Paul explained to the Corinthian Saints the roles of missionaries in building up God’s kingdom. He taught that their congregations were places where the Spirit could dwell and exhorted them not to think that some people are better than others. (Note: The doctrine that our physical bodies are like temples will be covered in the lesson on 1 Corinthians 6.)
Invite students to imagine that a friend signs up to take an advanced math class, like calculus, but has not taken the prerequisite courses, like basic algebra.
How successful do you think your friend will be in the advanced math class? Why?
Why is it necessary to understand the basic ideas of a subject before you can master the more advanced concepts?
Invite a student to read 1 Corinthians 3:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the analogy Paul used to show the Saints in Corinth that they were not yet ready for more advanced gospel truths. Explain that the phrase “but as unto carnal” in verse 1 refers to the natural man, or “a person who chooses to be influenced by the passions, desires, appetites, and senses of the flesh rather than by the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Such a person can comprehend physical things but not spiritual things” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Natural Man,” scriptures.lds.org).
Write the words milk and meat on the board.
Which of these foods would you feed to a baby? Why?
What does the phrase “babes in Christ” in verse 1 suggest about the spiritual maturity of the Corinthian Saints?
To help students understand that the Saints were not yet ready to receive greater truths, remind them that the Saints in Corinth were not unified and that some of them included pagan (ungodly) beliefs and practices in their observance of the gospel. Explain that Paul used several metaphors to teach these Saints the importance of being unified, to correct false beliefs and practices, and to strengthen their faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Divide students into groups of three. Assign each person in the group one of the following teaching outlines. Provide each student with a handout of his or her assigned teaching outline, and allow students a few minutes to read it. After sufficient time, invite each student to use the outline to teach the other two members of the group. (If it is not possible to have groups of three, you could divide students into pairs and assign two teaching outlines to one of the students in each pair.)
After sufficient time, invite a few students to report what they learned in their groups and what they will do as a result of what they learned.
Explain that based on Paul’s counsel recorded in 1 Corinthians 4:1–3, it appears that some members of the Church in Corinth had judged Paul’s performance as a missionary and Church leader. They may have questioned his judgment or thought someone else might have done a better job.
Invite a student to read 1 Corinthians 4:3–5 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how Paul responded to their judgments.
How did Paul respond to their judgments?
Why was Paul not concerned about the judgment of others?
What truth can we learn from verse 5 about how the Lord will judge us? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify a truth similar to the following: The Lord will judge us fairly because He knows all things, including the thoughts and intents of our hearts.)
How can believing this truth help someone who is judged unfairly?
Invite a student to read 1 Corinthians 4:6–7 aloud, and ask the class to look for what Paul taught the Saints about their relationship with other Church members, including Church leaders.
According to verse 6, what did Paul tell the Saints not to do when they observed differences in missionaries and Church leaders? (They should not “be puffed up” in pride and think that some people are better than others.)
Based on Paul’s questions recorded in verse 7, who gave people different talents and abilities?
How can Paul’s counsel help us as we think about our Church leaders and teachers?
Summarize 1 Corinthians 4:8–21 by explaining that Paul told the Saints in Corinth that the Apostles of Jesus Christ are called to suffer because of the wickedness of the world. The world judges the Apostles and other Church leaders to be “fools” (verse 10) for seeking to follow Christ.
Conclude by testifying of the truths taught in this lesson.