1 Corinthians 1-4: Unity through the Spirit

New Testament: Student Study guide, (2003), 120–121


Sometimes members of the Church place their own wisdom above God’s wisdom. They fail to see how the Spirit can help them find solutions to life’s challenges. In Corinth, some Saints argued that their personal opinions were part of the gospel of Christ, and that caused divisions among the members. In 1 Corinthians 1–4, How does the Spirit provide solutions to this problem and how can it help you face similar difficulties?

Understanding the Scriptures

1 Corinthians 1

Utterance (v. 5)Words spoken 
Fellowship of his Son (v. 9)Closeness to or fellowship with Christ as members of His Church 
Beseech (v. 10)Plead 
Cephas (v. 12)Peter 
Prudent (v. 19)Sensible, learned 
Disputer (v. 20)Philosopher 
Foolish, weak, base things (vv. 27–28)Humble followers of Jesus Christ 

1 Corinthians 1:26–28—“God Hath Chosen the Foolish … to Confound the Wise”

Who are the “foolish things of the world” who will “confound the wise” (1 Corinthians 1:27)? Paul was referring to missionaries who go out into the world and teach people from all walks of life. Did he mean that missionaries are foolish? President Gordon B. Hinckley noted how our missionaries are often seen by the world:

“I had been interviewed by a representative of the BBC Radio Worldwide Service. He had seen the missionaries and noted their youthful appearance. He asked me, ‘How do you expect people to listen to these callow youth?’

“In case some of you do not know the meaning of callow, it means immature, inexperienced, lacking sophistication.

“I replied to the reporter with a smile, ‘Callow youth? It is with these missionaries today as it was with Timothy in the days of Paul [see 1 Timothy 4:12]. …

“‘The remarkable thing is that people do receive them and listen to them. They are wholesome. They are bright, they are alert, they are upstanding. They are clean looking, and people quickly develop confidence in them.’ …

“‘Callow youth?’ Yes, they are lacking in sophistication. What a great blessing this is. They carry no element of deception. They speak with no element of sophistry. They speak out of their hearts with personal conviction. Each is a servant of the living God, an ambassador of the Lord Jesus Christ. Their power comes not of their learning in the things of the world. Their power comes of faith and prayer and humility” (in Conference Report, Sept.–Oct. 1995, 69; or Ensign, Nov. 1995, 51).

two missionaries

1 Corinthians 2

Howbeit (v. 6)However 
Princes (vv. 6, 8)Rulers 
Spiritually discerned (v. 14)Understood through the Holy Ghost 

1 Corinthians 2:14—What Is a “Natural Man”?

After the Fall of Adam, mankind became “carnal, sensual, and devilish, by nature” (Alma 42:10). This nature is contrary to the divine nature of God (see Mosiah 3:19). Those who live as “natural” men and women do not understand spiritual knowledge; it is foolishness to them. The natural man acquires spiritual knowledge when he “yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man” (Mosiah 3:19).

1 Corinthians 3

Stubble (v. 12)Short, dry stalks of grain left in the field after the harvest 
Abide (v. 14)Endures 

1 Corinthians 3:1–3—“I Have Fed You with Milk”

The Corinthians were recent converts to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Many of them were still plagued with carnal (worldly) weaknesses. Paul compared them to “babes in Christ,” telling them that he had fed them with milk because they were not ready for meat (1 Corinthians 3:1–2). Milk refers to the simple teachings of the gospel that must be understood before the meat, or more complex doctrines, can be taught. Such doctrines can only be understood by those who have acquired spiritual maturity by living according to the light they have already received (see D&C 50:24; Alma 12:9–11).

1 Corinthians 4

Counsels of the hearts (v. 5)Secrets or motives of the heart 
I have in a figure (v. 6)I have, figuratively 
Transferred (v. 6)Applied 
Being defamed, we intreat (v. 13)When we are lied about, we seek to settle differences 
Offscouring (v. 13)Waste, garbage 

Studying the Scriptures

Do two of the following activities (A–D) as you study 1 Corinthians 1–4.

Activity A iconTell about Your Family

When people join the Church they become members of the family of Christ (see Mosiah 15:11). Read 1 Corinthians 1:9–13.

  1. 1.

    List what was wrong with the “family of Christ” in Corinth.

  2. 2.

    Describe an event or a time when your own family was together that brought you great joy.

  3. 3.

    List the elements that existed in your family experience that would also be necessary in the family of Christ.

Activity B iconThe Unnatural Man

If you were feeling pain because of an unusual sickness, who would you go to for help—the police, a taxi driver, or your doctor? Why? Read 1 Corinthians 2:10–14.

  1. 1.

    Write where you must go to obtain spiritual answers.

  2. 2.

    Explain why the “natural man” has difficulty gaining spiritual knowledge.

  3. 3.

    Read Mosiah 3:19 and list what helps us overcome the natural man.

Activity C iconHoly Temple, Holy Me

Read 1 Corinthians 3:16–17 and think about ways in which your body is like a holy temple. Explain how the following situations affect such a temple and limit the ability to receive the Spirit:

  1. 1.

    Tom and Susan are dating and have become physically involved.

  2. 2.

    Joe likes chewing tobacco with his friends.

  3. 3.

    Katrina avoids Church because her friends aren’t there.

Activity D iconWrite a Note to a Church Leader

Paul told the leaders of the Church that they were required to be faithful and reminded them that they would be persecuted because of their faithfulness (see 1 Corinthians 4). After reading 1 Corinthians 4:9–16, write a note of appreciation to one of your Church leaders. List what you appreciate most about that person and how he or she has helped you. (You could share the note with your teacher before you send it.)