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LESSON 1 - THE GOSPEL INVADES CORINTH (1 CORINTHIANS 1:1-9)

Copr. 1997, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references are to
the NIV unless otherwise noted. Suggested answers are found within
parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard. This
lesson can be found at: <URL:http://www.cameronlaw.com>

INTRODUCTION:  This week we begin our study of the book of 1
Corinthians. Let's get started.

I. WHO, WHAT, WHEN AND WHERE?

     A. Read 1 Corinthians 1:1-2.  A modern memo uses this familiar
     introductory format:
 
                           MEMORANDUM
          To:

          From:

     B. A first century letter between Greeks used a similar
     introductory format:

                             LETTER

          From:

          To:
 
     C. Now that we know the format, apply it to verse 1 and tell
     me who wrote this letter? (Paul.)

          1. What about this Sosthenes fellow? Did he also write
          the letter? (It appears to carry his "authority." He
          probably helped with the letter. Since you have never
          heard of this fellow before, we will discuss him a little
          later.)

          2. How does Paul identify himself? (An apostle.)

               a. Is he just bragging? Showing off? Pulling rank?

                    (1) Read 1 Corinthians 1:11-13. Does Paul's
                    claim to be an apostle show that he is trying
                    to assert his authority over "these other
                    guys" listed in vv. 11-13?

                    (2) What kind of "apostle" does Paul claim to
                    be? (v.1 "An apostle...by the will of God.")

          3. What is an "apostle ... by the will of God?"  How does
          this fit into the dispute alluded to in vv. 11-13? (This
          is a "pointer,"  an indicator, of what is to come later
          in the letter. Paul wants to establish at the very
          beginning that God is first, last and always in
          importance.  The Corinthians were having a dispute over
          personalities. Paul says God chose me to serve Him. Thus,
          his service is for God; not for Paul.)

     D. Let's look at Sosthenes for a minute. Anyone know anything
     about Sosthenes?  Sosthenes is an interesting fellow whose
     name appears one other place in the Bible. Turn with me to
     Acts 18.  In this chapter we read about Paul's first visit to
     Corinth. Read Acts 18:1, 4, 8, 12-17.

          1. Was Paul having any success with his initial
          evangelizing in Corinth? (Yes! He even converted Crispus,
          the ruler of the synagogue.)

          2. Do the court charges show that he is successful?
          (Yes! They are desperate to stop him.)

          3. How is Sosthenes described? (v.17: the ruler of
          the synagogue.)

               a. Isn't Sosthenes one who is persecuting Paul?

               b. Is it possible that one who persecuted Paul could
               now be his friend?  Or is this just a different
               Sosthenes?  Different guy, same name? (Paul is
               living proof that your life can make a 180 degree
               change from persecutor to evangelist!   Verse 4,
               that tells about the conversion of Crispus, another
               synagogue ruler, shows that we even have a
               precedent for this in Corinth!)

                    (1) Why would the crowd beat up someone who is
                    on "their side?" Why beat up a fellow
                    persecutor? (This is the nature of an unruly
                    crowd. They attacked Paul because they needed
                    someone to blame for those who were leaving
                    the "faith."  Have you ever seen a group like
                    this lose?  When they lost in court, they were
                    still looking for someone to blame. So, they
                    turned on one of their own: Sosthenes.)

                    (2) Why Sosthenes? (We noticed that the former
                    synagogue ruler, Crispus, had been converted
                    (v.8).  My bet is that Sosthenes is not whole-
                    hearted in his attack on Paul and the crowd
                    turns on him because of this.  They credit him
                    with the loss.  Of course, this is speculation
                    on my part. Since I do not believe that any of
                    the Bible was written by accident, I think we
                    are given a important "clue" here about the
                    Sosthenes of 1 Corinthians.)

                    (3) If I am right that this is the same
                    Sosthenes, what benefit is it to have him "co-
                    sponsor" Paul's letter to the Corinthians?
                    (Who better than the former head of the
                    synagogue in that town!)

     E. Let's get back to verse 2. To whom is Paul writing? Is this
     just a private letter to the church in Corinth? (It certainly
     is written to the church in Corinth as we mentioned earlier.
     But the important part for us is that Paul also addresses it
     to you and me: "those everywhere who call on the name of our
     Lord Jesus Christ...."  This book is for you!)

          1. How does he describe the church members? Are they
          "holy?"(NIV)  Are they "saints?" (KJV)  (No. They are
          "called" to be holy, called to be saints.)

          2. Are they sanctified? (Yes.)

               a. How can they be sanctified and not yet holy? How
               is that consistent with the idea that
               sanctification "is the work of a lifetime?"
               (Sometimes we get a little carried away with what
               our "work" is doing. 1 Corinthians 6:11 says, "But
               you were washed, you were sanctified, you were
               justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and
               by the Spirit of our God." (NIV) Some advertiser
               has the jingle "The quality goes in before the name
               goes on."  This is just the opposite: "The name
               goes on before the quality goes in."  We are
               declared sanctified by the name of Jesus.  It is
               the work of a lifetime to live up to our billing!
               (If you want to spent more time discussing what it
               means to be sanctified, you may want to read the
               following texts that use the same greek word
               ("hagiazo") that is translated "holy" or
               "sanctify." 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (refers to
               sanctification as the work of God); Hebrews 10:10
               ("been made holy through the sacrifice of the body
               of Jesus Christ once for all"); Colossians 3:12
               (those who are "holy" need to be clothed with
               "compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and
               patience"); Hebrews 3:1 ("holy" brothers need to
               fix their thoughts on Jesus); Hebrews 10:13-14("one
               sacrifice" has "made perfect forever those who are
               being made holy").  We are "perfect," but "being
               made holy!"  Friend, Jesus can made you perfect
               right now!

II. GOD'S GIFT TO THE BELIEVER.

     A. We need to keep moving! Read 1 Corinthians 1:3-6.  What
     "gift" or "greeting" does Paul give to the Corinthians from
     God? (Grace and peace.)

          1. What do you think he means by "grace?"  And do you
          want it too? (Verse 4 tells us that the gift of Jesus was
          the gift of grace!)

          2. Verse 5 suggests Jesus enriches us in our speaking and
          our knowledge. How is that true?  Is it true for you?
          (Thayer defines "grace" (greek: "charis") as "what
          affords joy, pleasure delight, sweetness, charm,
          loveliness...."  When God gave us Jesus, He gave us
          something that gives us "joy, pleasure, delight!"  That
          should be reflected in how we speak and how we think.)

     B. The second part of the "gift" in verse 3 was "peace."  How
     does Jesus give us peace? (The most important way is described
     in Ephesians 2:12-14.  We were "without hope and without God
     in the world." But now we have been "brought near [to God]
     through the blood of Christ.  For He Himself is our peace...."
     Jesus gave us peace with God.)

     C. Notice in v. 4 that Paul says he "thanks God" for the
     Corinthians.  Do you thank God for those who reflect the joy
     of knowing Jesus?

          1. As we will see, these are not perfect people. Do we
          tend to focus on the faults of the saints? Or are we
          thankful for the way in which their lives have been
          enriched by God's grace?

III. THE BELIEVERS' GIFT TO OTHERS.

     A. Notice that v.6 says that Paul's testimony about Christ
     "was confirmed in [the Corinthians.]"  This may be a little
     hard to understand as we continue studying this book and this
     church.

          1. Is the testimony about Christ confirmed in your
          church?
 
          2. In you?

          3. What about your life confirms the testimony about
          Christ?
 
          4. What part of that testimony about Christ is confirmed
          in your life?

     B. Read vv. 7-9.  Do you recall from other study of the Bible
     that spiritual gifts were a real problem for the Corinthians?
     In 1 Corinthians 12-14 Paul gives the Corinthians a lot of
     advice in this area, so he must have thought they needed it!
     With this background, what do you think Paul means in v.7 when
     he says they do not lack in any spiritual gift? (I think this
     is "aspirational."  This is something to which the Corinthians
     should aspire. They were very interested in spiritual gifts.
     As the testimony of Christ (v.6) was better confirmed in their
     lives, they would show it by not (as a group) lacking in any
     spiritual gift.)

     C.  All of the verses that we have studied so far have
     something in common.  Can anyone tell me what all these verses
     have in common? (They all mention Jesus.  Every one of them!)

          1. Is Paul teaching us something from his writing about
          "our part" in confirming the Bible's testimony about
          Christ? (Just as Christ is a part of every verse, so
          Christ should be a part of every aspect of our lives.)

     D. Notice that v. 8 tells us that God "will keep [us] strong
     to the end" so that we will be "blameless" when Jesus comes
     again.

          1. How does this happen?  There can be no doubt that God
          is the active agent in keeping us strong (and not us),
          but how does this happen?

               a. Since God is the active agent, does it happen to
               everyone?

          2. Do you find any obligation on our part in v.9?  What
          does God ask of us? (Our obligation is fellowship.
          Remember when we studied 1 John?  That book had the same
          theme. Our obligation is to walk with God, to fellowship
          with Him.)

          3. What does it mean to fellowship with Jesus?  To walk
          with God? (It means at least what you are doing right
          now. Reading His word. Trying to understand His will for
          you. Spending time with Him.  Friend, I am more and more
          convinced of this principle.  The key to salvation is
          getting to know God. No act of yours, no work of yours
          will save you or damn you.  What is key is fellowship
          with God.  A fellowship which will create in you an
          attitude to do His will, not yours.  You may fail in
          living up to your attitude, but if your action is a
          failure to live up to your attitude (and not the result
          of a rebellious attitude) you will "be blameless on the
          day of our Lord Jesus Christ" (v.8) because "our Lord is
          faithful!"  Praise God!  Today is the day to ask God to
          come into your heart and change your attitude!  To give
          you a desire to fellowship with Him.)

IV. NEXT WEEK: Our study is 1 Corinthians 1:10-17; 3:1-23. "DIVIDED
LOYALTIES" Study! sp;         faithful!"  Praise God!  Today is the day to ask God to
          come into your heart and change your attitude!  To give
          you a desire to fellowship with Him.)

IV. NEXT WEEK: Our study is 1 Corinthians 1:10-17; 3:1-23. "DIVIDED
LOYALTIES" Study!