Study the Books of 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and Ephesians, and delve into the church. Some of the major ideas explored are: knowledge and love in the church, worship, open-hearted sharing, the false and true apostles, and the divine plan.
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This revision of the Abingdon classic Genesis to Revelation Series is a comprehensive, verse-by-verse, book-by-book study of the Bible based on the NIV. These studies help readers strengthen their understanding and appreciation of the Bible by enabling them to engage the Scripture on three levels:
- What does the Bible say? Questions to consider while reading the passage for each session.
- What does the passage mean? Unpacks key verses in the selected passage.
- How does the Scripture relate to my life? Provides three major ideas that have meaning for our lives today. The meaning of the selected passages are made clear by considering such aspects as ancient customs, locations of places, and the meanings of words.
The meaning of the selected passages are made clear by considering such aspects as ancient customs, locations of places, and the meanings of words. The simple format makes the study easy to use. Includes maps and glossary with key pronunciation helps.
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- Include biblical chapters on the contents page beside session lesson titles for at-a-glance overview of biblical structure.
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The simple format makes the study easy to use. Each volume is 13 sessions and has a separate leader guide.
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UNITY IN THE CHURCH
1 Corinthians 1–4; 16
EDITOR'S NOTE: This study of the letters to the Corinthians, Galatians, and Ephesians does not run straight through the letters from beginning to end. In order to bring greater clarity to the material, Dr. Blair has chosen to deal with material from the end of several of the letters out of sequence and earlier in the study.
DIMENSION ONE: WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?
Answer these questions by reading 1 Corinthians 16
1. Where is Paul at the time of writing this letter, and what are his future plans? (16:1-11)
2. What does Paul desire the Corinthians to be and do until his arrival? (16:1-18)
Answer these questions by reading 1 Corinthians 1:1–2:5
3. What does Paul say about himself and about the church at Corinth in the opening greeting? (1:1-2)
4. What are the Corinthians quarreling about, and what is Paul's attitude toward their quarrel? (1:10-17)
5. Who are the advocates of the wisdom of the world? (1:18-20)
6. What is wrong with their attitudes and spirit? (1:18-23)
7. What is the result of their preoccupation with human wisdom? (1:21)
8. What attitude do the Christians have toward the preaching of a crucified Savior? (1:21, 29)
9. What results have come to them from believing in such a Savior? (1:18, 21, 24, 30)
10. Through what kind of words, concepts, and persons is the gospel properly proclaimed? (2:1-5)
Answer these questions by reading 1 Corinthians 2:6–3:23
11. By what terms does Paul describe the condition of the Corinthians? (3:1-4)
12. What three metaphors are used to explain who the Corinthians are in relation to God, Paul, and Apollos? (3:9, 16)
13. What ideas in 1 Corinthians 1–3 are summarized in 3:18-23?
Answer these questions by reading 1 Corinthians 4
14. Why is it wrong to judge others? (4:1-5; see also Matthew 7:1-5)
15. How do the attitudes of the Corinthians compare with the attitudes of the apostles? (4:8-13)
DIMENSION TWO: WHAT DOES THE BIBLE MEAN?
Paul's letter to the Romans is theology-centered. His letter to the Corinthians is life-centered or problem-centered. While we learn much from First Corinthians about the readers' beliefs, we learn more about their everyday life: at home, in the marketplace, and in the church. Everywhere we see tension between the church and the world, with problems for Christians, which are similar to our own. First Corinthians can help us in our struggles with the worldly attitudes and practices that threaten our Christian living.
The Acts of the Apostles (chapter 19) indicates that Paul spent more than two years at Ephesus on his third missionary journey. On his second journey, he founded the church at Corinth (Acts 18:1-18). Before long, serious troubles arose there, and news about them reached Paul in Ephesus.
The letter Paul previously wrote the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 5:9) apparently did not meet their needs and, moreover, was misunderstood (5:10-13). The sick Corinthian church urgently needed a doctor. Since the doctor could not come at the moment, he sent a lengthy prescription to them in the form of our First Corinthians. The letter probably was carried to Corinth by a three-man delegation (16:17).
* 1 Corinthians 1:1-17. Paul begins his letter, as was customary in his time, with a greeting (1:1-3) and a thanksgiving (1:4-9). In his letters, Paul regularly stresses his authority as a representative of God and Jesus Christ, often mentions one or more of his associates, includes descriptive words about the church to which he is writing, and enriches the traditional greeting by a reference to the peace (well-being) God and Christ give.
In the thanksgiving, Paul calls to mind his positive remembrances of the readers. He knows the power of praise to motivate progress in the Christian life. Even though the Corinthians have many serious faults, he still can find much to be thankful for: God's graciousness extended to them through their faith in Jesus Christ, their enrichment through God's gifts of speech and knowledge, and the clear evidence the Corinthians show of the validity of Paul's gospel and their ability to pass the test of God's judgment at the last day.
Paul plunges immediately into the Corinthians' most serious problems: quarreling and divisiveness in the church. The family of God and the body of Christ are being torn apart by wrangling and division into cliques. For Paul, the heart of Christianity is love: God's love for us, our love for God, and the family members' love for one another. "Do everything in love," he writes at the end of his letter (16:14). He knows that all the Corinthians' problems will disappear if love is both valued above all else and earnestly sought after (14:1).
The Corinthians are claiming superiority over one another by virtue of their attachment to different leaders: Paul, Apollos, Peter (Cephas is Aramaic for "rock"), and Christ (1:12). It is not clear whether there are four distinct groups, each with a theology supposedly patterned after the views of its leader, or whether individuals are simply being loyal to the person who baptized them into the faith.
Clearly, some people are making too much of baptism, apparently regarding it as a magical rite that ties the initiator and the initiated in an inseparable bond, such as one might enter into the mystery religions of Corinth. Though Paul approved of baptism (Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12), for him it was effective only if one had deeply heard the gospel and responded to it in faith (1 Corinthians 1:13-17). Human leaders are not to be exalted to a place that belongs to Christ (1:13). And Christ and his people (Christ's body, 12:12-13) are not to be split up around these leaders. Only death to the body can ensue.
* 1 Corinthians 1:18–2:5. The divisive spirit rests on arrogant glorification of human wisdom (see 8:1-3). Human wisdom, particularly when eloquently presented, can empty the cross of Christ of its power to save (1:17).
The dispensers of human wisdom are "the wise man" (the philosopher), "the scholar" (especially the legal scholar), and "the philosopher of this age" (this world's clever arguer). Paul had jousted with them all and found them unreceptive, arrogant, and devoid of true knowledge of God (see Acts 17:16- 34). Human beings cannot speculate their way to God. Divine wisdom, set forth in simple preaching of the gospel, holds that God has come down to earth in Jesus Christ and his cross to save those who believe. The saved are often the unlearned, the weak, the lowly and despised — the nothings (1:26-28) — but they know in personal and group experience the life-giving power of God (1:3).
* 1 Corinthians 2:6–3:23. Though divine wisdom may appear foolish to the worldly wise, it is the highest form of wisdom to the really mature (2:6). "Mere infants" (3:1) will often prefer worthless tinsel to priceless diamonds.
Christian wisdom, which comes from God, not from humans, does not offend the mature mind. This wisdom is incarnate in Jesus Christ, "the Lord of glory" (2:8). Its purpose is the indescribable, external enrichment of believers (2:7-9). This wisdom, "God's wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden" (2:7) from human and demonic rulers, comes to believers through the revealing activity of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in them as God's gift (2:10-12). God's thoughts can be communicated only through words taught by the Holy Spirit to those who rely, not on human wisdom and human strength, but on divine wisdom and strength (2:13-16).
Human wisdom has set the followers of Paul, Apollos, and Peter over against one another. These leaders actually are fellow-laborers for God, not rivals encouraging partisanship (3:1-9). Each is accountable to God for the character of the work he does, not to other people (3:10-15). Their followers must not destroy the structure (the church) God's servants so laboriously and sacrificially built (3:1617). When filled with God's wisdom, followers will see that God's representatives are not to be fought over but accepted in gratitude as God's means of enriching God's people (3:18-23).
* 1 Corinthians 4. Human judgment of God's messengers is presumptuous. God will see to their judgment at the proper time (4:1-5). Better than judgment is humble, sacrificial imitation of their life and spirit (4:6-13).
The Corinthians must take practical steps to overcome their foolish divisions: listening to their spiritual father; giving attention to Timothy's instructions when he comes; and preparing for Paul's impending visit so that they may meet in love and understanding (4:14-21).
DIMENSION THREE: WHAT DOES THE BIBLE MEAN TO ME?
1 Corinthians 16:5-9 — There Are Many Adversaries
Paul was under great pressure and perhaps in deep suffering when he wrote this letter. The hostility of the Jews at Ephesus had led to his withdrawal from the synagogue (Acts 19:8-9). The silversmiths had hotly opposed his mission (Acts 19:23-41). He may even have been imprisoned there (2 Corinthians 1:8-10). At least, he came near death. Yet he wants to stay on, to enter the great door of service in Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:9). Somehow he finds strength enough to wrestle with the many problems of the Corinthians in addition to his own.
What do you do when the going gets rough? Do you run away, or do you resolve to hold steady and enter the "great door for effective work" in your situation? Have you a source of power like Paul's (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)? Do you seek prayer support by God's people (2 Corinthians 1:11)? When should one run, as Paul sometimes does (Acts 17:10), and when should one stand firm?
1 Corinthians 1:10-17 — Is Christ Divided?
The divisions in the church at Corinth rested on not only selfishness and cantankerousness but also basic theological misunderstandings: that Christianity consists in magical rites and ceremonies, such as baptism, and that its evangelists and teachers are special communicators of divine grace, to whom recipients are intimately attached.
Paul wants to tie the Corinthians to Christ, not to human leaders, and to point out that salvation comes by the response of faith to the Messiah who dies for us on the cross. Think about the church squabbles you have known. Analyze the causes. What part did selfishness and ambition play? What misunderstandings of the basic nature of Christianity on the part of the participants can you identify? What spirit did you show? What suggestions for improving your attitudes and the relationship of members have you gleaned from 1 Corinthians l–4?
1 Corinthians 1:18–2:16-Divine and Human Wisdom
Intellectual people, particularly some philosophers, have been turned off by Paul's downgrading of human wisdom and his exaltation of a secret wisdom that is discerned only, or chiefly, by simple, uneducated, "spiritually minded" people. Intellectual people regard the cultivated human mind as the only doorway to truth, and Paul seems to deny sin.
Might Paul be right that the cultivated intellect cannot take us all the way to God and an understanding of life's ultimate mysteries? Must God come down to us, as in Jesus and in the Holy Spirit, as indwelling interpreter and guide? Try to work out your understanding of the relationship between divine revelation and human reason.CHAPTER 2
PERSONAL MORALITY IN THE CHURCH
1 Corinthians 5–7
DIMENSION ONE: WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?
Answer these questions by reading 1 Corinthians 5
1. What does Paul say about the nature and seriousness of the sin mentioned in 5: l?
2. What is the attitude of the members of the church toward the sin? (5:2, 6)
3. What are Paul's directions for handling the problem? (5:2-5)
4. What does Paul hope to achieve by handling the matter in this way? (5:5)
5. Why must the church purge itself of this sin? (5:6)
Answer these questions by reading 1 Corinthians 6
6. How should disputes among Christians be settled, and how does Paul motivate the Corinthians to handle them in this way? (6:2-6)
7. Why are lawsuits among Christians wrong in principle? (6:7-8)
8. What understanding of the kingdom of God does Paul give in 6:9-11? Who will be included in that kingdom and who will not?
9. How does Paul qualify the statement, "I have the right to do anything," and why does he think it must be qualified? (6:12-14)
10. Why should Christians not engage in prostitution, according to Paul? (6:15-20)
Answer these questions by reading 1 Corinthians 7
11. Why does Paul consider marriage and the marital relationship advisable? (7:2-9)
12. What is Paul's view of celibacy? (7:1, 7-9, 25-35)
13. What is Paul's view of divorce? (7:12-16, 39)
14. Why does Paul want people (circumcised, uncircumcised, slaves, the free, the unmarried, the married) to remain as they were at the time of their conversion to Christ? (7:17-31)
15. What counsel has Paul for persons who are unmarried or widowed? (7:8-9, 39-40)
DIMENSION TWO: WHAT DOES THE BIBLE MEAN?
This section on personal morality in the church deals with several subjects: a case of incest (5:1-8), the relation of Christians within and beyond the church (5:9-13), lawsuits among church members (6:1-11), sexual freedom (6:12-20), and marriage (chapter 7).
* 1 Corinthians 5:1. The exact nature of the sin is difficult to determine. In 5:1, the Greek word behind "sexual immorality" means prostitution or traffic with prostitutes; but in the New Testament, the word is often used in the more general sense of irregular sexual conduct of any kind. The kind of irregularity is partly indicated by the latter part of the verse, which in the Greek reads, "a certain one has the woman of his father." In the Greek text, whether she is a wife or a concubine is not clear. Since Paul does not call the sin adultery (a different Greek word), it is possible that the father is dead or divorced from the woman. Whether the son (the church member) is married to the woman is also unknown. All we can conclude is that the son has taken a woman with whom his father has had sexual relations. We do not know whether she is a member of the church.
Taking one's father's wife was forbidden among Jews (Leviticus 18:8; 20:11) and condemned by Gentiles, as Paul in indicates, although the practice of it may have been winked at in the loose sexual morality of the Gentile world. Jews who committed this sin were stoned.
* 1 Corinthians 5:2, 6. Why the church is "proud" (literally, "puffed up") about the situation must be surmised. The answer is probably that the members, claiming superior knowledge and the supposed freedom that they thought goes with it, are relishing that freedom and proving that, as spiritual persons, they can do what they like with their bodies. In 6:12-20, we learn that consorting with prostitutes was indulged in by some church members.
* 1 Corinthians 5:3-8. Paul's words are blunt and his directives sharp. He believes that Christ came to raise the moral level of the world, not to depress it below pagan standards. Not arrogance but mourning is appropriate. The sinful person must be disciplined by removal from the church.
In the synagogues, Jews practiced excommunication for serious ritual or moral offenses. Paul's directions for excommunication are clear. The assembled church is to act. Paul, though absent in body, will be present in spirit. The power of the Lord Jesus will be there. In Jesus' name and by his authority they are to put the man out of the church and hand him over to Satan "for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord" (5:5).
To hand him over to Satan apparently means to put him out into the world where Satan exercises his authority, where the forces of destruction are at work, possibly bringing about the man's death.
But Satan, unknowingly, will be doing Christ's work. Just how is not stated. Will the experience bring about repentance and saving faith in Christ? All we know is that Paul expects the discipline to result in the man's salvation at the Day of Judgment. The church's purpose is always redemption, even for serious moral offenders. Paul's reference to leaven (5:6-8) would be readily understood. Leaven or yeast quickly affects the whole lump of dough. Here the leaven is symbolic of sin and evil.
This sin and the boasting over it may have far-reaching effects on the church. Paul now apparently remembers that the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread lie just ahead. (He seems to be anticipating the Christian celebration of Passover, which came fifty days before Pentecost, when he would leave Ephesus [16:8].) As the Jews removed every trace of leaven before these festivals (Exodus 12:15) and the eating of the Passover lamb, so the church should remove all evil before it celebrates the death of him who was the true Passover Lamb. The church is dedicated to righteous living ("bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth") and must have nothing to do with "malice and wickedness" (5:8).(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Genesis to Revelation: 1-2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians Participant Book"
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Table of Contents
1. Unity in the Church (1 Corinthians 1-4; 16),
2. Personal Morality in the Church (1 Corinthians 5–7),
3. Knowledge and Love in the Church (1 Corinthians 8:1–11:1),
4. Worship in the Church (Part 1) (1 Corinthians 11:2–12:31),
5. Worship in the Church (Part 2) / The Resurrection (1 Corinthians 13–15),
6. Integrity Under the New Covenant (2 Corinthians 1–3),
7. Ministry Under the New Covenant (2 Corinthians 4:1–6:13),
8. Open-Hearted Sharing (2 Corinthians 6:14–9:15),
9. Apostles: The False and the True (2 Corinthians 10–13),
10. Paul and the True Gospel (Galatians 1–2; 6:11-18),
11. Freedom in Christ and the Spirit (Galatians 3:1–6:10),
12. The Divine Plan (Ephesians 1–3),
13. The Path to Unity (Ephesians 4–6),