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1 Corinthians 3-4


1 Corinthians 3:1-4:5

Teaching Material

1. The Problem: Worldliness

These immature Corinthian Christians are behaving like the world.

Attitudes present: Jealousy (3:3), Strife (arguing with each other) over leaders (3:3-4), Bragging (boasting) about their leader's work (3:21), Judging whose work is most important (4:2-3).

Their problem is that they primarily use worldly wisdom (3:18-20).

2. Two Analogies

a. Agricultural Analogy: A Garden (3:4-9). Paul planted. Apollos watered. God made it grow.

Paul and Apollos are merely worker's in God's garden.

Application: We are fellow-servants in God's field.

b, Building Analogy: Temple (3:10-17).

Paul laid the foundation for the Corinthian church (temple): Jesus Christ. As long as the foundation remains, the church is secure and expects salvation. Ministry, however, is a mixed bag: some build with straw, hay, and wood while others build with gold, silver and precious stones.

Ministers who build on the foundation will be saved even when their building
materials are burned up with the fire of judgment.

Application: Do not destroy God's temple, the church!

3. Paul's Application:

Principles to remember:

Everything belongs to Christians because we belong to Christ (3:22-23).

Our first duty is faithfulness (not success; 4:2).

God is the judge, no one else (4:4).

Consequently, stop bragging and boasting about ministers (Paul, Apollos, Peter; 3:21), don't judge anyone's ministry or motive; God will reveal it (4:5) and God will praise each of his faithful ministers (3:8, 14; 4:5).

Discussion Questions

1. Since each group in Corinth thought of themselves as "spiritual" and "mature," how might they have reacted to Paul's comment in 3:1-4? What is the evidence of their immaturity?

2. How are "worldly" versus "spiritual" people defined here? What attitudes and dispositions does Paul point as evidence of worldliness in this section? How were the Corinthians behaving toward each other?

3. What is the point of the agricultural metaphor in the context of the problem in Corinth? What application does Paul make?

4. What is the point of the building metaphor in the context of the problem in Corinth? What application does Paul make?

5. What are the building materials in verses 10-15? Some believe that "hay, etc." refers to converts who will not persevere in faith whereas "gold" refers to converts who do persevere, while others believe that the "hay" and "gold" refer to how one builds (methodology, attitudes, motives). In either case, the foundation is the key and the ground of salvation. When we build on the foundation of Christ, we will be saved even when our converts do not persevere or when we make mistakes in how we build. While the work of the builder may not survive or it may have been badly constructed, as long as the foundation remains, the builder (worker) will be saved. This signifies the importance of the proper foundation--Jesus Christ.

6. How do these building and agricultural analogies apply to the new church planting here at Cordova? How do we view each other? Who is growing this church? On what foundation are we building? How well are we building? Are we building with straw or gold?

7. Why does Paul raise the question of "worldly wisdom" in verses 18-20? What does this have to do with the two previous analogies? How does "worldly wisdom" invade planting and building a church?

8. How does the idea that "everything belongs" to Christians answer the problem of jealousy and boasting? What does this principle tell us that enables us to rise above such worldly attitudes? How does an understanding of this principle demonstrate the worldliness of fighting over leaders?

9. Whose role is it to judge? Why does Paul say he does not even judge himself, much less care about how others judge him?

10. What does this mean for our own ministries? If we are not to judge, does this mean that we should not evaluate how we conduct our ministries? What kind of judgment is Paul talking about here in the context of comparing leaders?

11. What is the difference between respecting a Christian leader and the problem Paul deals with here?

12. What steps can we take as a new church community to hedge against falling into this kind of communal jealousy and strife?


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