Tuesday, February 18, 2014

1 Corinthians 3:10-23 Bible Study

 These notes are prepared for the 10am Wednesday Bible Study at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Orlando FL.  These particular notes are heavily dependent on the work of William Barclay and his commentary on Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 3:10-23
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

When I became the pastor of Chapel by the Sea, there was an engineer’s report waiting on my desk.  It indicated that the foundation of the sanctuary was in disrepair.  In less than 7 years, it would be in such condition that it might fail.  The report had been done 7 years earlier. 

No one wanted to deal with this.  I started taking photographs and showing how every WEEK more and more of the foundation cracked or separated.  We finally had to deal with it – and when we did the engineers told us that we were within 6 months of having the sanctuary collapse.

When we had the kick off to start a capital fund campaign, we knew we were trying to do the impossible.  It was the depth of the recession.  People were out of work and pensions were thin.  We had to raise $400,000.

So we secured the former pastor who had led the work to build that sanctuary – and the two of us were in that pulpit one Sunday.  Each of us had a role in that church in laying the foundation.  I think about that as I read the following:
10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it.

I think about that with Bob – and even Bob there were so many other pastors.

But this also applies to Sunday School classes, Sessions, Boards of Deacons – any aspect of the church.  We each have our role.  We plant or build, and others come along and build upon it.  The church is not supposed to ever be a finished product. 

I left a church in Brunswick, GA, and the fellow who followed me started a thrift store.  I never could have done that – I wouldn’t have a clue.  He built on what I had done and went further.

The church is supposed to be that way – on the move. 

Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.

It is a great responsibility to be a participant in the church.  We are not building what we want – we are building what the Lord wants.  If the foundation we build is any other than Christ, the spiritual engineers will tell us that our collapse is imminent. 

Paul is speaking from personal experience, in the way that I just shared with you something from my personal experience.

Paul’s ministry was to forever be the one who did the foundation – never the one to lay the carpet or shingle the roof.  He was on the move, and dependent on others to build on what he started. 

Now it is true that he stayed in Corinth for a year and a half (Acts 18:11), and that he was in Ephesus for three years (Acts 20:3), but in some places he stayed a very short time – just a few weeks, as was the case with his visit in Thessalonica.

The call of the Gospel kept him moving.  Prison kept him in one town for any length of time.

And in every town, the foundation was the same:  Jesus Christ.

What do we find in Christ?

How did Christ change your life?

Three things that William Barclay touches on in his commentary on Corinthians is the past, present and future:

(1)   Forgiveness for past sins.
Salvation – that is obvious!

(2)   Strength for the present.

We find courage and strength to deal with living.  We are not alone – we have the presence of God and of the church.

(3)   Hope for the future.
We no longer live in a world in which we are afraid to look forward but in one where God is in control and working all things together for good. We “live in a world where death is no longer the end, but only the prelude to greater glory. Without the foundation of Christ, we can have none of these things.”

12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. 14 If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.

Longinus, the Greek literary critic, offered his students a test. ‘When you write anything,’ he said, ‘ask yourself how Homer or Demosthenes would have written it; and still more, ask yourself how Homer and Demosthenes would have listened to it.’ When we speak for Christ, we must speak as if Christ were listening – as indeed he is. A test like that will rescue us from many a mistake.  (William Barclay)
16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?[a] 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
18 Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written,
“He catches the wise in their craftiness,”
20 and again,
“The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise,
    that they are futile.”
21 So let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all belong to you, 23 and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

Paul thought of the human body as the Temple of God – and he also thought that way of the church – not the BUILDING of the church, but the body of believers who make up the church.  It is in the body of Christ that the Spirit of God dwells.

One of the early theologians of the Church was a man named Origen, who lived in the third century.  He said, ‘We are most of all God’s temple when we prepare ourselves to receive the Holy Spirit.’

If we introduce division in the church, we destroy the temple of God.

(1) Divisions make it impossible for the Spirit to operate, because the divisions are a rejection of the Spirit’s leadership.
Put some division and bitterness in a church and you can say goodbye to love.

The evidence of love in the church is a love for the community.  Destroy that love and the community fades.

(2) Divisions in a building split the building into a pile of rubble – disconnected ruins.  No building can stand firm if you remove whole sections.  The Church’s greatest weakness is still its divisions. The greatest strength is in unity.

Paul points to human wisdom as a faulty wisdom, and he quotes Job 5:13 and Psalm 94:11 to make his point.

It is worldly wisdom that leads us to assess the value of different teachers and to follow them rather than Christ. 

Worldly wisdom comes with a pride that evaluates and criticizes the way in which the message is delivered, rather than the message itself. 

Human wisdom is almost always
1)      argumentative. It cannot keep silent and admire; it must talk and criticize.
2)      and is characteristically exclusive. It looks down on others rather sits down beside them.

Monday, February 10, 2014

1 Corinthians 3:1-9 Bible Study

These notes are for the Wednesday 10am Bible Study at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Orlando FL

And so, brothers and sisters,[a] I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?

As Paul has opened his letter, he has referred to the readers several times as “brothers and sisters.”  He even uses this phrase here. 
Brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people…
He says this because the people in Corinth have not behaved in a way that corresponds to them as having the Holy Spirit in their lives. 
Paul talks about maturity and immaturity. 
Solid Food verses Baby Formula.
The problem with the Corinthians is not their desire to grow in knowledge and in wisdom. The problem is that they have been seeking the wrong kind of wisdom from the wrong sources.
Who in your life was a spiritual giant?  What made that person spiritually mature?
Is the spiritually mature able to quote Scripture?
Is the spiritually mature able to quote the Westminster Confession of Faith, sing hymns without looking at the words? 
Is the spiritually mature one who has read Barth, Calvin, or other theologians?
What is it that makes a person spiritually mature?
What is the sign of one who is spiritually mature in the faith?
Paul has already described those in whom the Spirit dwells as those who have “the mind of Christ” (2:16).
The most essential part of this spiritual maturity is strangely simple – love. 
When Christ was asked about the greatest commandment, the answer was love – love for God and love for neighbor.
This is a startling teaching for modern Christians.  We are very much like the people of Corinth in that we place great value on technical skill in our preachers and teachers.
We look for knowledge of Hebrew and Greek, literary knowledge, knowledge of Bible history and geography – but as useful as such skills may be, the most spiritually mature person is the one who loves.
If we love God, we will also love our neighbours. It was this truth that the nineteenth-century poet Leigh Hunt took from an old eastern tale and enshrined in his poem ‘Abou Ben Adhem’: 

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
"What writest thou?"—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered, "The names of those who love the Lord."
"And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still; and said, "I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men."

         The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blest,
And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.


  1. 1 Corinthians 3:1 Gk brothers
Here Paul steps back to an earlier issue – the division of the church in Corinth.  Some were saying they belonged to one group – that of Apollos, others saying they belonged to other groups – that of Paul, Peter, etc.  Paul rebuked them for their divisions and called them on the carpet, reminding them, and us, that the body of Christ is not divided. 

Here Paul is affirming the value of each group.  He moves onto talk about what it means to be a servant – it is to be part of a team effort.

One person plants, the next waters, we each build on the work of others.

In school we see our children’s teachers – 1st grade, 3rd grade, 12th grade – each building on the work of the previous teachers.

And that is the church.   It is one of the primary doctrines for Paul.  We are the body of Christ, working together. 

In the church, we see this with the photos of past ministers in the hallway.  Each one gave this church something – moved it ahead in some new ways. 

Here Paul uses the image not of the body, but of agriculture. In a garden, one person may plant a seed and another may water it.  Neither can claim to have made the seed grow. That claim belongs to God and to God alone.

The one who plants and the one who waters are on the same level.

Tell me how you see this in the life of our congregation? 

How can we work together better as a united congregation?