents
How to Read and Study this Book ............................................................ 5
DIVISIONS IN THE CHURCH...............................................................7
The Believer’s Struggle .............................................................................. 9 The Reason for the Letter .........................................................................10 Greetings: Our Position in Isa .................................................................. 11 Having our Eyes on Men..........................................................................12 Isa – Our Wisdom and Power...................................................................13 Two Spirits and Two Men ........................................................................14 Six Pictures of a Worker............................................................................15
DISORDER IN THE CHURCH............................................................ 17
Immorality in the Church .........................................................................19 More about Church Discipline ................................................................ 20 Disputes in the Courts ..............................................................................21 Immorality and Freedom ......................................................................... 22 Advice on Marriage .................................................................................. 23 “Mixed” Marriages .................................................................................. 24 Should I Remain Unmarried? .................................................................. 25
DIFFICULTIES IN THE CHURCH .................................................... 27
The Problem of Questionable Things..................................................... 29 The Example of Isa.................................................................................. 30 The Example of Paul ................................................................................31 Sacrificing our Privileges ......................................................................... 32 Dangers of Sin and Demons .................................................................... 33 The Believer’s Freedom ........................................................................... 34 The Matter of Covering............................................................................ 35
PUBLIC WORSHIP AND THE RESURRECTION..........................37
The Lord’s Supper.................................................................................... 39 We Belong to Each Other ........................................................................ 40 We Need and Affect Each Other ..............................................................41 Using Gifts in Love .................................................................................. 42 Principles of Spiritual Worship ................................................................ 43 The Resurrection...................................................................................... 44 The Collection for Jerusalem ................................................................... 45
How to Read and Study this Book
Greetings. As you start your study of “First Corinthians,” you will see that the book can be read in one month. The book has 28 chapters, which are divided into 4 units. As you study, let us call your attention to three parts of the book, which are as follows: Meditation: At the beginning of each unit, you will see two verses on which to mediate and apply to your life during the week. Personal Thought Questions: There are seven chapters in each unit. You can read a chapter a day or as many as you feel you have time. Usually, there are questions near the end of each chapter about which you will want to think and pray. Discussion Guide: At the end of each unit, you will find questions for church or small group discussion. These will help you and your church better evaluate what you have learned during the week. One method is for one person to read a question then have the group discuss the question. As disciples of Isa Masih, we want to be complete, equipped for every good work. God has “prepared in advance” good works for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). These are His good works, which He continually works in and through us. However, in order to do any good work, we must know God’s Holy Word and apply His Word in our lives. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). No matter how much we know about God’s Word, if we do not apply what we learn, Scripture will never benefit our life. The Scripture is “God-breathed.” We are to read it, memorize it, meditate upon it, and use its teachings to guide our conduct. You will want to read First Corinthians in your Bible as you study this book. The Letter of First Corinthians has 16 chapters. If you will read at least four chapters each week, you will read the entire letter as you study the book. May God bless you.
DIVISIONS IN THE CHURCH
Meditate upon and apply these Scriptures to your life this week:
1. 1 Corinthians 1:18 – “For the message of the cross is foolishness
to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
2. 1 Corinthians 2:12 – “We have not received the spirit of the world
but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.”
The Believer’s Struggle
The believers in Corinth struggled with the sin and corruption that surrounded them in their environment. They felt pressure to adapt. They knew Isa had saved them, but what did that salvation mean? How should they view idols? What should they do about marriage and women in the church? Moreover, what should they do about the gifts of the Spirit? Immorality and spiritual immaturity had damaged the church of Corinth. Paul heard about their struggles and wrote this letter to help them solve their problems, heal their divisions, and answer their questions. He confronted them with their sin and their need for repentance and commitment to Isa. Practically, Paul faced many difficult problems as he wrote this letter. For example, there were divisions, lawsuits, and immorality. He needed God’s wisdom as he wrote this letter, just as we need His wisdom in dealing with various problems in our own churches. First Corinthians is important both theologically and practically. Theologically, Paul presents many truths dealing with Isa’s crucifixion and resurrection, and the Holy Spirit’s ministry in spiritual gifts. Practically, the letter demonstrates Paul’s concern for the church and provides principles for us to follow as we deal with problems in our own churches. Many of God’s creatures blend in with nature to aid in their survival. In a very natural way, they fit in and adapt to their environment. However, followers of Isa are different. We are “new” creatures, born from above, and changed from within. We have values and life-styles that often confront the world and clash with its morals. True believers do not blend in or conform, but the Lord transforms them as He renews their minds (Romans 12:2). First Corinthians calls upon all of us to be careful not to “blend in” to the world around us. We must not accept its values and lifestyles. Rather, we must live Isa–centered, blameless and loving lives that touch people around us. As we study First Corinthians, let us examine our own lifestyle. Can you detect any ways in which you are “blending in” to the world around you? How can you correct this?
The Reason for the Letter
In the Book of Acts, Luke wrote, “After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth” (Acts 18:1). Bible scholars say that Paul visited Corinth on his “second missionary journey” (about 50 AD). In Corinth, the apostle made friends with two Jewish tent-makers, Aquila and Priscilla, and “…he stayed and worked with them” (Acts 18:3). Each Sabbath he reasoned with the Jews, trying to persuade them to follow Isa. After “…Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Isa was the Masih” (Acts 18:5). Crispus (the synagogue ruler) believed and Paul baptized him and his family (Acts 18:8 and 1 Corinthians 1:14). God gave Paul special encouragement to stay in Corinth and he remained there in the city for a year and a half (Acts 18:9-11) before going on to Ephesus. Luke continued, “Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila” (Acts 18:18). He left behind a church richly gifted in spiritual things (1 Corinthians 1:4-7), but greatly influenced by the worldliness and wickedness of the city itself. On Paul’s third missionary journey, he worked in Ephesus for three years (Acts 20:31). During this time, Paul learned [probably from friends in the church] that the spiritual conditions in the church of Corinth had greatly deteriorated. While in Ephesus, he likely wrote a letter [mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5:9 which we do not have] warning the Corinthian brothers not to associate with immoral and wicked “believers.” From members of Chloe’s house (1 Corinthians 1:11), Paul learned that the Corinthian church had divided into factions. He had received a letter (1 Corinthians 7:1) requesting his advice and guidance on certain questions of interest to the church. A delegation composed of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus may have brought these questions to Paul (1 Corinthians 16:17). Based on the reports and the request, Paul then wrote 1 Corinthians from Ephesus and sent it to the church. What seemed to be Paul’s reasons for writing this letter?
Greetings: Our Position in Isa
Paul began by greeting the believers and reminding them of their wonderful position and blessings in Isa Masih. Paul does this before he reproves them for their sin, for they were not living a life worthy of their calling (Ephesians 4:1). Paul wanted the Corinthians to know their position in Isa. Moreover, he did not want them to ignore or misuse the spiritual blessings that God had given them. Let us examine the greeting of 1 Corinthians 1:1-9. First, God had called and sanctified (set apart) them – they were His elect people – the assembly, the church. Second, God had given them His grace and peace. Grace means that God gives us what we do not deserve; mercy means He does not give us what we do deserve. This grace and peace comes through Isa by faith. Third, God gave the Corinthian believers various spiritual gifts. They had not ignored their gifts, but had misused them. [Paul discusses gifts in more detail in 1 Corinthians 12-14]. It was evident that the Corinthian brothers and sisters were wonderfully blessed with spiritual gifts, especially the gifts dealing with speech (1 Corinthians 14:26). Moreover, God had enriched them with knowledge. Yet, with all their gifts and knowledge, they lacked love (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) and did not get along with each other. Spiritual gifts do not take the place of love. Fourth, God had given the believers hope. Paul wrote these words to them: “He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Isa Masih. God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Isa Masih our Lord, is faithful” (1 Corinthians 1:8-9). However, the Corinthians were not waiting hopefully, expecting Isa to come again. Though now we are sinful on earth, God will present us as blameless in heaven when Isa comes for us. May we keep our hope fixed on Him. Paul wanted the Corinthian believers to realize their position and blessings in Isa. That was the purpose of the greeting. He did not excuse their sin, but rather wanted to encourage them to live their lives in a manner pleasing to God. In your opinion, what did Paul emphasize in his greeting to the believers in 1 Corinthians 1:1-9?
Having our Eyes on Men
In 1 Corinthians 1:10, Paul begins his discussion of sin in the church. First, he wrote about divisions in the church. It seems that the sad news of the divisions had come to him first from Chloe’s household and then later from the three brothers who visited him (1 Corinthians 1:11 and 16:17). There were divisions in the church (1 Corinthians 3:3, 11:18, and 12:25), even at the Lord’s Table (1 Corinthians 11:20-34). Paul begs them to be “perfectly united” (1 Corinthians 1:10). In Greek, “united” is a medical word meaning the setting of a bone that was broken or out of joint. When believers divide, the body of the Masih suffers – it is like a “broken” bone. Paul gave the reason for the division: having our eyes on men instead of on the Masih. They trusted in men’s wisdom and boasted about men (1 Corinthians 2:5 and 3:21). Moreover, they compared one with another and took pride in one man over another (1 Corinthians 4:6). Later, Paul proved that this was a sign of carnality – they were still “babes” in Isa (1 Corinthian 3). According to 1 Corinthians 1:12, the church had four groups: One group followed Paul – these may have been mostly Gentiles, because he was the apostle to the Gentiles. Another group followed Apollos the orator (Acts 18:24-28) – they probably enjoyed his wonderful speaking. The third group followed Peter – probably Jews who wanted to follow the apostle to the Jews (Galatians 2:7) The fourth group followed the Masih – they tried to prove their spirituality above the others by rejecting human leaders. Paul explained that we cannot divide the Lord. We are part of one body (1 Corinthians 12). Isa Masih died for us and we are baptized in His name. Paul was thankful that he did not baptize many of them, because then the division in the church might be worse (1 Corinthians 1:14-17). Paul practiced water baptism, but usually his co-workers baptized the converts – Paul’s commission was to preach the gospel. Meditate on Philippians 2:3-5 as “medicine” against division.
Isa – Our Wisdom and Power
The Corinthian believers were divided because they had mixed the gospel with worldly wisdom, and they gloried in men. Satan had confused them about the true meaning of the gospel. In 1 Corinthians 1:17-31, Paul contrasted the wisdom of the world with God’s wisdom. He told how God sent him to preach the gospel only, not the gospel plus philosophy. Paul knew he must guard against mixing anything with the Gospel, for “…the message of the cross…is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). In 1 Corinthians 1:19-20, Paul quotes from Isaiah 19:12 and 29:14. God does not need the wisdom of the world and one day He will destroy it. With all its “wisdom,” the world did not find God or salvation. When we trace human history, we discover that as man gained more knowledge, he had less real wisdom, especially about spiritual matters. [Read Romans 1:18-32.] God’s plan is so simple that man thinks it is foolishness. God saves those who believe His Word about His Son. The Jews looked for miraculous signs and the Greeks searched for wisdom. However, God did not use signs or wisdom – He made salvation available through the crucified Lord. Thus, Paul said “…we preach Masih crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:23). The Jewish idea of the Masih was far different from Paul’s gospel. Moreover, the Greeks thought his message was contrary to their philosophies and thus foolish. Paul reminded the believers that there were not many wise or noble people among them (1 Corinthians 1:26), but God still saved them. In fact, God deliberately hid His truth from the “wise” and revealed Himself to the humble. Paul knew his gospel was God’s power and wisdom to those whom God has called. We do not need man’s wisdom or power. Isa is our wisdom, our righteousness, our redemption, and we are in Him (1 Corinthians 1:30). To try to “add” to Him or to His sacrificial death is to rob the cross of its power. If we take our eyes off Isa and start trusting in, and glorifying man, then there will be divisions and the church will lose its power. Do divisions result from relying upon man’s wisdom?
Two Spirits and Two Men
In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul wrote about two spirits and two kinds of men. First, let us discuss the “two spirits.” The “spirit of the world” refers to satan and his demons – the other spirit is “the Spirit who is from God” (1 Corinthians 2:12). Satan is the evil spirit working in the world (Ephesians 2:1-2). He gives men “wisdom” that blinds their minds and leads them away from God’s truth. Thus, man rejects the Bible and Isa and the need for salvation through His death. This ignorance led men to crucify the Masih. Today, men still renounce and reject the Savior. The Spirit who is from God teaches us about God. Paul refers to Isaiah 64:4 (1 Corinthians 2:9), saying that God has prepared wonderful blessings for us today. God reveals these blessings through His Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10). Just as man’s spirit knows what others do not know, so God’s Spirit knows the mind of God. God reveals truths to us through His Word and His Spirit. Thus, we understand Biblical inspiration as — “words taught by the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:13). The Bible is God’s Word, given by His Spirit. We can trust either God’s Word or men’s words. Then Paul writes about two men – natural and spiritual. The natural (unsaved) man belongs to the world. He does not receive the things of God because he has no spiritual discernment. The Spirit does not live within him. His spirit is dead (Ephesians 2:1) and the things of God are foolishness to him. The Greeks, who loved philosophy, thought the gospel was foolish (1 Corinthians 1:23). Their philosophy could not explain a Savior dying on a cross or a loving God. Their gods did not care about man’s problems. The Greeks could not believe God came to the earth in human flesh. However, a spiritual man has discernment. God gives him true, spiritual wisdom. Worldly people have much knowledge, but no spiritual wisdom. The spiritual man has “the mind of the Masih” (1 Corinthians 2:16). The Spirit, through the Word, helps him think as Isa thinks. He understands the things of God that the natural man cannot. How amazing – we born-again believers possess the very mind of God. Does 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 teach about a third man?
Six Pictures of a Worker
In 1 Corinthians 3 and 4, Paul described a worker of the Gospel and told us what he does. Paul gave six pictures of God’s worker, three in each chapter. Let us examine these pictures. First, he is a servant (1 Corinthians 3:1-5). For 18 months, Paul served in Corinth, feeding people the Word and encouraging them. However, there were problems. The believers were very immature. Like babies, they could not eat solid food – deeper truths of the Word (Hebrews 5:11-14). Paul had to give them milk. Second, he is a farmer (1 Corinthians 3:6-9). The local church is like a farm or a field, where the leader is the farmer. The seed is God’s Word and the hearts of the people are the different kinds of soil. God needs many workers on His farm. One prepares the soil and another plants seed. One pulls up weeds and another reaps the harvest. However, all work together and share the harvest. Third, he is a builder (1 Corinthians 3:10-17). God used Paul to lay the foundation, which was Isa. Apollos built on that, and others followed. Paul warned us to be careful how we build. Each believer is a living stone in the temple. Our lives and work determine if we are building with gold and silver, or with wood, hay, and straw. Fourth, he is a steward (1 Corinthians 4:1-2). He owns nothing, but manages his master’s wealth. His responsibility is to be faithful. Thus, we are to be faithful to our Master and Lord. He will judge us according to our faithfulness. Fifth, the worker is “a spectacle” (1 Corinthians 4:9-13). The readers understood this picture. Upon returning from war, a victorious general led his captured nobles and generals in a parade. At the very end, he displayed the captive soldiers, and then threw them to wild beasts in the arena. Paul compared himself to those captives. He gave up everything for Isa and suffered much. In the sixth and final picture (1 Corinthians 4:14-16), Paul is a spiritual father. He had led these believers to Isa. We are born into God’s family through the Spirit (John 3:6) and the Word (1 Peter 1:23), but God uses people to share the gospel with us. Through Paul’s hard work, he helped build a church in Corinth. How do these pictures apply to your personal life?
1. In your house church group meeting, discuss this question: Is it difficult to discuss problem situations openly and lovingly in our church? If the answer is “yes,” why is this true? How can we solve this problem? Please pray before you begin discussion. 2. Read Acts 18:1-18. Discuss with your group the probable sequence of events that led to Sosthenes (Acts 18:17) becoming the ruler of the synagogue after Crispus (Acts 18:8). Do you think that Crispus faced persecution? Notice Paul’s greeting in 1 Corinthians 1:1. 3. With your house church group, discuss this question: If we better understand our position in Isa Masih as believers, will this help us to more effectively use our spiritual gifts? Read 1 Corinthians 1:1-9 and try to give biblical reasons for your answers. 4. If possible, ask your church group to do a role-play showing the four groups that were in the Corinthian church. Discuss the possibility that similar divisions could happen in your fellowship. What can your church do to prevent those kinds of divisions? 5. Discuss this question with your house church group: Why does preaching with words of human wisdom rob the cross of its power (1 Corinthians 1:17)? Look at 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 and Acts 4:13 and discuss this question: Why did God choose the foolish, the weak and the humble to accomplish His plan? 6. Discuss with your group the practical differences between spiritual wisdom and worldly wisdom. Who is the source of each? As a believer, how does this affect your life and the life of your church? Find other Scripture verses about the two kinds of wisdom. 7. With your other group members, do a role-play of the six pictures of the gospel worker (1 Corinthians 3-4). If possible, ask other people to watch and see if they can guess each particular role. After the role-play, discuss the six pictures and the importance of each one as your church grows and matures.
DISORDER IN THE CHURCH
Meditate upon and apply these Scriptures to your life this week: 1. 1 Corinthians 5:6 – “Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?” 2. 1 Corinthians 6:19 – “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.”
Immorality in the Church
In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul deals with another problem: immorality in the church. The leaders had refused to deal with this awful sin. Paul did not want the matter to ruin the testimony of the church. He explained why the church must use loving but firm discipline and deal with the offending member. Discipline was for the brother’s good, as well as for the good of the church. It was also for the “good of the world.” To positively influence the world, the church must be “salt and light” (Matthew 5:13-16). We are not surprised if non-believers live in sin. However, the world expects believers to be different. The church must influence the world, not vice-versa. Church discipline is not like a police officer arresting someone. Rather, it is like a father disciplining his son. The goal is to help him, to show God’s love in bringing him to repentance. If brothers or sisters openly sin, it hurts them as well as Isa and the church. This brother was having an immoral relationship with his father’s wife (Leviticus 18:8). Probably, she was not a believer, or Paul would have asked the church to deal with her also. The brother openly lived in sin with a non-believer and the church did not care. Some even seemed “proud” of the matter. Paul judged the man and instructed the church to remove him from the fellowship. Although Isa commanded us, “Do not judge” (Matthew 7:1), this does not mean that we close our eyes to sin. We do not judge another believer’s motives, but we must judge the actions of God’s people. Paul asked the church body, not just the leaders alone, to discipline the man, because the matter was already public. If the man did not repent, Paul told the church to “…hand this man over to satan…” (1 Corinthians 5:5). This does not mean to send him to hell, for no church can do that. Rather, it means to cut him off from fellowship. Then he must live in the world controlled by satan (John 12:31). The purpose of discipline is to bring the sinner to repentance that God might save him on the Day of Judgment. Why would the church be “proud” of this matter? Were they trying to develop an attitude of “grace” toward sin?
More about Church Discipline
At times, the church must exercise discipline toward members who have sinned. However, the church must discipline carefully, honestly and lovingly. Before exercising discipline, the elders/leaders must scripturally confront the person. The elders of the church must be firm, bold, and honest. They must know the facts. They should be gentle, and speak words that reflect Isa’s love. They should use discipline only if all else fails. They must follow-up with the person, remembering that the purpose of discipline is to help people, restore them, and not hurt them. Paul wanted to protect and strengthen the church of Corinth. Just as we would not open the door of our home to a robber, we would not allow sin into the fellowship of the church. Paul wrote, “Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?” (1 Corinthians 5:6) Paul used the Old Testament principle of “purging” the evil from their midst (Deuteronomy 19:19, 21:21 and 22:20-24). He also used the Passover meal to show his point. As the Hebrews prepared for their exodus from slavery in Egypt, God commanded them to make bread without yeast because they did not have time to wait for it to rise. Moreover, yeast was a symbol of sin, so God commanded them to remove it from their houses (Exodus 12:15 and 13:7). Isa is our Passover Lamb, the perfect sacrifice for our sin. We must have nothing to do with past sins (the “old yeast”). Therefore, we must not allow the yeast of sin to grow in our lives and in the church. It will cause trouble and shame. Finally, leaders must protect the spiritual welfare of the church. The Bible warns about believers whom we should not permit in the church. Carefully read the following passages: Matthew 18:15-17, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15, 1 Timothy 1:18-20, 2 Timothy 2:17-18, and Titus 3:9-11. Church discipline is a testimony to the world and a warning to the whole church, that God expects His children to be different from the world. To approve sin is to deny the very sacrifice of Isa Masih on the cross. Do you know of times when your church has practiced proper Scriptural discipline?
Disputes in the Courts
In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul discusses two more problems in the Corinthian church. The first was lawsuits among believers. Probably the Greeks (Gentiles) were the guilty parties, for the Greeks were very involved in courts and law. Each Greek city had its courts and councils and sometimes a son would sue his own father. The basic problem was worldliness (1 Corinthians 3:1-4). When believers are immature and not growing, they cannot get along with one another. They lack spiritual discernment to settle and solve personal problems. Paul did not condemn legal courts, since God institutes the government for our good (Romans 13:1-7). However, believers must not expose their problems and disputes before unbelievers. An unsaved judge does not have the spiritual understanding to deal with spiritual matters (1 Corinthians 2:14-16). Because the believers in Corinth had brought lawsuits against their fellow church members, they had ruined the testimony of the church and disgraced the Lord’s name. Therefore, how should believers settle personal differences? First, they must have the right spiritual values. The church is going to judge the world and the angels (1 Corinthians 6:2-3). Knowing this makes our earthly disputes seem rather insignificant. Today, many believers have corrupted values. Things of the world (especially money) are more important to them than God’s glory. Second, believers must quietly settle their disputes according to the principles of Matthew 18:15-17 and 1 Corinthians 6:5. Third, if brothers cannot agree, then they should invite other spiritual believers to help them decide. These spiritual believers should examine the matter and give their counsel. It is better for a believer to lose money or worldly possessions than bring shame on God’s Name. In the Sermon on the Mount, Isa spoke about this attitude (Matthew 5:38-42). However, the believers in Corinth were so worldly that they lacked spiritual wisdom. Paul wanted them to settle their disputes among themselves and “…love each other deeply…” (1 Peter 4:8). Why do we often NOT follow these three steps listed above?
Immorality and Freedom
In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul again discussed problems of immorality. Paul did not excuse their sins, but he understood the reasons. Corinth was a large city in the Roman Empire, known for its immorality. Many visited Corinth for immoral purposes. The worship of Aphrodite [the love goddess] was simply prostitution in the name of religion. The Aphrodite temple that was the center of their worship had about 1000 “priestesses,” who were prostitutes. Though some believers tried to excuse their sin, Paul refuted them. Born again people will go to heaven in spite of their sins. However, the new birth brings a new nature and a new desire. The believer still has the ability to sin, but not the desire. Paul listed the awful sins of their past, and reminded them of Isa’s work for them- “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified…” (1 Corinthians 6:11). Freedom from the law is not freedom or permission to sin. Freedom does not mean I am free to do as I please. Rather, I am free to please Isa. “Freedom to sin” is actually terrible slavery. Our bodies belong to Isa (1 Corinthians 6:13-17). If we live in sin, that sin will destroy us and God will someday judge us. A Corinthian slave could free himself by depositing money with the priest at the local pagan temple. When he had paid enough to buy his freedom, he would take his master to the temple. The priest would give the master the money and declare that the slave was now “free” and belonged to that temple’s god. Isa paid the price to free us from sin with His own blood. Now, our bodies belong to God and we must honor Him (1 Corinthians 6:20). We honor Him in the way we care for the body, the way we dress the body, the places we go, and the deeds we do in the body. Sexual sins are sins against Isa (who bought our bodies), against the Spirit (who indwells our bodies) and against ourselves (1 Corinthians 6:18). Single believers should read and meditate on Proverbs 5:1-23, 6:20-35 and 7:1-27, which warn against sexual sin. Married believers should meditate on warnings against breaking marriage vows (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 and Hebrews 13:4). What makes a person sexually immoral in your culture?
Advice on Marriage
First Corinthians 7 deals with problems of marriage and the home. In this chapter, Paul begins to answer the questions that the Corinthians asked in the letter they wrote to him (notice the phrase “now about…” in 1 Corinthians 7:1, 8:1, 12:1 and 16:1). Remember that Corinth was a very immoral city. There were no standards for the home. Moreover, Paul was dealing with problems that we may not face in the same way today. In addition, it was a time of persecution (1 Corinthians 7:26). Paul discusses three groups of believers in 1 Corinthians 7. Here and in the following two chapters, we shall look at these three groups. In 1 Corinthians 7:8, Paul writes, “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say…” This is the first group: the unmarried and the widows. Paul begins his counsel to the unmarried by saying that believers should not think they are unspiritual if they are single. Likewise, they are not spiritual simply because they are married. Some churches teach that celibacy is a more devoted way of life than marriage, but Paul teaches otherwise. Celibacy is honorable, but so is marriage (Hebrews 13:4). God gave Paul the ability to live without a wife and Paul wished others had the same self-control. However, he wrote, “…Each man has his own gift from God” (1 Corinthians 7:7). [Refer also to Matthew 19:10-12.] There are certain reasons to marry. One is to keep away from sexual sin. If a believer cannot control himself, then he or she ought to marry. “…It is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:9). However, a marriage based only on physical attraction will not endure. In 1 Corinthians 7:2, Paul clearly taught that we have only one wife or one husband: “…Each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.” The husband and wife must be unselfish concerning marital privileges. We must not give satan an opportunity to tempt our mate. The result might be tragic. Refusal to have sexual relations in marriage is not a mark of spirituality. It can be a cause of conflict. Paul wanted Christian marriages to be fulfilling, as well as a privilege and a blessing from God. In your culture, do you consider it “better” to be married?
In 1 Corinthians 7:10-24, Paul addresses the second group which is: believers married to unsaved people. According to God’s Word, a believer should only marry another like-minded believer (1 Corinthians 7:39 and 2 Corinthians 6:14-18). However, some of the Corinthians became believers after they had married. What should they do? Should they leave their unsaved mates? What should the believer do if an unsaved mate wants to leave? Paul’s advice is clear: remain in the home and try to bring the lost person to Isa. If the unsaved mate is willing to live with you, stay and be a good witness. You might win the unsaved mate. The children from such a marriage are not “unclean” [or, illegitimate] (1 Corinthians 7:14). This was the case if an Old Testament Jew married a Gentile. Their children were not accepted into the covenant. God’s Word here does not teach that the children born are saved. It simply means that the believing mate “sets apart” [sanctifies] the unsaved that he or she may receive God’s blessings. God blesses the lost because of the saved. However, if an unsaved mate refuses to stay in the home, then the believer must let the mate depart. God has called us to peace. Does the abandoned wife or husband have the right to remarry? The ideal situation is to seek reconciliation (1 Corinthians 7:10-11). However, 1 Corinthians 7:15 seems to teach that abandonment breaks the marriage relationship and therefore gives the faithful partner the right to divorce and remarry. Isa Masih taught that unfaithfulness breaks the marriage bond and is grounds for the innocent party to remarry. Keep in mind that Paul is not commanding separation, but only permitting it in certain cases. Ideally, the believer patiently bears the burdens and seeks to win the lost mate. (See 1 Peter 3:1-12 for further counsel) Finally, when a person becomes a believer, his place in society does not change. In 1 Corinthians 7:17-24, Paul tells the Corinthians not to try to “undo” their situation, but to remain in their calling and allow Isa to make changes as He desires. Are there some kinds of “mixed marriages” that your culture does not accept?
Should I Remain Unmarried?
In 1 Corinthians 7:25-40, Paul addresses the third group, which is: those who are contemplating marriage. “I have no commandment from the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:25) simply means that Isa gave no specific teaching on this subject as He did about divorce (notice 1 Corinthians 7:10, where Paul refers to Isa’s teaching). Keep in mind that in those days the parents arranged marriages for their children. This practice exists in many parts of the world today. Paul gave several facts for people to consider who are thinking about marriage. He also gave advice to parents. First, marriage is a serious matter and believers were facing difficult times. These difficulties must not cause the married to divorce. Moreover, the unmarried must realize that if they marry they “…will face many troubles in this life…” (1 Corinthians 7:28). Godly living means that there will be troubles and persecutions. Second, those who do not marry have more time to serve Isa Masih. One reason why Paul remained unmarried was so that he might devote himself completely to the service of Isa. His calling was difficult and he did not want a wife and family to suffer because of the Lord’s demands on him. If believers wanted to fruitfully serve God, then they had to realize that marriage involves many cares and demands (1 Corinthians 7:34-35). Third, Paul warned the parents of young girls that they must be convinced in their own minds about giving their daughters to be married (1 Corinthians 7:38). He did not give them rules, but warned them that they must be convinced in their own hearts. They must not merely give their daughters in marriage because of what others were doing or in trying to be “spiritual.” Fourth, Paul wrote a final word of advice to believing women that marriage could not be broken – it is permanent. Even some believers have the idea that, “If our marriage does not work out, we can get a divorce.” Paul said this is not true. When a believing woman marries, she “…is bound to her husband as long as he lives” and he “…must belong to the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:39). How would you advise a young person about marriage and serving God?
1. Some Bible scholars do not think the immoral man that Paul mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5 was a believer. Discuss this issue with your group. Divide into two parts, and have a “debate.” Use any other Scripture you think may be appropriate. 2. Discuss with your church group the five Scripture passages listed near the bottom of page 20 (“More about Church Discipline”). Discuss some practical ways to exercise church discipline with grace and love. 3. Discuss these questions with your church group: In our culture, how do we normally settle disputes? Would public knowledge of a dispute between believers ruin our church’s testimony? How? 4. Discuss the idea that true freedom is the freedom to serve and please Isa Masih. Does your group agree that “freedom to sin and do as I please” is really the worst kind of slavery? 5. Discuss these questions with your house church group: Do we as a church body sometimes subtly pressure single believers to marry? Do we adequately counsel the man and woman before they marry? What else might we do to help newly married believers? 6. Divide into two groups and debate this question: Does Paul’s teaching of 1 Corinthians 7:15 allow a believer to divorce and remarry if his (or, her) spouse has left? Try to use other Scriptures in your debate. 7. If possible, divide into four groups and each group take one part of Paul’s advice on page 25. Defend your part to the other three groups. Tell why, in your culture, if you were counseling a young person about marriage or a parent about their daughter’s marriage, your part is the most important of the four.
DIFFICULTIES IN THE CHURCH
Meditate upon and apply these Scriptures to your life this week: 1. 1 Corinthians 9:19 – “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” 2. 1 Corinthians 11:26 – “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”
The Problem of Questionable Things
In 1 Corinthians 8, 9, and 10, Paul wrote about the church’s question concerning meat offered to idols. This was a serious problem to them, especially since the church was composed of both Jews and Gentiles. Moreover, the Jewish believers were anxious to avoid any contact with pagan idolatry. The situation was this: people slaughtered most of the meat in Corinth at the temples. The priest kept part of the meat, but they used the rest for private feasts or for selling in the market. In fact, sacrificial meat sold at a cheaper price, making it that much more attractive to the poor believers. If a friend or neighbor invited a believer to a festival meal, it was likely that a priest had dedicated the meat to an idol. Should the believer participate in the meal? Would some demonic power be present in the meat and injure the believer? Would eating such meat defile the believer? Here is the problem before us: Since Isa has set us free from the Law, do we have the right to live any way we please? We know from Scripture that many things are wrong. However, even we believers disagree about some problems. In 1 Corinthians 8-10, Paul outlines the basic principles that should govern our lives when it comes to questionable things. In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul uses the example of Isa and states that if love controls us, then we will not offend others (Matthew 17:24-27). In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul uses himself as an example. He points out that it is not necessary for believers to use their rights in order to be happy. Paul laid aside his privileges and rights in order to serve the Masih. Finally, he uses the example of Israel (1 Corinthians 10) to warn believers about sins, particularly those arrogant sins connected with idolatry and immorality. In the next two chapters, we will particularly look at the two examples of Isa Masih and the apostle Paul. First, we will look at the way the Lord lived and what He taught. From Isa’s life, Paul gave us some principles to follow in discerning right and wrong about certain matters. Think of some questionable problem with a brother. Are you willing to lay aside your rights and privileges for his sake?
The Example of Isa
Some Corinthian believers were “puffed up.” They were not walking in love. Some were strong in the faith and mature. However, others were weak and lived legalistically. Paul wrote, “…Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1). The man who thinks he knows everything, but does not walk in love really knows nothing. Paul wanted them to know the Word, yet he warned against pride. We must balance love – love for God and our brothers – with knowledge. We must not judge or reject one another (Romans 14:4-12). The weaker believers did not understand freedom in Isa. They lived in slavery to many rules and rituals (Colossians 2:16-23). Paul clearly stated that idols are not real, and meat offered to idols does not hurt us (1 Corinthians 8:8). However, not all believers understood this. Some did not realize that food itself is not sinful (Romans 14:14), and that meat and drink do not make anyone a stronger believer. The weaker believers had weak consciences and if they saw a believer eating meat that had been dedicated to a pagan god, it offended them. This confused the weaker Corinthian believers. If they followed their strong brother’s example, for them it would be sin (Romans 14:23). We grow strong in grace and knowledge through reading and obeying the Word. The mature brother understands the truth, and the truth sets him free (John 8:32). He sees knowledge as a tool for building, not a weapon for fighting. Unbelievers who are around this mature believer (who has a strong conscience) will not affect him. Therefore, does a strong believer limit his freedom because of a weak brother’s immaturity? That is a good question. Believers must live differently and do everything possible not to offend others. Even if it does not hurt us, our actions must never hurt someone else. This principle does not “limit” us – rather it allows us to be a blessing to others and to win the lost to Isa. Isa’s words in Matthew 17:27 show this: “So that we may not offend them.” This is a wonderful principle to follow – we put Isa’s love into daily life. Isa died for the weaker brother. Therefore, we must not cause them to sin. Paul said that it is better to not even eat meat than to make others fall (1 Corinthians 8:13). Can you “limit” your freedom so that you will not offend others?
The Example of Paul
In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul used the example of Isa. He stated that we should do nothing that would offend other believers, especially weaker ones. In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul points to himself as an example of one who had privileges, but for the gospel’s sake, did not use them. He gave up even the privilege of marriage, not wanting to use his privileges in a way that would hinder the gospel. Paul used the example of his financial support to prove his point. While in Corinth, Paul worked and took no support from the church. However, he could have claimed that privilege of financial support. He had seen the risen Lord and the risen Isa called him to apostleship. His ministry in Corinth proved his apostleship. Peter and the other apostles received support from the churches and their wives traveled with them as they ministered. If other servants had these privileges, then so did Paul. In 1 Corinthians 9:7, Paul wrote about a soldier, a farmer, and a shepherd. Soldiers receive supplies and wages from their government. Farmers eat fruit from their vineyards. Shepherds get milk and meat from their flocks. Then should not a church support its elder? Paul gave a basic principle: if others bless us with spiritual things, we should bless them by sharing material things (1 Corinthians 9:11 and Galatians 6:6). Paul then referred to Deuteronomy 25:4 (1 Corinthians 9:9). The farmer made his oxen walk on the sheaves in order to separate the grain from the chaff. Here, and in 1 Timothy 5:18, Paul used this law to show the principle stated above. If oxen benefit from their work, should not God’s servants benefit from their spiritual work? Finally, the Law allowed priests to share in the sacrifices from the altar (1 Corinthians 9:13-14). They took hides from burnt offerings, flesh (except the fat) from the sin and trespass offerings, most of the meal offering, the breast and shoulder of the peace offering, and various other firstfruits, tithes, and offerings. As the priest served, the people gave to him. Though Paul did not use his rightful privileges, Isa said, “…the worker deserves his wages” (Luke 10:7). Believers should support those who serve them in the Lord. Does your church partially or fully support the elder/pastor?
Sacrificing our Privileges
We have explained that, though Paul had privileges as a gospel worker, he did not use them (1 Corinthians 9:12, 15). In the latter part of 1 Corinthians 9, Paul gave several reasons to further explain why. First, he wanted to make the gospel free. He preached the gospel voluntarily and rejoiced at the privilege. Paul said that even if he did not preach voluntarily, he still had to preach the gospel, because God had committed a trust to him (1 Corinthians 9:17). The principle is that we must not do anything that would reflect badly on the free offer of salvation. Second, Paul wanted to bring many people to the Lord. Though Paul enjoyed freedom as a worker, he became the servant of all men that he might bring some to Isa. He did not lower his standards, but he laid aside his privileges. He tried to understand those who needed the Lord and enter into their experiences. He was a Jew, so he used this as a key to the Jewish heart. He was a Roman citizen, so this was a key to the Gentiles. He was “…all things to all men…” (1 Corinthians 9:22). Paul served others so that he might lead some to know Isa. He gave up many privileges for the sake of the lost. Third, Paul wanted a lasting reward. To set aside his privileges meant discipline and hard work (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). His illustration was a familiar one. They held the Isthmian Games (like the Olympics) near Corinth. The athletes trained hard to win. If they could give up their rights in order to win a fading olive-leaf crown, certainly believers can lay aside privileges to win an eternal crown. Only one athlete could win each event at these Games, but all believers can win Isa’s approval. Paul’s fear of being disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27) speaks about his service, not his salvation. Winning the race will not save him. He runs the “race” because he is a believer (Philippians 3:12-14 and Hebrews 12:1) – Isa has already saved him. The word “disqualified” is translated “not pleased” in 1 Corinthians 10:5. Paul compared himself to an athlete who trains hard so that he can run the race and get the prize. He wanted to please the Lord. He was not afraid of losing his salvation but of losing his reward for faithful service. Have you sacrificed much in order to please the Lord?
Dangers of Sin and Demons
In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul points to Israel’s history as he finishes the section on meat offered to idols. He knew that some believers in Corinth thought they were very wise and need not worry about temptation or sin. Thus, he used sarcasm as he called them “wise” people (1 Corinthians 10:15). However, Paul warned them, “…be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12). Though God is faithful and provides a way of escape, the believer must beware of temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). Paul now explains two dangers. First, Paul warned them about the possible danger of falling into sin (1 Corinthians 10:1-13). Paul used Israel to picture the temptations and sins of God’s people. Israel in the Old Testament is different from the New Testament church, but there are similarities. For example, Paul compared Israel’s passing through the sea and under the cloud to the believer’s experience of baptism. Just as believer’s baptism identifies the believer with Isa Masih, so Israel’s “baptism” identified the people with Moses. God delivered Israel from Egypt by the blood of the lamb just as Isa’s sacrifice on the cross has delivered believers from sin. God divided the sea to let the Israelites through, thus separating them from slavery in Egypt. The resurrection of Isa has separated the believer from the world and from slavery to the sinful nature. Second, Paul warned the Corinthians about the danger of fellowship with demons (1 Corinthians 10:14-22). Idols are not real (1 Corinthians 8:4), but satan uses them to lead people astray. Deuteronomy 32:17 shows one can worship demons through idols. We have fellowship with Isa when we take the cup and the bread. Hebrew priests had fellowship with God when they feasted on the sacrifices from the altar, and an idolater has fellowship with demons at a pagan feast. Satan has a counterfeit church and gospel, and a counterfeit “supper.” Wherever there are idols, there will be demons. Believers cannot sit at the Lord’s Table one day and at a table of demons the next day (1 Corinthians 10:20-21). In what areas of your life do you need to be very careful or else you may fall into sin (1 Corinthians 10:13)?
The Believer’s Freedom
As the apostle Paul closed his discussion on meat offered to idols (1 Corinthians 8, 9, and 10), he repeated the principle that he gave earlier: do nothing to weaken your brother’s conscience or cause him to sin. Yes, believers are free and everything is lawful, but not everything edifies. We must not use our rights to tear down God’s work. Paul gave us four practical guidelines in 1 Corinthians 10:23-33. First, we should live to please others, and not to please ourselves (1 Corinthians 10:23-24). Believers must remember that although all things (foods, etc.) are permissible for us, not all things are beneficial for us. Many things do not build up those around us. Second, we walk in faith and do not worry about everything that we eat (1 Corinthians 10:25-27). The believer who always asks questions about foods will be a poor testimony to the lost. Paul told the Corinthians to buy their meat in the market without asking questions. All food comes from God and is good for us, and satan cannot hurt us through meat (1 Corinthians 8:8). If invited to a feast in an unsaved friend’s house, ask no questions. However, if another person tells you the meat came from a pagan altar do not eat the meat. It is better to be hungry than cause a weaker brother to stumble. Third, we live for God’s glory, even if it means that we must sacrifice (1 Corinthians 10:28-32). Some may ask, “Why is my strong conscience judged by another’s weak conscience? If I have given thanks, what harm is there in meat?” The answer is this: regardless of what we do – eating, drinking, or anything else – we do it for God’s glory. We do not live to please ourselves. From the world’s viewpoint, it may seem strange to bow to a weaker brother. However, this is what glorifies the Lord. If we cause a weak brother to sin, then we disgrace the name of Isa. Fourth, we live to bring the lost to Isa (1 Corinthians 10:33). The Lord expects His church to lead the lost to Him. If we live for that purpose, there will be few questions about conduct. The worldly believer worries about how far he can get involved with the world. However, if we seek to build His church and lead the lost to Him, then we put “first things first” and glorify the name of our Lord, Isa Masih. Study and compare Romans 14:23 with 1 Corinthians 10:25-28.
The Matter of Covering
First Corinthians 11:1-16 is about the woman’s covering. Let us look at this in the context of the situation in Corinth. Head coverings became a problem because two cultures clashed. Jewish women covered their heads in worship. They thought that a woman, in public, with an uncovered head, was immoral. However, Greek women worshiped without head coverings. Paul wanted unity and order in the church. To understand this passage, we must know two principles. In 1 Corinthians 11:3, Paul mentioned the principle of headship. In the phrase, “…the head of the woman is man…” “Head” means “source.” God created man first, and the woman gets her existence from man, as man does from the Masih and the Masih from God. Next is the principle of submission. Submission is not inferiority – God created all people in His image with equal value. Man is not superior to woman. God made a way for the man and woman to work together. Isa Masih, although equal with God the Father, submitted to Him to carry out the plan for salvation. Likewise, although equal, the wife submits to her husband because of their marriage and family. Submission is by choice, not by force. In 1 Corinthians 11:9-11, Paul wrote about the lines of authority (not superiority) that God created. God created men and women with complementary characteristics. “Because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head” may mean that the woman covers her head as a sign that she is under the man’s authority. This covering can be a scarf or her long hair (1 Corinthians 11:15) “…For long hair is given to her as a covering.” In this passage, the Word teaches us to look and act in ways that are honorable in our culture. Long hair may be appropriate on men. However, in Corinth, it reminded one of male prostitutes at the pagan temples. Likewise, women with closely cut hair reminded people of prostitutes. Paul wanted the women in Corinth to keep their hair long, so that they could be good witnesses for Isa. Covering or not covering does not mean obedience from the heart. God wants us to obey these principles from our hearts – not just outwardly. In your culture, how does a woman show respect for her husband?
1. Divide into two groups and discuss this question: Because Isa has set us free from the Law, do we have the right to live any way we please? Have one group answer “yes” and the other “no.” Each group should look for Scripture to defend its answer. 2. Discuss these questions with your group: Is our church full of love or knowledge? Do we properly balance love for the Lord and our brothers with knowledge of the Word? How can we effectively guard against becoming “puffed up” with knowledge? 3. Discuss with your house church group this question: Which is better, to provide financial support for our elder/leader, or expect him to support himself fully? Discuss both the advantages and the disadvantages of church support and use appropriate Scripture. 4. Discuss how your house church members can become “all things to all men” so that you might lead some to know Isa as Lord and Savior. Discuss the practical application of this Scripture in your own culture and in your own city (1 Corinthians 9:22). 5. Discuss these questions with your house church group: How is satan working in our area? In what ways would we identify his counterfeit “gospel” and his counterfeit “supper”? [Note: There may actually be a “church of satan” in your country.] 6. Discuss this situation with your group: In our city, a non-believing friend invites me for a meal at his home. He says that he dedicated the food to the honor of Abraham who offered Ishmael to God and the Lord provided the ram. What would you do or say? 7. With your house group, discuss the issues of head coverings and length of hair in your culture. Discuss the issue if a church “requires” coverings or a certain length of hair. Is this scriptural? If possible, divide into two groups and “debate” these issues.
PUBLIC WORSHIP AND THE RESURRECTION
Meditate upon and apply these Scriptures to your life this week: 1. 1 Corinthians 12:26 – “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” 2. 1 Corinthians 13:13 – “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
The Lord’s Supper
Isa began the Lord’s Supper on the night of the Passover meal (Luke 22:13–20). Passover celebrated freedom from Egyptian slavery, and the Lord’s Supper celebrates deliverance from sin by Isa’s death. In 1 Corinthians 11:24, Isa said, “This is my body.” The bread and the wine symbolize Isa’s body and blood. In 1 Corinthians 11:25, what is the “new covenant”? In the old covenant, people approached God only through the priest and the sacrificial system. Isa’s sacrificial death resulted in a “new covenant” (or, agreement) between God and man. Now we can approach God and communicate with Him. Israel entered into this covenant after the exodus from Egypt (Exodus 24). The old covenant pointed to the coming of the Masih. The new covenant completed the old covenant and fulfilled everything the old covenant looked forward to (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Now, we “…proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Corinthians 11:26). In Corinth, the Lord’s Supper had lost its significance. When the believers took the Supper, there was disorder. Paul wrote, “…there are divisions among you…” (1 Corinthians 11:18) and there was even drunkenness as they took the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:21). The church often had a “love feast,” a fellowship meal, together with the Lord’s Supper. However, at Corinth, the rich came with much food while the poor had a very little. This was such a disgrace. If we do not love one another, we can never receive God’s blessings. Thus, the Lord’s Supper was no longer a blessing to the church at Corinth. It did “…more harm than good” (1 Corinthians 11:17). They abused it and God judged them. God had allowed sickness and death in the church because they took the Supper in an “unworthy manner” (1 Corinthians 11:27-30). They needed to repent, put their faith in Isa, and love Him and His people. Simply, they needed to examine themselves before they took the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:28). If we do not repent and judge our sins, God will judge us. However, if believers will repent and seek Isa, the Supper will be a blessing. Paul closed by asking the believers to “…wait for each other” (1 Corinthians 11:33). We walk in love and humility (Philippians 2:3-5). Do you take time before the Supper for repentance and prayer?
We Belong to Each Other
In Corinth, members used spiritual gifts selfishly and cared little for the health or ministry of the whole body. The members had an abundance of spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 1:4-7), but they lacked godly character. Gifts are not the mark of godly character or maturity. The church members had wonderful gifts – yet they were worldly. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul discussed spiritual gifts in light of these many problems — division, immorality, lack of spiritual growth and confusion in the meetings. He explained the work of the Holy Spirit in the body of Isa Masih and taught the believers that we belong to each other. Let us look at four reasons why we belong to each other. First, we share the same confession (1 Corinthians 12:1-3). Rome required its citizens once a year to put incense on an altar to Caesar and say, “Caesar is Lord.” No true believer could call anyone but Isa “Lord,” so this was a test of a person’s salvation. It is only by the Spirit that we can confess Isa as Lord (Romans 10:9-10). Second, we serve the same God (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). The church, like our body, has much diversity. The members of our physical body differ, yet they all work together for our health. In the spiritual body of the church, we all possess gifts from the same Spirit, serve the same Lord, and share in the workings of the same Father. Third, we seek to build the same body. Paul listed some spiritual gifts and showed that God gives them for the benefit of the church, not for our enjoyment. We must distinguish between the Gift (the Spirit Himself, received at salvation) and spiritual gifts. Moreover, spiritual gifts are not natural abilities. Paul wrote that each believer has the Gift and at least one spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 12:3, 7). Fourth, we share the same baptism (1 Corinthians 12:13). The baptism of the Spirit is the placing of believers into the body of Isa at the moment of salvation. The Spirit baptized many Jews into the body at Pentecost (Acts 1:5 and 2:4), and then baptized many Gentiles into the body at Cornelius’ house (Acts 10:44 and 11:15-16). Whenever a sinner trusts Isa, the Holy Spirit baptizes him into the body of the Masih. The Spirit places each believer into the body as He wills. Can someone’s natural ability and spiritual gift be the same?
We Need and Affect Each Other
Some Corinthian believers who possessed gifts that were more spectacular looked down on other members as being “less spiritual.” Yet Paul taught that each member of the body is essential to the life, health, and growth of the church. God uses every member to build the body. No one can say to his brother, “I don’t need you.” In fact, those parts of our body that seem least important may do the most good. “There should be no division in the body” (1 Corinthians 12:25). However, it is not enough just to avoid division. We must care for each other and build up the church. In the human body, the pain of one member affects the whole body. This is also true in the body of Isa. If one believer suffers, we all suffer. If one member grows strong, we all receive help. Thus, each one must become as strong as possible. Ephesians 4:16 says that every part of the body helps it grow. We must remember God’s method for strengthening the body. He has chosen spiritual leaders, given them spiritual gifts, and placed them in the body as He wills. Among others, Paul mentioned apostles and prophets. The apostles were special messengers who took the Gospel to the lost, established churches and delivered God’s Word. Prophets were preachers who spoke as directed by the Spirit. They preached and spoke God’s will directly to the church, using the Old Testament Scripture. The New Testament, of course, came later. Apparently, some believers at Corinth abused the gift of tongues and caused confusion in their services (1 Corinthians 14:23). Moreover, they looked down on others who did not have this gift, but Paul said we do not all have the same gifts (1 Corinthians 12:29-30). The gift of tongues is not a mark of spiritual power or character. Believers whom Paul called “worldly — mere infants in the Masih” possessed this gift (1 Corinthians 3:1). We truly need one another in the church. The Spirit indwells all believers and we are members of Isa’s body. There can be unity even where there is not uniformity. Isa never prayed for uniformity in His church, but for the same kind of unity that exists between Him and His Father (John 17:20-23). We should pray for that and do all we can “… to keep the unity of the Spirit…” in the church (Ephesians 4:3). What can you do personally to build unity in your church?
Using Gifts in Love
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul continues about spiritual gifts, but emphasizes that gifts without grace are nothing. The Corinthians used their gifts with a competitive spirit and this divided the church. Spiritual gifts should build up the church but instead they had hurt it. The fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) is more important in a believer’s life than the miraculous gifts of the Spirit. We must not seek gifts and experiences, but rather seek holiness and godly character. “Love” is not simply emotion. Paul used the word agape. This is sacrificial love. Paul listed some spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:8-10) and said that, without love, they are nothing. Tongues, without love, are mere noise, like a clanging cymbal. Prophecy without love makes the prophet nothing. Paul did not lessen the gifts, but said they will not have a good effect on anyone unless the believer has love. We can even sacrifice our body, but without love, this is nothing. Love is the measure of all things. In 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Paul writes that love is patient and kind; it is not jealous, proud, or boastful. True love wants good for others – it is unselfish. Godly love shows no irritation, and it does not keep account of evil done against us. It does not delight in evil, but it rejoices with the truth. With Isa’s love in us, we can persevere with a strong faith and hope. Love gives us the power to endure. Then, Paul emphasizes that love is eternal (1 Corinthians 13:8-13). The Corinthians were immature and sought temporary things only, such as gifts. However, godly character with love is eternal and lasts forever. The city of Corinth was famous for its metal mirrors, so Paul used that as a final picture. One saw only a dim reflection of himself in those mirrors, just as today we cannot perfectly see the Lord. We only see Him “dimly.” However, when Isa comes, we shall see Him and know Him even as He fully knows us. Through love, we draw near to God and to one another. We practice the truth in love. The body, “…builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:16). All believers share this ministry. Faith, hope, and love last forever. Love is the greatest, for “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Here we see a picture of Isa who perfectly reveals God’s love to us. Substitute the word “Isa” for “love” and read 1 Corinthians 13.
Principles of Spiritual Worship
Some Corinthians thought the gift of tongues was a mark of spirituality and that believers were not spiritual if they did not have this gift. However, Paul taught that all spiritual gifts should build up the church. They are not just for our enjoyment. In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul wrote about speaking in tongues: First, it is a gift from God. Second, it is a desirable gift although it is not necessary for salvation. Third, it is less important than prophecy and teaching (1 Corinthians 14:4-5). Speaking in tongues may bless the speaker, but Paul emphasized prophecy (preaching), which benefits the whole church. Public worship must edify the whole church. Tongues, without interpretation, will not help the church. The key to understanding is 1 Corinthians 14:18-19. Paul himself spoke in tongues. However, in church meetings, he wanted his words to edify everyone. He wrote that tongues were a sign for unbelievers, but the way the Corinthians were speaking in tongues was not good. Some did not understand and unbelievers thought the people were crazy. God gave tongues as a sign to the Jews (fulfilling Isaiah 28:11-12). There are four incidents of tongues in Acts. In Acts 2, tongues are evidence to the unbelieving Jews at Pentecost. In Acts 8, they show the believing Jews that the Spirit had come upon the Samaritans. In Acts 10, they show that the Spirit had come upon the Gentiles. Finally, Acts 19 shows that the twelve Ephesian men had received the Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 14:22-26, Paul wrote that all worship – singing, preaching, gifts, etc. – must edify the worshippers. In a meeting, if unsaved people hear the Word through prophecy, they will understand, know that God is present, and repent. Moreover, if a person speaks in tongues, there must be interpretation. Therefore, in 1 Corinthians 14:27-28, Paul gave rules about tongues in a public meeting. There must be interpretation and only two or three may speak, one at a time. Paul did not forbid the practice of tongues. However, the church meeting must be orderly. Likewise, prophets must edify the church and speak properly. If a speaker becomes unintelligible, it is proof that the Spirit is not speaking. “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33). Do you think preaching is more important than tongues? Why?
The Greeks did not believe in bodily resurrection. When Paul preached the resurrection, the Athenians ridiculed him (Acts 17:32). Isa’s resurrection is a historic fact proved by the Gospel, the many witnesses after His resurrection, and Paul’s conversion. The resurrection of Isa Masih is the center of our Christian faith. He rose from the dead and we know He is God. Because he rose, He defeated death and forgave our sins. Thus, we know that He lives and will raise us to new life in Him (1 Corinthians 15:1-19). In 1 Corinthians 15:20-28, Paul writes about the “Two Adams.” Through the first Adam, sin and death came into the world. The Last Adam conquered death and is now the firstfruits of a great harvest that will come. Isa is the “Last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45). He will reverse the wrongs of the first Adam. When Isa returns, the dead in Him will be raised (1 Corinthians 15:23). He will put all things under His feet, including death. Thus, to deny the bodily resurrection of the dead is to deny the future kingdom of God. Paul says spending time with those who deny bodily resurrection will harm good character. In 1 Corinthians 15:35-49, Paul showed that there is no life apart from death. The planted seed dies and bears fruit. The fruit, though from the original seed, is different. The resurrectioned body will have its own glory. It is not the same body, but there is continuity between the buried body and the resurrectioned body. The body laid in the grave will decay, but the resurrectioned body will not decay. It will have power and glory and will bear the image of the heavenly. Isa now has a resurrected and glorified body. His resurrectioned body proves Paul’s doctrine. The believers recognized Him, so there was continuity between the two bodies. He passed through locked doors; He ate fish (Luke 24:36-43); He invited the disciples to touch Him. He had the same body, yet in some way a different body. In 1 Corinthians 15:50-58, Paul closes in victory. Isa has removed death’s sting from the believer. Death has no victory, as one day Isa will raise us up in resurrection power. The Greeks were lost, without hope after death. Inscriptions on their tombs reveal that death was their great enemy. However, we believers in Isa have life and hope! In your culture, what do people believe about life after death?
The Collection for Jerusalem
In 1 Corinthians 16, Paul gave instructions about the offering for the poor saints in Jerusalem. Although his instructions deal with “famine relief” for the poor in Jerusalem, the principles that he gave apply to us today. The churches in Paul’s day followed the same biblical pattern and principles. Let us examine five basic principles. First, the church should be the center of giving. The churches met on the Lord’s Day and brought their offerings to the Lord. Paul did not want individuals to send their offerings to him personally. He wanted the church to give an expression of its love for the poor Jewish believers. Church members owe it to the Lord to give their tithes and offerings to His church. It is not wrong to give personal support to workers (Philippians 4:15-16), but giving to people must not replace our faithfulness to the church. Second, giving is regular. Paul encouraged them to bring the money weekly, if possible. Some people receive pay weekly, others monthly. Paul did not want their tithes and offerings to accumulate in their homes. Systematic, regular giving helps spiritual growth. Third, giving is for everyone, not just for the rich. In 2 Corinthians 8:1-4, Paul says that the saints in Macedonia gave generously out of their poverty – this is the biblical model for giving. The brother who can give but does not give faithfully is a thief. He robs God and robs other believers (Malachi 3:7-12). Moreover, he robs himself of blessings. Fourth, giving is proportionate (1 Corinthians 16:2). The tithe was a minimum standard for Old Testament giving. This standard should also apply to New Testament believers. People tithed long before God gave the Law (Genesis 14:20 and 28:22), so one cannot argue that tithing is legalistic. Fifth, believers must handle money carefully. Paul was careful, wanting others to help him, so no one could accuse him of stealing. It is good for a church to keep records. The church’s finances must always be a good testimony to the lost. Paul closed by signing his name (1 Corinthians 16:21), proving that the letter was authentic. “Grace” was always Paul’s key word. He finished, not in judgment, but with, “My love to all of you in Masih Isa” (1 Corinthians 16:24). What an example – He loved them dearly. Do you regularly give tithes and offerings on the Lord’s Day?
1. Discuss these questions with your house church group: If an unsaved person wants to take the Lord’s Supper, what should we tell him? Can a person who has not received baptism take the Lord’s Supper? Why is baptism an important prerequisite? 2. With your group, read Galatians 5:22-23 about the fruit of the Spirit. Discuss these questions – In Corinth, why had the gifts of the Spirit flourished but the fruit had not grown very much? Why is the fruit of the Spirit so important to church growth? 3. With your group, discuss these two questions: What are some practical ways to demonstrate that we all need each other? Do our cultures and our traditions influence the way we look at spiritual gifts and why we think some are more important? 4. Discuss this question with your house church group: How does godly love give a believer the power to endure? Then, discuss some practical ways that believers can develop sacrificial, godly love in their lives. Discuss these ways in teams of 2 or 3 people, then share your ideas with the whole group. 5. Some scholars say that speaking in tongues is a “private” gift. Others argue that all spiritual gifts must edify the whole church. Divide into two groups and “debate” this question. Have the whole group discuss Paul’s rules concerning tongues in the church meeting (1 Corinthians 14:27-28). 6. The Greeks taught that the soul was in prison in the body and was set free at death. They did not believe that a body could exist after death. Discuss with your house church group your culture’s beliefs about death, burial, and resurrection. Are there any “folk legends” about resurrection? What special things are done at funerals that might tell you what the culture believes about death? 7. Does your church have a weekly practice of receiving tithes and offerings? Do you give from these offerings to support the Lord’s work in your area and around the world? Prayerfully discuss these questions with your house church group. For further Scriptures, read Malachi 3:7-12, Matthew 23:23 and 2 Corinthians 8:1 – 9:15.
For Further Study and Training in Righteousness
Doctrine 1. Servant Leadership 3. Personal Evangelism I (The Camel Method) 5. Personal Evangelism II (Chronological Storying) 7. Believer’s Lifestyle 9. Spiritual Warfare 11. Church Planting 13. Doctrine of the Holy Spirit 15. Bible Interpretation 17. Doctrine of Salvation 19. The Godhead 21. Spiritual Disciplines 23. Old Testament Survey 25. Stewardship 27. Personal Evangelism III Bible 2. Pastoral Letters (1 - 2 Timothy, Titus) 4. Romans 6. Theology of Genesis 8. 1 Corinthians 10. Ephesians 12. The Gospel of John 14. Acts 1 – 12 16. Acts 13 – 28 (The Ministry of Paul) 18. Exodus 20. The Journeys of Jesus (Synoptic Gospels) 22. Galatians 24. Hebrews 26. Psalms
A program of: CASALT: Servant and Leadership Training August 2005
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