Unit 21, Day 3: 1 Corinthians 1–2

New Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students, 2015


Introduction

After learning about some of the problems Church members in Corinth were experiencing, Paul wrote to them and exhorted them to eliminate contention and become united. He also explained that God calls the weak and humble to preach His gospel and that the things of God can only be known and understood through the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 1:1–16

Paul writes to the Saints in Corinth and exhorts them to eliminate contention and be united

Think about a family, a sports team, and a group of friends.

family sitting on beach, soccer team, friends hiking

What might cause divisions and contention in each of these groups? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

How can such divisions and contention affect a family, team, or group of friends? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Think about how divisions and contention among its members can affect the Church.

As you study 1 Corinthians 1, look for a truth that Paul taught the Saints in Corinth about divisions and contention.

Locate Corinth on the following map:

map, eastern Mediterranean

During his second missionary journey, Paul traveled to the city of Corinth in Greece, where he preached the gospel. Many people were baptized at that time (see Acts 18:1–18). Later, while Paul was preaching in Ephesus, he learned that problems had arisen among Church members in Corinth because several of the converts were reverting to their past beliefs and practices of idol worship. Paul wrote to the Church members in Corinth to strengthen them and remind them of their commitment to serve the Lord.

We read in 1 Corinthians 1:1–9 that Paul told the Saints in Corinth that he thanked God on their behalf for the grace they had received through Jesus Christ, which had blessed them in every way.

Read 1 Corinthians 1:10–11, looking for what Paul exhorted the Corinthian Saints to do.

To identify a truth recorded in these verses, use the following words to fill in the blanks in the following statement: united, expects, contention, eliminate.

The Lord ____________________ us as Saints to be ____________________ and to ____________________ divisions and ____________________.

  1. journal icon1.

    Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:

    1. a.

      What blessings do we as Church members receive when we strive to be united and to eliminate divisions and contention?

    2. b.

      When have you been blessed as a result of being united in your family, class, quorum, or ward or branch?

    3. c.

      What can we do to eliminate divisions and contention in the Church?

According to 1 Corinthians 1:12–16, Church members in Corinth were dividing into groups based on differing interpretations of Church doctrine, and they supported their points of view by quoting prominent Church leaders.

1 Corinthians 1:17–31

Paul teaches the Saints that God calls on the weak to preach His gospel

During the time of Paul, Greece was under Roman rule, and many Greeks lived in Corinth. The Greeks placed a high value on philosophical ideas and the wisdom of the world.

Consider why someone who values worldly philosophies might find it difficult to accept or live the gospel.

As you study 1 Corinthians 1:17–31, look for a truth that can help you understand the foolishness of relying on the world’s wisdom.

Read 1 Corinthians 1:17–22, looking for what the Apostle Paul taught about the world’s wisdom versus God’s wisdom. The phrases “wisdom of the wise” (1 Corinthians 1:19) and “wisdom of this world” (1 Corinthians 1:20) refer to the flawed philosophical traditions of the day. It might also be helpful to know that Paul used the phrase “the cross” (1 Corinthians 1:17–18) to refer to Jesus Christ’s life, mission, and Atonement.

Why do you think nonbelievers considered the message of Jesus Christ’s Atonement to be foolish? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Read 1 Corinthians 1:25, looking for what Paul taught about human wisdom compared to God’s wisdom. God is not foolish, nor does He have any weaknesses. Paul used the phrases “the foolishness of God is wiser than men” and “the weakness of God is stronger than men” to convey the idea that human wisdom and power are nothing compared to God’s wisdom and power.

Circle the truth that best describes what Paul taught the Corinthians about God’s wisdom:

  • God’s wisdom is greater than human wisdom.

  • A person is mighty when he or she is wise.

  • Signs from heaven are greater than the wisdom of the Greeks.

  1. journal icon2.

    Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: How do you think understanding that God’s wisdom is greater than human wisdom might affect how a person looks for solutions to his or her problems?

Read 1 Corinthians 1:26–27, looking for whom God chooses to preach His gospel.

Ponder why God chooses those whom the world considers foolish and weak to teach His gospel.

We learn in 1 Corinthians 1:28–31 that Paul taught that Jesus Christ is the perfect example of “wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30) and we should glory, or rejoice, in Him.

1 Corinthians 2

Paul explains how we learn the things of God

Read the following account President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave of an experience that happened before he was called to be a General Authority:

President Boyd K. Packer

“I sat on a plane next to a professed atheist who pressed his disbelief in God so urgently that I bore my testimony to him. ‘You are wrong,’ I said, ‘there is a God. I know He lives!’

“He protested, ‘You don’t know. Nobody knows that! You can’t know it!’ When I would not yield, the atheist, who was an attorney, asked perhaps the ultimate question on the subject of testimony. ‘All right,’ he said in a sneering, condescending way, ‘you say you know. Tell me how you know.’

“When I attempted to answer, even though I held advanced academic degrees, I was helpless to communicate. …

“When I used the words Spirit and witness, the atheist responded, ‘I don’t know what you are talking about.’ The words prayer, discernment, and faith were equally meaningless to him. ‘You see,’ he said, ‘you don’t really know. If you did, you would be able to tell me how you know.

“I felt, perhaps, that I had borne my testimony to him unwisely and was at a loss as to what to do.” (“The Candle of the Lord,” Ensign, Jan. 1983, 51).

If you had been in this situation, what would you have said to this man who did not believe in God?

As you study 1 Corinthians 2, look for a truth that will help you understand why this man could not understand President Packer’s words and why you can be confident in your knowledge of spiritual matters.

We read in 1 Corinthians 2:1–8 that Paul told the Saints in Corinth that he did not use the world’s wisdom to convince them of the truthfulness of the gospel. He explained that he taught them by the power of the Spirit so they would have faith in God. Paul also told them that unbelievers cannot understand the mysteries of God.

Read 1 Corinthians 2:9–16, looking for why Paul said that some people can know and understand the “things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10–11), while others cannot.

  1. journal icon3.

    Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:

    1. a.

      According to 1 Corinthians 2:9–10, why could Paul and other faithful people understand the things of God?

    2. b.

      According to 1 Corinthians 2:14, why are some people unable to understand the things of God?

From these verses we learn the following truth: We can only know and understand the things of God through His Spirit. Consider marking the words or phrases in 1 Corinthians 2:10–14 that teach this truth.

President Boyd K. Packer

President Packer concluded his account by explaining that he felt inspired to ask the man sitting next to him on the plane if he knew what salt tastes like.

“‘Of course I do,’ was his reply.

“‘When did you taste salt last?’

“‘I just had dinner on the plane.’

“‘You just think you know what salt tastes like,’ I said.

“He insisted, ‘I know what salt tastes like as well as I know anything.’ …

“‘Then,’ I said, ‘assuming that I have never tasted salt, explain to me just what it tastes like.’ …

“After several attempts, of course, he could not do it. He could not convey, in words alone, so ordinary an experience as tasting salt. I bore testimony to him once again and said, ‘I know there is a God. You ridiculed that testimony and said that if I did know, I would be able to tell you exactly how I know. My friend, spiritually speaking, I have tasted salt. I am no more able to convey to you in words how this knowledge has come than you are to tell me what salt tastes like. But I say to you again, there is a God! He does live! And just because you don’t know, don’t try to tell me that I don’t know, for I do!’

“As we parted, I heard him mutter, ‘I don’t need your religion for a crutch! I don’t need it.’

“From that experience forward, I have never been embarrassed or ashamed that I could not explain in words alone everything I know spiritually” (“The Candle of the Lord,” 52).

  1. journal icon4.

    Complete the following in your scripture study journal:

    1. a.

      List a few of the things of God that can only be known and understood through His Spirit.

    2. b.

      Why is it important for us to believe that we can only know and understand the things of God through His Spirit?

Think about a time when you came to know and understand through the Spirit one of the things of God that you listed in your scripture study journal. Consider what you can do now to seek the Spirit’s help as you strive to know and understand the things of God.

  1. journal icon5.

    Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:

    I have studied 1 Corinthians 1–2 and completed this lesson on (date).

    Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: