1 Corinthians 1–4

“1 Corinthians 1–4,” New Testament Teacher Resource Manual (2002), 174–76


Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians was a voice of warning. News of divisions and petty bickering had come to him through members of the house of Chloe, and he was determined to set the Saints right by teaching that they should be unified in the fellowship of Jesus Christ. Paul reminded them that through the gospel they were “sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 1:1–6).

Prayerfully study 1 Corinthians 1–4and consider the following principles before preparing your lessons.

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

Additional Resources

  • The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, 280, 282–84.

Suggestions for Teaching

Choose from the following ideas, or use some of your own, as you prepare lessons for 1 Corinthians 1–4.

video iconNew Testament Video presentation 15, “The Body Is a Temple” (7:18), can be used in teaching 1 Corinthians 3–6(see New Testament Video Guide for teaching suggestions).

1 Corinthians 1:1–13. Members of the Church must be unified and avoid contention.

(15–20 minutes)

Discuss some of the following questions with students:

  • Have you ever been in a church class or quorum in which some students were more popular than others?

  • What is that like for those who are left out?

  • What does it do to the class or the quorum as a whole?

  • How does it affect the class or quorum members’ service in the Church?

Have a student read Doctrine and Covenants 38:25–27 and ask how this scripture applies to the discussion. Explain that because members of the Church in Corinth had a problem with contention, Paul had to remind them how the Lord wants us to treat one another. Invite students to read 1 Corinthians 1:10–13; 3:3. Ask:

  • What do these verses teach about unity?

  • What impact would the members being divided have on missionary work?

  • Why do division, jealousy, and contention make living the gospel difficult? (see 3 Nephi 11:29).

  • How can Church members be united in doctrine?

  • What are other ways we can unite as a Church?

Ask students to read 1 Corinthians 1:2–9and look for who sanctifies us, calls us to be Saints, and gives us grace. Ask: What did Jesus Christ do that has the power to change and unify us? (He provided the Atonement.) Invite students to read the following scriptures and tell what each teaches about unity:

Read the following statement by President Marion G. Romney, who was a member of the First Presidency:

“The way to unity is for us to learn the will of the Lord and then to do it. … The power of the Church for good in the world depends upon the extent to which we, the members thereof, observe this principle” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1983, 22; or Ensign, May 1983, 17).

Discuss with students what they could do to help bring greater unity to their church classes and quorums. Ask:

  • Are there people you know who are often left out or shunned by their peers?

  • What specific things could you do to help them?

  • What would create unity among your peers at school or among your family members?

Invite students to write down one “unity“ goal that they will work on for the next week.

1 Corinthians 1:17–31. God chooses humble people to preach the gospel by the power of the Holy Ghost.

(15–20 minutes)

Discuss the following questions:

  • If the Church needed to send a representative to an important discussion with several prominent leaders of other religions, would you prefer them to send a well-known university professor or a young student? Why?

  • What strengths would the professor have compared to the student?

  • What strengths might the student have that the professor might not have?

  • How might the strengths of the professor be helpful?

  • How might they get in the way?

(Note: Do not use this discussion to criticize the educated. The “weak things of the earth“ refers to those who, regardless of position or education, are humble enough to rely on the Holy Ghost.)

Read 1 Corinthians 1:25–27and the following quotation from Elder Bruce R. McConkie:

“Question: How is it that the weak things of the earth confound the mighty and strong?

“Answer: True religion is not a matter of intellectuality or of worldly prominence or renown, but of spirituality; and they are not weak but strong in the realm of spiritual things” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 2:316).

Ask students: How does this affect your choice between the professor and the student?

Have students read 1 Corinthians 1:17–31looking for verses that show why God chooses the weak things of the world. Discuss their findings. Explain that the “weak” things of the world are people who are humble, not of worldly renown, unlearned as to the things of the world. Those who fit this definition of “weak” rely more upon God than on their own intelligence. Because of that reliance the Lord is able to use them to “confound the wise” (see also D&C 35:13).

Read Doctrine and Covenants 1:18–20, 23looking for who God chose to spread the gospel in the last days. Ask:

  • Who do you know from Church history or modern times who has been called to do the Lord’s work but may have been considered weak in the eyes of the world? (Possible answers include the Prophet Joseph Smith, President Gordon B. Hinckley, other latter-day prophets, the Church’s missionaries, ward and branch leaders.)

  • Why might you be considered simple or weak?

  • What must you do to become a powerful tool in the hands of the Lord?

Testify to students that the Lord needs them to be humble and lowly so He can rely on them to do His work in the world today.

1 Corinthians 2. God’s wisdom is greater than man’s and can only be learned through the Holy Ghost. It is the source of knowledge that leads us successfully through this life and on to celestial glory.

(20–25 minutes)

Bring some copies of your local telephone directory to class. Write on separate slips of paper descriptions of problems that require the assistance of a competent professional (for example your car will not start, you were just laid off work, your child has chest pains). Give the slips of paper to students and ask them to decide where to go for help by looking in the telephone directory. Ask:

  • Who did you decide to call? Why?

  • Why is it important that the person you go to for help is experienced in treating your problem?

    To help students understand that God is the source of the knowledge that will lead us to celestial glory, discuss the following questions:

  • Do you typically ask God what to wear each day, what you should eat for lunch, or for the correct answers on your homework? Why or why not?

  • To whom would you go for answers to these questions?

  • What kinds of information should we ask God for?

Read 1 Corinthians 2:1–5and look for what Paul’s faith was based on. Ask:

  • In what ways do we sometimes let our faith “stand in the wisdom of men”?

  • Why do we sometimes allow our faith to do this?

  • How can we keep from doing this?

Read 1 Corinthians 2:9–10; Doctrine and Covenants 1:38; 18:33–36looking for ways the voice of the Lord is revealed to us. Ask: How can hearing the voice of God help us build on the foundation of Christ?

Read 1 Corinthians 2:11–16and discuss some of the following questions:

  • Why do you think it is important to seek the Lord’s Spirit to guide our lives?

  • Why might one have difficulty learning spiritual truths?

  • How does the natural man tend to regard the gospel?

  • How do we obtain the “mind of Christ”? (see also 2 Nephi 32:2–3).

Read the following statement by Elder Joseph Fielding Smith and testify of its truthfulness:

“Only by the aid of the Holy Ghost, and through obedience to the principles of the gospel, will a man eventually attain to the knowledge of all truth. In other words, those who will not make their lives conform in every particular to the Divine Life; who will not adjust their lives through faith and repentance and obedience to all divine law, will never be in a position to comprehend truth in its fulness” (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:298).

1 Corinthians 3:1–15, 21–23. Gospel knowledge is built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ and grows line upon line.

(20–25 minutes)

Show students a glass of milk and a piece of meat. Ask:

  • Which would you feed to a baby? Why?

  • What would happen if you fed a baby some meat?

  • What does milk provide until the child can eat meat?

Ask students to read 1 Corinthians 3:1–2and look for who Paul compared the Corinthian Saints to. What do you think the phrase “babes in Christ“ means (v. 1)?

Tell students that the milk can be compared to a basic understanding of the gospel and the meat to more advanced gospel understanding. Have students imagine they are missionaries teaching a nonmember, and ask:

  • Why would it be important to teach basic gospel principles first rather than the deeper truths of the gospel?

  • What harm might come if we taught people deeper doctrines first?

  • What do basic gospel doctrines provide for people who are learning about the Church?

Read 2 Nephi 28:30and ask: How does the Lord teach His children? As you read the following statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie, invite students to identify how we gain an understanding of gospel doctrines today:

“God’s earthly kingdom is a school in which his saints learn the doctrines of salvation. Some members of the Church are being taught elementary courses; others are approaching graduation and can do independent research where the deep and hidden things are concerned. All must learn line upon line and precept upon precept” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 2:324; see also D&C 78:17–18; Alma 12:9–11).

Ask students to read 1 Corinthians 3:3–15looking for evidence that the Corinthians were still like infants who needed milk. Ask: According to these verses, what is the foundation upon which gospel knowledge must be built? Read this statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie:

“Paul, ‘as a wise masterbuilder,’ laid the foundation for the Corinthian Church on Christ and his atoning sacrifice. Similarly, in this day, Joseph Smith said: ‘The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the apostles and prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that he died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.’ (Teachings [of the Prophet Joseph Smith], p. 121.)” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 2:325).


  • What can you do to make the Savior the foundation of your life?

  • How can you build on that foundation?