Bible studies on 1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 7v25 - 8v13
This is the third of our studies on marriage in chapter 7. We discussed again the calling of some to be single and concluded that one could not live that life without special grace from the Lord. Indeed the calling to be married and to raise children requires grace in equal measure. Our UK society today is not very understanding towards a single person who desires to live a chaste life for the sake of Christ.

Paul's judgment was that a person is happier if they remain single (v40). Paul was a happy man without the comfort of a wife and children. He was a happy man in his evangelistic endeavours, suffering hardships and persecutions galore for the gospel's sake. Only someone who loves Jesus knows this kind of happiness.

Nevertheless we saw that Scripture overall points to the married state as the norm for most people. Yet to be unhappily married is probably worse than being single Matthew 19v10).

Chapter 8 gives Corinthian Christians instructions regarding food sacrificed to idols. We thought of similar examples that might concern the scruples of sensitive consciences of Christians today. Some may believe it to be wrong to drink alcohol or dress in a certain way. Sunday observance was another example of an issue that we should be sensitive over when spending time with our brothers and sisters in Christ. On the one hand we rightly rejoice in the freedom we have in Christ, but on the other we are careful not to stumble a sensitive soul for whom Christ died.

Previously...

1 Corinthians 7v15-28
This was our second study in a series of three on the subject of marriage. "God has called us to peace” (v15). "Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called” (v20). We discussed how all new Christians have major life changes to make. Sometimes that will mean breaking from a relationship that is immoral. Paul here however reassures Christians that marriage is a godly state to be in, regardless of the circumstances.

He goes on to apply the "stay where you find yourself” advice to Jew and gentile, slave and free. None of these things are important in the grand scheme of things, but to be "a new creation” (Galatians 6v15) is everything (v19).

In verses 25-27 Paul seems to be advocating celibacy for all. We looked at Matthew 19v11-12 and 1 Timothy 4v1-3 to see that this was not the case. Rather he sought to encourage Christians to seek the Lord for their calling as individuals. Those who are single can serve the Lord with undivided devotion, without the care of a spouse and children. Yet to marry is not a sin (v28). Marriage too can glorify the Lord in all its aspects.

How gracious is our Lord in wanting our devotion yet providing for our needs too. How slow we are to trust Him in the area of relationships when actually He really wants our highest good. (v35)

1 Corinthians 7v1-14
Paul writes about marriage in response to the Corinthians, who wanted to know God's will for their lives. It is remarkable that these born again people wanted to know what pleased God, despite living in a thoroughly immoral society.

Paul upholds the godliness of marriage, although he also points to the blessedness of being single and serving God with an undivided affection. He says that "each one has his own gift” (v7). Some can live fulfilled and happy lives as singles, whereas others should marry and glorify the Lord through marriage and the raising of children.

Divorce was never God's idea for people, but Paul recognised that some would leave their marriage partners. "But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried” (v11). There are women who have to leave violent or abusive husbands to protect themselves and their children.

"God has called us to peace” (v15). Becoming a Christian does not mean leaving your unbelieving spouse. The Lord wants to bless the whole family through the believer.

Although people may misquote or twist Paul's teaching on marriage in 1 Corinthians 7, it is really wonderfully balanced and good. It is a blessing to us all to follow these godly principles for our lives.

1 Corinthian 5 & 6
The Corinthian church was a light shining in a dark gentile world. Although the people were flowing in the gifts of the Spirit, they needed instruction in morality and relationships. They were not ashamed of the fact that a brother was in an incestuous relationship. Rather they were proud of it! Paul councils them to put him out of the church until he repented. Associating with immoral people of the world is a necessary requisite of evangelism occasioned by daily living. Friendships with people who claim to be Christians living in sin is a dangerous thing for the church. "A little leaven leavens the whole lump”. Nevertheless wisdom and compassion are needed as Galatians 6v1 exhorts us: "If a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted”.

The young Christians of Corinth were carnal. There was envy, divisions and strife among them (1Cor3v3). Their contentions sometimes led them into the civil courts, resulting in a poor Christian witness. Paul says that it would be better to appoint an arbiter from within the church to judge between brothers. "Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated?” (6v7). This is the way of the Spirit that the world does not know.

Despite all their failings, these Christians were still the "washed, sanctified and justified” children of God (6v11). Born again Christians will always get their lives straightened out given time, teaching and encouragement, and become the people they really are in the Spirit.

Paul admonishes them to "flee sexual immorality” (6v18). "Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?” (6v19). We need to be reminded of Who lives in us! Verse 17 tells us of spiritual reality "He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him”. We may not "feel” very spiritual or very "born again”, but this is the truth of the word of God about our inner being: he will never leave us or forsake us. What an incredibly wonderful encouragement to live a godly life!

1 Corinthians 4v6-21
Paul is keen to deliver the Corinthians out of the influence of worldly preachers, the fruit of whose preaching produced "envy, strife and divisions” (3v3). Yet in doing that, he does not name the preachers. Instead he used his own name and that of Apollos and Peter to make his argument. Paul is careful not to run down other brothers and sisters in Christ. Rather he focused on teaching his "children” as a compassionate "father” (4v15). There is a lesson in this for us.

Paul makes good use of irony in verses 8, 9 and 10. This is clear in verse 8 when he says "you have reigned as kings” and then "I wish you did reign” all in the same verse. We are not called to reign by self sufficiency and pride in our own strength, but we should reign in life through Christ. Romans 5v17: "For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ”.

In verse 9 Paul speaks of "apostles…displayed…last” yet in 12v28: "God has appointed these in the church: first apostles…” The Corinthians had a mixed up view of authority and who best to listen to, and their hearts were in the wrong place. Paul uses irony to remind them of the true apostolic callings of himself, Apollos, Peter and Timothy (v17). These men really cared about the Corinthian believers. He was not trying to shame them, but to warn them of subtle dangers and the beguiling of the enemy (v14).

Paul is confident, not arrogant in verse 16 when he said "imitate me”. The Corinthians needed to have Holy Spirit discernment about who was really worth imitating. The word of God brought that discernment to them as it does to us in the same way.

All would be made plain to the Corinthians when Paul came to visit them. Signs and wonders wrought through him would settle once and for all the question of Paul being the "real deal”. V20: "For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power”. Elijah took part in a similar "showdown” when he called down fire from heaven upon the altar. The proof of the pudding in us is our changed hearts and lives.

1 Corinthians 3v18-4v5
Like Christ before him, Paul made incredible claims about himself in his writings. Paul claimed to be an apostle, a chosen steward of the mysteries of God. Unless it was true, which it was, it would have been an outrageous claim to have made. There were many who claimed to be wise teachers and the Corinthians needed to discern true from false.

The church is God's own temple, indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Those who seek to lead God's people astray with false/worldly wise teaching will be ultimately destroyed by God. The office of teacher in the church is an awesome responsibility, and one should judge oneself in regard to how one leads God's flock.

At the end of the day, we have "all things” in Christ. The Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth despite poor teachers or lack of any teachers. Others may boast about what they have, but we are blessed in Christ beyond measure.

Paul was not fazed by criticism. He was secure in who he was in Christ and his calling to serve the body of Christ. He did not even judge himself, although he would have made mistakes in certain areas like all people do.

Rather it is good when we affirm Christ in each other, encourage and build up our brothers and sisters. Who are we to judge one of the Lord's servants anyway? The wonderful truth is that God loves us and always seeks to give us assurance, to edify us and to not tear us down. Our sins He has put away forever!

1 Corinthians 2 and 3v1-17
Paul's letter is highlighting the differences between godly ministry and a worldly-wise pseudo intellectual counterfeit. Paul's preaching did not come with excellence of speech or wisdom, but it was based on the message of the cross of Christ. It was not delivered with finesse or oratory, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power. Such a spiritual message needs a spiritual mind to appreciate it. Carnal people, even carnal Christians will miss out on the edification it can bring.

New Christians need the milk of the word of God but as they mature they will be able to understand and appreciate food of a more solid nature. It is possible to remain immature, a condition characterised by squabbles over who is the best preacher! Only a lifestyle of meditating on God's word can change us at a heart level and make us mature. (We cannot change ourselves).

The church (and each Christian individually) is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in us and among us. We are given discernment to recognise good food and reject the poorer fodder! False teachers will ultimately be destroyed by the One who is passionate about feeding His precious flock.

Ministry to the church is an awesome responsibility. It is sadly possible to build on the foundation of Christ with combustible materials such as wood, hay and stubble. Sermons that major on worldly wisdom and human ideas rather than Scripture are such building materials. They achieve little or nothing in people's lives and will be burnt up in the end. Real ministry in the Spirit will always be scripture based at heart and will last for eternity.

1 Corinthians 1v18-31
"The cross is foolishness to those who are perishing” (v18) is easily observable in our society today. It is quite acceptable to be interested in Buddhism or spiritual things in general, but to believe that Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice is the only way to heaven is offensive to lost people.

"But to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (v18). No one can argue against the testimony of a born-again believer, who has the evidence in himself of a transformed life.

The preaching of the cross saves people, not the high sounding "wisdom” of a well-formed argument. The Jews rejected Jesus as Messiah to a large extent. Although they had witnessed miracles and healings galore, they still demanded a sign! (v22 and Matt12v38). Greeks were interested in words of wisdom (v22). Jesus supplies both in abundance, but it is only the preaching of the cross that is powerful to save.

There is no room for pride or boasting in the Christian life. Everything we need or have is given to us in Christ, and it was God who put us in Christ. "But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (v30).

Let us settle it once and for all, it's not about us, it's all glory to the Lord! (v31)

1Corinthians 1v10-17
The theme of these verses is unity among believers, unity of mind and purpose. This is a theme throughout the letter stressed especially in chapter 13, the great passage on love. We voiced the need for forgiveness among each other, bearing one another in love and listening to the other point of view. Mutual respect and honour for all fellow Christians, who may differ in viewpoint over secondary issues was brought out as vital in the church at large. Inevitably Paul, Apollos and Cephas had different things to say and ways of preaching, but it was the party spirit and being puffed up with pride that was the problem (4v6).

Paul finished by speaking about the way so called "words of wisdom” can empty the message of the cross of Christ of its power. Clever arguments can never bring faith to the heart as the word of God does.

1 Corinthians 1v1-9
In starting to study a "new” book we spent some time catching up on the historical background to this epistle of Paul. We read Acts 18v1-17 to help us with the context for this book. Corinth was a byword in early church times for godlessness and debauchery. It was a miracle that a church existed at all in a place like that! Although Paul had strong words to say to the Corinthian Christians he continually thanked God for them (v4). He recognised the grace and knowledge of Christ with which the Lord had enriched them (v5) and the gifts they were endowed with (v7).

Verses 1-3 are like many of the opening verses in Paul's other letters. Paul makes it clear that it was not his idea to be an apostle, but the Lord's specific will and calling. He recognises too the calling of the saints and the "sanctified in Christ” to whom he is writing. It was the Lord's work in these people, not Paul's. God was the One who gave them a continual supply of grace and peace through the merits of Christ (v3), and God was the faithful One who would confirm and strengthen His church to the end (v9).