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LESSON 2 - DIVIDED LOYALTIES (1 CORINTHIANS 3)

Copr. 1998, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references are to
the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984
International Bible Society,  unless otherwise noted. Quotations
from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes
the teacher uses a blackboard.


INTRODUCTION: Have you ever been in a church where there were
divisions?  Where one group of individuals seemed to dislike
another group of individuals?  Or where there was a "pro-pastor"
and an "anti-pastor" faction?
 
     My first year of law school I lived by myself, studied almost
all the time, and on Sabbath had a glorious time going to church
(and not studying!)  Sitting in a pew by myself for a few hours
each Sabbath, the church seemed perfect.  The next year my wife and
I got married and she started teaching in the school connected with
the church.  Instead of being an "outsider" gazing upon the
tranquil church on Sabbath, I became an "insider" who witnessed the
monumental disagreements boiling under the surface.  Our study this
week is Paul's advice on factions!

I. THE PROBLEM AT FIRST GLANCE

     A. Last week we briefly looked at 1 Corinthians 1:10-17. Let's
     read this again because it gives us a quick glance at one of
     the problems in Corinth.

          1. What is one problem in the Corinthian church?
          (Quarrels)

          2. In verse 10 Paul says "I appeal to you ... that you
          may all agree with one another ...."  Is that a goal?

               a. Does disagreement sharpen your mind or just
               create trouble?

               b. In this teaching outline, do I suggest the
               answers just to avoid the messy possibility that
               you might otherwise disagree with each other?

               c. Think about some of your most firmly held Bible
               beliefs.  Did you always hold those beliefs, or did
               someone change your mind? (Some of the beliefs that
               I most firmly hold, came as a result of someone
               disagreeing with me and changing my mind!)

               d. I think disagreement is healthy. So, do Paul and
               I disagree on this!?

                    (1) Look at the rest of v.10.  Does Paul
                    condemn all disagreement, or just certain
                    kinds of disagreements? (Verse 10 says the
                    goal is to not allow disagreement to turn into
                    divisions.  The goal is perfect unity of
                    mind.)

                         (a) On what are the believers to unify?
                         (Verses 13-17 seem to focus on the cross
                         of Christ. The "North Star" for the
                         believer is the power of the cross.
                         (v.17))

                         (b) Let's get out our magnifying glasses
                         and look at this problem more closely.

II. BACKGROUND TO THE PROBLEM.

     A. In chapter 1 we have a brief glimpse into the problem
     of divisions in Corinth.  Chapter 3 gives us a background
     briefing and the details of the problem. Read 1 Corinthians 3:
     1-4.

          1. Paul suggests that divisions are a result of a certain
          trait among members in the church. What is that trait?
          (Verses 1 & 3 say they are "worldly.")

          2. What does it mean to be "worldly?"  The Greek word is
          "sarkinos" which means "made of flesh," "fleshy."

               a. Paul seems to say, "You are meaty, so I give you
               milk and not meat to eat."

                    (1) What does that mean?

                    (2) Are the Corinthians on a diet? What does
                    this have to do with our spiritual diet?

     (Paul probably means a couple of things. First, he is saying
     they are "soft." Not exercised. They cannot take much.
     Second, he is saying they are acting like ordinary, earthly,
     selfish people. He is not talking about their diets, he is
     talking about how they look at things. Spiritual people have
     their minds on matters that rise above their personal
     interests. Those who are not spiritual people have a hard time
     looking beyond their self-interest. Barclay says ("Letter to
     the Corinthians" pp. 29-30) that Paul wrote they were
     "dominated by the flesh," and "flesh" is "human nature apart
     from God.")

     B. What is the logical link between being "fleshy" and
     quarreling about which spiritual leader you follow?  How does
     this attitude cause this result? (If you never look above your
     own head, you are more likely to look at things from a earthly
     perspective.  If man's interests are as far up as your
     "elevator" goes, you are not going to notice the overarching
     plan of God.)

     C. Read vv. 5-8. Paul starts out with a question: "What, after
     all, is Apollos?  What is Paul? Tell me what you think is the
     answer to Paul's question?  Does your answer also apply to
     your pastor?

          1. Are they just "servants?" (The natural man thinks he
          is so important.  If you think like the world, you will
          focus on the individual.  But if your eyes are on
          spiritual matters, you will see that God is in charge and
          leaders are just helpers!)

          2. If we focus on God's plan instead of the leader, what
          will be our attitude towards the leader's weaknesses?

          3. If you were starting a "ministry," would it be
          appropriate to put your name on it?  "Billy Graham
          Crusades?" (I am not convinced this is wrong, but this is
          certainly an area where caution is needed.  The focus
          must be on God and not the individual.)

          4. Put yourself in the place of a successful spiritual
          leader, can you innocently encourage people to look at
          you instead of God? The problem in Corinth seems to be
          the people and not the leaders, but what should leaders
          avoid to stave off this problem? (Comparison. Is there
          anyone who does not like to be praised? A person comes to
          you and says, "All these years, and all these other
          pastors, and I never before understood the gospel until
          you came and preached it to me!"  That is joy to the ears
          of the preacher, but it also encourages personal rivalry
          and allegiance.)

     D. Verse 6 says, "God made it [the seed] grow."  What seed are
     we talking about? And how does God make the seed grow? (We are
     the seed. (Matthew 13:38) "Seed" can also refer to spiritual
     truths which we accept. (1 Corinthians 9:11)  The power of the
     Holy Spirit makes us grow.)

     E. When Paul says "one plants" and "one waters," what do you
     think he means? (Everyone has a different role. The different
     role does not mean that one leader is better than the other.)

III. ADVICE TO LEADERS

     A. Read 1 Corinthians 3:9-13. This seems to be advice to
     spiritual leaders. What word picture does Paul paint? To what
     does he liken the work of spiritual leaders? (He has been
     talking about seed farming. Now he moves to construction.)

          1. What is the foundation for our "building?" (v.11 Jesus)

               a. Why is Jesus the foundation? (The bedrock of
               Christian belief is the life, death and
               resurrection of Jesus.)

          2. When Paul speaks of "building" on this foundation,
          what, specifically, do you think he is talking about?
          (Teaching.)

          3. How would a leader build with "straw?"

               a. I generally put Bible teaching into one of two
               boxes: "right" and "wrong." Does this suggest that
               Bible teaching can fall into other categories?
               (Seems so. That teaching can also be weak, of
               limited help, of limited value -- but not wrong!)

               b. Is it possible that certain Bible teaching that
               you previously thought was wrong or sinful, was in
               reality just "poor?" (Later in the letter (chapter
               6) Paul discusses this idea that certain ideas can
               be right, but not helpful.  Perhaps we need to be
               careful about condemning ideas, and more cautious
               about embracing some truths.)

          4. The nature of the building material is to be revealed
          in the "Day" (v.13).  What is the "Day?" (It could mean
          during our life.  But the reference to "fire" seems to
          mean the last days.)

     B. Read 1 Corinthians 3:14.  Who or what is getting burned up?

          1. The person who taught poor doctrine or the doctrine?
          (I tend to think the person who was taught!)

          2. What happens to the poor teacher? (He lives and is
          saved! Caveat Emptor to students!)

          3. Why is the person poorly taught lost, and the lousy
          teacher saved? (Now you see why I teach!  Seriously, hold
          this thought for a minute while we read on.)

     C. Read 1 Corinthians 3:16-17.  We continue with this word
     picture of a building. Who is the temple here? (Believers.)

          1. Why does his use the analogy of a "temple" instead of
          a "fort" or "barn" or "warehouse?" (Temple fits the topic
          of spiritual matters.)

          2. What happens to the bad teacher here? (v.17 "God will
          destroy him.")

          3. Still holding that thought about the poorly taught
          student dying and the lousy teacher surviving?  How do
          you reconcile that with Paul's statement here about the
          temple destroyer being destroyed? (The "poor" builders
          will still building even if they used materials that did
          not stand the test. Here, the teacher is not a "builder,"
          but a "destroyer."  God evidently makes a distinction
          between those that are just doing a lousy job and those
          and are actually injuring the saints and the church.
          Beware and pay attention teacher to what you are doing!)

IV. CONCLUSION

     A. So, what is the answer to factions and divisions in the
     church that are based on personalities? (The focus, the
     foundation must always be Christ. Spiritual leaders have
     different strengths and abilities.  The doctrines they teach
     can be either gold or straw.  Despite these differences we
     must keep our eyes on the Foundation!  Read vv. 21-23 in
     closing.

V. NEXT WEEK: "THE LORD OF GLORY, NOT GLORIOUS WORDS." Our study
will be the second chapter of 1 Corinthians. Study! he doctrines they teach
     can be either gold or straw.  Despite these differences we
     must keep our eyes on the Foundation!  Read vv. 21-23 in
     closing.

V. NEXT WEEK: "THE LORD OF GLORY, NOT GLORIOUS WORDS." Our study
will be the second chapter of 1 Corinthians. Study!