Before 1 Corinthians, Paul had written an earlier letter to the Corinthian Saints (see 1 Corinthians 5:9). Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained:
“The contentious souls in the Corinthian congregation wrote a reply [to this first letter], taking issue with some of the doctrines of the Apostles and asking detailed questions about his teachings. Thereupon, with vigor and true apostolic zeal, Paul wrote a second epistle, canonized and known as First Corinthians, which answered the points raised by his detractors and further amplified the teachings of the original letter.
“Unfortunately we do not know what was said in Paul’s prior epistle to the Corinthians, nor in their reply to him. All that has come to us is his reply to the reply. We have, thus, only a few comments about certain aspects of the doctrines they were considering” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 2:309–10).
Given this background, it is easy to see why some have misunderstood some of Paul’s writings. However, as you carefully read 1 Corinthians 5–7and look for the doctrines of the gospel, you will find them. In these chapters Paul explained doctrines relating to marriage, church discipline, legal questions, bondage to sin, and missionary work.
Prayerfully study 1 Corinthians 5–7and consider the following principles before preparing your lessons.
The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, 286–90.
Choose from the following ideas, or use some of your own, as you prepare lessons for 1 Corinthians 5–7.
Show students a bowl of fresh fruit containing one rotten piece. Discuss the effects of a rotten piece of fruit on the rest of the fruit. (The spoilage in rotten fruit will spread to good fruit.) Read 1 Corinthians 5:1and look for t he wickedness of some of the people in Corinth (see also the commentary for 1 Corinthians 5:1, 11in The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, pp. 287–88). Ask:
How could fornication be compared to “rotten fruit”?
Read verses 2–5. What did Paul want to do to protect the Saints?
How would removing the wicked people from among them be a blessing to the righteous?
Read the following statement by Elder Neal A. Maxwell:
“Do not company with fornicators—not because you are too good for them but, as C. S. Lewis wrote, because you are not good enough. Remember that bad situations can wear down even good people. Joseph had both good sense and good legs in fleeing from Potiphar’s wife” (“The Stern but Sweet Seventh Commandment,” in Morality , 29).
Read 1 Corinthians 5:6–8and explain that leaven is yeast. Ask:
Why is the effect of yeast on a loaf of bread a good analogy to sin?
What do you think the phrase “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” means?
How does this analogy relate to the bowl of fruit? (The leaven affects all the dough, just as the bacteria in the rotten fruit can spoil the good fruit. Likewise unrepentant sinners can influence those around them to sin.)
Have students read 1 Corinthians 5:9–13looking for kinds of people who can have a bad influence. Ask:
What can we do to avoid the effects of those who commit sin?
How can we help those who commit sin without becoming tainted ourselves?
Read the first two paragraphs on page 12 of the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet about the importance of having good friends. Encourage students to be wise in their choice of friends so they will have a better chance of living the gospel. Explain that this does not mean we should avoid those who are not members of the Church. Stress to students that they have a duty to help others through their example and through proclaiming the gospel.
Before students arrive, push desks or chairs out of order, turn some upside down, scatter books on the floor, tip over the trash can, and so on. When class begins, ask: How did it feel to enter a classroom in such disarray? Why? Invite the students to put things back in order. Ask: What do you feel when you are in an organized, beautiful, and well-kept building? Discuss their answers.
Read 1 Corinthians 6:19and ask:
How does this scripture relate to the untidy classroom?
If our bodies are temples, how should we care for them?
What might cause our bodies to become “cluttered,” “dirty,” or “out of order”?
In what other ways do the object lesson and this verse apply to our bodies?
Tell students about the people of Corinth (see the historical background information in the introduction to 1 Corinthians, p. 174). Explain that Paul had great success in turning the Corinthian Saints from their wickedness and bringing them to Jesus Christ. After Paul left Corinth, however, he learned that many of them had returned to their former ways. Explain that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians to chastise the Saints and encourage them to remain steadfast in the faith.
Have students scan 1 Corinthians 5:1–6:8looking for the sins many of the Corinthians had committed, and list them on the board. Ask: Which of these temptations do we face today? Continue scanning through 1 Corinthians 6:20. Ask: How can we keep ourselves worthy of the Spirit of God while living in a sinful world?
Display an item that is clean and white (such as a handkerchief, a picture of a bride, or a clean piece of paper), and ask: What does the color white symbolize? Display a bowl of mud. Invite a student to soil his or her hands in the mud, and then give the student the clean, white item to hold. Ask the class: How did you feel when you saw the item become dirty? Compare this activity to the Corinthian Saints who had become unclean, and point out to students that the same situation can exist today. Ask:
What kinds of things make us unclean?
What keeps us clean?
To whom do we belong?
How does this apply to our body and our spirit?
In what ways does God own us?
Since we belong to Him and since our bodies are temples in which the Holy Spirit is to dwell, how should we live our lives?
Read the following three statements and ask students to suggest how they apply to the discussion.
President Stephen L. Richards, who was a member of the First Presidency, said:
“Some … think that they have freedom to do what they will. They seem to think that they have freedom to do with their lives as they desire. They ought to be taught the Lord’s words regarding life. Life is precious, ‘For ye are bought with a price. …’ (1 Cor. 6:20)” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1956, 85).
President Joseph Fielding Smith said:
“The great love, with its accompanying blessings, extended to us through the crucifixion, suffering, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is beyond our mortal comprehension. We never could repay. We have been bought with a price beyond computation—not with gold or silver or precious stones, ‘but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish, and without spot.’ (1 Pet. 1:19.)” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1966, 102).
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, taught:
“Christ suffered for the sins and sorrows and pains of all the rest of the human family, providing remission for all of our sins as well, upon conditions of obedience to the principles and ordinances of the gospel He taught (see 2 Nephi 9:21–23)” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1995, 88; or Ensign , Nov. 1995, 67).
Read Doctrine and Covenants 93:36–37. Testify that disobedience and uncleanliness result in darkness and loss of the Spirit. As we are obedient and clean, the Holy Ghost can abide with us and give us greater light.
Invite three students to come to the front of the class. Assign each of them one of the following roles: a teenager preparing for a mission; a full-time missionary; and a single, twenty-five-year-old returned missionary. Ask the following questions and invite each of the three students to answer in character:
Do you think you have already met the person you will eventually marry?
How much time do you spend thinking about marriage?
How soon do you think the Lord wants you to be married?
Help students realize that answers to questions regarding marriage may be different depending on one’s circumstances. Explain that 1 Corinthians 7:1–24deals with some delicate questions regarding marriage. Verses 25–40 deal specifically with issues facing those involved in missionary or other priesthood service requiring extended periods of time away from home.
Read 1 Corinthians 7:1, 7–9, 27, 32–34, 38. Ask students:
Why might these verses be difficult to understand?
Could some of them seem contrary to our beliefs regarding marriage?
To help students understand these writings of Paul, go back and read the chapter heading and the Joseph Smith Translation changes in the footnotes and appendix. Choose paragraphs from the commentaries for 1 Corinthians 7 in The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles (pp. 288–90) and read them to your students. It may be useful to duplicate these pages and give them to students as a handout. Point out what a blessing it is to have prophetic help to understand difficult passages of scripture.