1 Corinthians 1:1-25 - Christ the Wisdom and Power of God

This is the fourth letter in the Bible written by Paul (earlier ones are Galatians and 1st and 2nd Thessalonians). He also wrote an earlier letter to the Corinthians (not in the Bible), to which they responded. 1 Corinthians, written from Ephesus, is Paul’s response to questions in that letter about marriage and singleness, food sacrificed to idols, spiritual gifts, and special contributions which the Corinthians were making. The letter also addresses concerns Paul had about divisions among the Corinthians, and problems of sexual morality and modesty in the pagan city of Corinth. He also talk about fellowship with the pagans.

In the first three verses, Paul opens his letter with a greeting to the Corinthians. In verses 4 to 9, he expresses thanksgiving for the believers at Corinth and for the never-ending faithfulness of God and his son Jesus Christ. In verses 10 to 17, he sets out the facts of the divisions in the church at Corinth and emphasizes that such divisions are harmful to the church just as they are to a family or household.

Note to leader: spend a little time reviewing the introduction to 1 Corinthians from a good study Bible. Your Bible study participants should understand something about the nature of Corinth (commerce, culture, religion, and immorality), the purpose of the letter, it's relevance (see Q 1), overall theme, and general outline.

1. Given the topics of the letter and the circumstances under which it was written, do you think it applies to us today?

A: Absolutely. Virtually every church in the world has divisions among its members, some small, some large, but all potentially devisive. Other issues that Paul deals with that are still major problems today are marriage, sexual morality, proper dress and decorum in church, and fellowship with non-believers. It is a letter to both instruct and inspire.

2. Before Paul answers the Corinthians questions (Ch 7 to 16) he takes a lot of time to deal with lapses that have occurred in Corinth: Congregational factions (Ch 1 to 4), immorality (Ch 5) and lawsuits among Christians (Ch 6). Why do you think he put these matters first?

A: Paul essentially had to reassert his authority at Corinth and discipline the people there for these lapses. He wanted to make sure he had their respect as their teacher before answering their questions. Also, the issue of decisiveness among the Christians was potentially more harmful than the somewhat lesser issues of marital problems and food sacrificed to idols.

3. In verses 18 and 19, Paul paraphrases Isaiah 29:14. If someone asked you what verses 18 and 19 mean, what would you tell the person? (See Isaiah 55:8-9)

A: Here’s what Eugene Peterson says in The Message: “The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer silliness to those hellbent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense. This is the way God works, and most powerfully as it turns out. It’s written,
      I’ll turn conventional wisdom on its head,
      I’ll expose so-called experts as crackpots.”

The passage emphasizes what Jesus said over and over: God’s way of thinking is not like the world’s way. God offers eternal life which the world can never give. We can spend a lifetime accumulating human wisdom and yet never learn how to have a personal relationship with God.

Isaiah 55:8-9. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

4. When, in your estimation, did your parents suddenly become wiser than you?

5. Does this anti-wisdom section (verses 18 to 25) conflict with the teachings of Solomon in the first five chapters of Proverbs? (Proverbs 2:10-11, 3:13-14, 4:5-7)

A: No.

Proverbs 2:10-11. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.

Proverbs 3:13-14. Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding,
for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.

Proverbs 4:5-7. Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.

In these verses, it sounds like Solomon values wisdom above all. But it is a mistake to take them out of context. For example, he also says in 2:5-6, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

Proverbs 3:5-7. Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.

6. What did Paul mean in Verse 22 saying “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom?”

A: Some Jews were still looking for a Messiah who was a conquering king accompanied by signs and miracles. Jesus had not restored David’s throne as they had expected. Besides, he was executed as a criminal, and how could a criminal be a savior?

Greeks considered the Gospel foolish because they did not believe in a bodily resurrection; they did not see in Jesus the powerful characteristics of their mythological Gods, and they could not see how a reputable God would be executed. To them, death was defeat, not victory.

Bible study courtesy of www.SwapMeetDave.com

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