The Gospel on the Street
This quarter's Bible lessons, entitled "1 Corinthians,
The Gospel on the Street," focus on Paul's counsel as he tries to equip
early Christian disciples to live the gospel in the sophisticated culture
of Corinth. The Adult Sabbath School Lessons are prepared by the Sabbath
School/Personal Ministries Department of the General Conference of Seventh-day
Adventists. The principal contributor, John McVay, is associate professor
of biblical studies and chair of the Religion Department at Pacific Union
College. The lesson organization provided here (with explanations)
is quoted directly from the Adult Sabbath School Lessons (Copyright 1998
by the Sabbath School Department, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists),
and is used here by permission. The lessons are also available in
and Swedish language
Paul's first letter to the Corinthians is an important and surprising document. It is important in that it is one of the earliest Christian documents that we possess. And it provides one of the most detailed accounts of early Christian congregations. Probably written before the first of the Gospels, 1 Corinthians gives us access to the ground floor of Christianity. We see Christianity as it grows, thrives, and spreads. We see the gospel making inroads into one of the great cities of the ancient world. In 1 Corinthians, Paul tries to equip early Christian disciples to live the gospel in the sophisticated culture of Corinth. He longs for his correspondents to establish a firm self-identity as Christians, one that will stand the onslaught of social pressure.
First Corinthians may come as something of a surprise. In writing the letter, Paul does not sit down and compose a detached theological essay. Instead, it is the work of a busy pastor-evangelist who addresses real issues confronting Christians at Corinth. What may surprise us is that they faced so many problems, felt the pull of so many temptations, and experienced such deep division among themselves.
This significant document, with its surprising and realistic portrait of Christianity in the apostolic age, has much to say to us. Modern cultures are increasingly urban ones. If the gospel of Jesus Christ is to advance today, it must walk the streets of modern cities and find a place in the hearts of the citizens of our world's great metroplexes. And many of the themes treated by Paul are ones that are of real interest to Christians of our ear. We still experience fractured fellowship and sometimes face one another in courtrooms. How to withstand the lure of sexual temptation remains a topic of importance. We wrestle with what it means to live in view of Christ's return, the appropriate function of spiritual gifts, and how to conduct public worship.
However, not every issue that Paul raises is a burning one for us. We may not find immediately applicable Paul's counsel on circumcision, head coverings, of food offered to idols. Even in the study of these topics we have much to learn, for Paul consistently views issues from a theological perspective. He drags the mundane and everyday into the realm of the profound and the eternal. Even when the theme seems peripheral to modern discipleship, Paul's reflections will prove inspirational.
We may take up the study of 1 Corinthians, then, with the hope and prayer that the God who inspired Paul to compose it will be present with us as we reflect on these ancient words.
Giardina Sabbath School
Study helps: Jerry Giardina of Houston, Texas, prepares a series
of helps to accompany the Sabbath School lesson. He includes all related
scripture and EGW quotations. These are provided in two wordprocessing versions
and HTML format:
Wordperfect 5.1, Wordperfect 8.0, Microsoft Word, HTML (Web Page)
Contents: (Linked to no frames version)
|1.||Jan 3||The Gospel Invades Corinth|
|2.||Jan 10||Divided Loyalties|
|3.||Jan 17||The Lord of Glory, Not Glorious Words|
|4.||Jan 24||"Paul, Called to be an Apostle"|
|5.||Jan 31||Reviving Christian Identity|
|6.||Feb 7||Christian Sexuality|
|7.||Feb 14||Food for Thought About Idols|
|8.||Feb 21||At the Lord's Table|
|9.||Feb 28||One Body, Many Parts--One Church, Many Members|
|10.||March 7||High Praise for Love|
|11.||March 14||Worthwhile Worship|
|12.||March 21||The Reality of the Resurrection|
|13.||March 28||Praise and Promises|