|Lesson 2||January 4 - 10|
Read For This Week's Study: 1 Cor. 1:10-17; 3:1-23.
Memory Text: "Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours and ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's" (1 Corinthians 3:21-23).
Key Thought: Paul grew concerned when he received a report of actions and quarrels among the Christians at Corinth. His remedy called for fresh attention to the realities that bind Christians together and for his readers to lay claim to all the blessings God has provided.
|Sabbath Afternoon||January 3|
CHRISTIANS ARE CALLED TO FOLLOW CHRIST. Christianity, like the wider culture around it, has become more and more oriented toward the "stars." Gifted Christians attract a following because of their ability to speak more eloquently, argue more persuasively, or sing more engagingly than others. And sometimes the followers of one teacher or musician pit themselves against those of another in an attempt to press their "celebrity's" qualities.
If it is possible to mistreat Christian leaders, it is also possible to make a "star" leader too important in one's experience. We may become so starry-eyed that we forget the Son! Using powerful imagery Paul calls his readers from divided loyalties to human leaders back to Spirit-inspired worship of God and His Son. Christ Himself is the head of the church, and He alone should be followed. That is why Paul seeks from his friends in Corinth a fresh dedication and loyalty to the divine Leader of their church.
CLIQUES IN CORINTH (1 Cor. 1:10-17; 3:1-4).
What problem had developed in Corinth that "Chloe's people" reported to Paul? How serious does he consider this problem to be? 1 Cor. 1:10-17; 3:1-4.
Christians in Corinth were dividing along "party lines." Paul suggested that there was a "Paul party," an "Apollos party," a "Cephas party" (Cephas is the Jewish name for Peter), and, a label that may have been claimed with a special air of sanctity, a "Christ party." Against such divisiveness, Paul asserted the unity of Christians with a set of powerful questions: "Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?" (NRSV). To each question Paul expected, of course, a resounding "No!"
Compare Paul's later call to unity in Ephesians 4:1-6. Notice how he answered many of the questions he raised in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17. Explain how being humble, gentle, and patient with fellow Christians promotes unity.
"Has Christ been divided?" Christian unity finds its source in the worship of one Lord. "Was Paul crucified for you?" The level ground at the foot of the cross underlines the fact that we are one. "Were you baptized in the name of Paul?" We have all participated in the cleansing waters of "one baptism" and were baptized in the name of Christ. These realities of our faith unite us. However, we must not only celebrate such unity as an article of faith, we must work toward it in practical ways. Paul calls believers to turn the union that is already theirs into reality.
Seventh-day Adventists cannot afford to take for granted a unity of faith and purpose. The divisions experienced in the Corinthian church can undermine the unity of our church today, unless the love and lordship of Christ unite us to Him in our diversity. Paul's words offer a cure to the disease of disunity.
How does true Christian unity relate to Christian uniformity? To what extent does Paul's bidding to "be in agreement"(1 Cor. 1:10) mean we should think and act alike? What may be dividing our church here and now? What can we do about it? Write a one-page letter dealing with divisiveness in your church and what can be done to build unity. Share your letter with your class members and listen to theirs.
SEPARATE OR TOGETHER? (1 Cor. 1:10-17; 3:1-4).
Where did early Christians meet, and what was the nature of early Christian congregations? 1 Cor. 16:19; Rom. 16:3-5.
Newly formed religious groups without the approval of the government did not have the choice of owning public structures for worship. In fact, separate church buildings were uncommon until near the end of the second century.
The Corinthian Christians do appear to have met as a whole from time to time. Paul, writing from Corinth, speaks highly of "Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church" (Rom. 16:23). And 1 Corinthians 14:23 refers to "the whole church" coming together. These, though, seem to be exceptional occasions.
Of Paul's churches, we know the most about the one in Corinth. It is possible to identify as many as 16 of its members by name. Based on the evidence in the New Testament, one widely respected estimate suggests there were some 50 members in the Corinthian church during Paul's day, perhaps a few more.
What are the strengths of groups of church members meeting separately and in some isolation from the larger congregation? What are some of the dangers? l Cor. 1:10-17; 3:1-4.
"It seems likely that the various groups mentioned by Paul in l Cor. 1:12 would regularly have met separately. Such relative isolation would have meant that each group had a chance to develop its own theology, and virtually assured that it took good root before being confronted by other opinions."--Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, St. Paul's Corinth: Text and Archaeology, Good News Studies, 6 (Wilmington, Del.: Michael Glazier, 1983), p.158.
House churches are sometimes regarded as "the New Testament model." Should we argue for an exclusively house-church model for modern Christians? What can we do to facilitate both smaller group fellowship and wider unity within our congregations?
It seems that wherever Aquila and Priscilla lived, they opened their home to the Christian community. How can you make your home a place of nurture, peace, and friendship?
THE CHURCH AS GOD'S GARDEN (1 Cor. 3:5-9).
In the chart below, list the images Paul used to remind the Corinthians of his pioneering role in their church. Also explain Apollos' role.
|Text||Paul's Role||Apollos' Role|
|1 Cor. 3:1-3|
|1 Cor. 3:6|
|1 Cor. 3:10, 11|
Who was Apollos? What do we know of him from the New Testament? Acts 18:24-28; 1 Cor. 16:12; Titus 3:13.
After ministering in Corinth on the second missionary journey, Paul had moved on to Ephesus, where he left his companions Aquila and Priscilla. With Paul in Palestine, Apollos arrived in Ephesus. He possessed natural gifts of eloquence, a profound understanding of the Old Testament, and, most importantly, a "burning enthusiasm" for Jesus (Acts 18:25, NRSV). But there was a significant gap in his knowledge in that he knew only "the baptism of John," a lack filled by the instruction of Priscilla and Aquila, who were very valuable lay workers and teachers. With the aid of believers in Ephesus, Apollos wished to expand his ministry into Achaia. So he went to Corinth, where God helped him to nurture the faith of the new converts and defend Christ to the Jews.
"He who sends forth gospel workers as His ambassadors is dishonored when there is manifested among the hearers so strong an attachment to some favorite minister that there is an unwillingness to accept the labors of some other teacher. . . . It is seldom that one minister has all the qualifications necessary to perfect a church in all the requirements of Christianity; therefore God often sends to them other ministers, each possessing some qualifications in which the others were deficient."--The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 277, 278.
How do you react when you discover that others have gifts that you do not have? Are you thankful for your gifts, and do you have a teachable spirit, a willingness to learn from others?
THE BELiEVERS AS GOD'S TEMPLE (1 Cor. 3:9-23).
Temple is used frequently in the New Testament as an image for Christians or a Christian community. It is also true that the individual believer is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. How does the use of the imagery in each of the following passages compare with its use in 1 Corinthians 3:9-17?
1 Cor. 6:19 ________________________________________________
2 Cor. 6:14-7:l _____________________________________________
Eph. 2:l9-22 _______________________________________________
1 Peter 2:4-8 ________________________________________
Paul writes to heirs of the classical Greek "temple culture." Corinth had a history of providing both craftsmen and materials for building temples in other cities. As reconstructions of the city center at the time of Paul indicate, the presence of temples was an unmistakable feature of Corinth. The people to whom Paul wrote, in walking the streets of their city, daily observed temple-building and repair projects. Therefore, they would easily understand Paul's temple imagery.
Paul uses common ideas about temples: 1. A temple belongs to its god and is of value to that deity. Thus, damage to a temple is an insult to the deity. 2. A temple houses the deity. 3. The building of a temple requires supervision. 4. Contractors are rewarded for successful work and fined for poor craftsmanship.
How did Paul conclude his discussion about factions among the Corinthian believers? How does he describe the divine evaluation of "the wisdom of this world"? 1 Cor. 3:18-23, NIV.
The Corinthians, were charmed by the wisdom of earthly teachers. And such teachers as Peter, Paul, and Apollos were surely wise. However, an unhealthy level of personal allegiance to individual teachers had developed. And this snobbish loyalty risked serious damage to the church. In this way they had relished the "wisdom of this world" and had missed the wider privileges of Christian discipleship.
In what ways have you succumbed to the "wisdom" of your age and failed to see it for the foolishness it is?
BUILDERS OF GOD'S TEMPLE (1 Cor. 3:9-17).
Within the context of the temple imagery, what does Paul say about Christian workers who minister in inferior ways? 1 Cor. 3:9-17.
Through the years, Bible students have wrestled with these words about the
performance of Christian leaders. But the meaning of the passage becomes
clear when we consider ancient inscriptions about temple-building. A
fourth-century-B.C. inscription from Arcadian Tegea may be especially helpful.
It details conditions contractors and workmen should abide by as they
construct the temple of Athena.
It reads in part:
"If anyone should oppose the allotment of the jobs. . . or should do harm, doing damage . . . in any way, let those who made the allotments fine. . . him, whatever fines....seem right to them, and let them publicly announce it as their determination and summon him into the presiding court for the full sum of the fine. . .
"If anyone, having signed a contract, should damage any other of the existing works, . . whether sacred, public or private, contrary to the agreement of the contract, let him restore the part that was damaged at his own expense [to a condition] not inferior to what it was at (he time of the contract. If he does not restore it, let him pay the fines . . in keeping with those established for those jobs . . . which have run past [the appointed time]."--Translated by Jay Shanor, "Paul as Master Builder: Construction Terms in First Corinthians," New Testament Studies 34 (1988). p.462.
Paul has described the status of Christian leaders as "God's servants" (1 Cor. 3:5-9, NRSV). What point about his own identity does the use of temple imagery allow him to emphasize? 1 Cor. 3: 10-12.
Paul labels himself the "skilled chief builder" to whom God has entrusted oversight in the construction of the temple, the Corinthian church. While all leaders are servants of God, Paul wishes to remind his converts of his special, God-given role with regard to the Christian church in Corinth.
Think of the members of your Sabbath School class. What unique roles and gifts has God granted to each one? How can you best work with them to "build up" God's church?
Further Study: Wednesday's lesson includes a number of passages that use temple imagery to describe God's church. There are many others. How do the following passages add to our understanding? Matt. 16:18, 19; John 2:18-22; 1 Tim. 3:15; 2 Tim. 2:19; Heb. 3:1-6; Rev. 3:12.
The Acts of the Apostles, chapter 26, "Apollos at Corinth," pp.269-297, provides inspired commentary on the passages covered in this week's lesson.
|1. Recall observing a house being
constructed. What lessons did you learn about your relationship with
Jesus and other believers through this
2. Paul Minear, in his book Images of the Church in the New Testament, counts a total of 96 such images. The church as "body," as "temple," and as "bride" are especially significant in Paul's writings. Which of these images do you think are most important for today and why? What modern images could we use to refer to the church?
3. We employ temple language to describe our church. We speak of "foundational truths" and describe people as "pillars." Is it possible to misuse this language? Notice the way Paul mixes architectural language with biological language in 1 Corinthians 3 and Ephesians 2:19-22. How could too great a fascination with the static imagery of a temple rob us of dynamism and growth?
Summary: To attach oneself to a specific teacher in isolation from others or to a specific faction in isolation from the church at large can lead to spiritual illness. Instead, Paul calls us to exercise our full Christian privileges and accept all the blessings of thought and fellowship God has provided.
|Winning the Masai, Part
A Time to Dance
Jan Meharry was fascinated when she saw a Masai man herding his cows outside Nairobi, Kenya. These proud, nomadic herdsmen of the African plains, dressed in their traditional kangas (cloth wraps) and wool blankets, have stubbornly resisted Western influence, including Christianity. As Jan learned more about the Masai, a desire grew to work with these people.
Jan visited a Masai home outside Nairobi. She greeted her Masai hostess then ducked her head to enter the tiny hut made of thin sticks covered with cow dung. The entire Masai home would have fit into her livingroom! Two beds made of cow hides stretched over rough frames, hugged opposite walls. Between them a circle of rocks imbedded in the dirt floor held the cooking fire. Smoke curling upward from the embers burned Jan's eyes. A shelf above the fire held a cooking pot, two bowls, and a stirring spoon.
Jan's Masai hostess offered tea. As the woman swished out the cups with not-so-clean water, Jan prayed. "Father, keep a smile on my face and the tea in my stomach!" God answered her prayer, and gave Jan a growing love for these simple people of the plains.
Later, at a Masai feast, the missionaries photographed their Masai hosts as they performed traditional dances. But Jan did not just want to watch; she wanted to experience their culture. Bravely she asked if they Would teach her one of their dances. First surprise, then smiles crossed their faces as Jan and a friend tried to imitate their dance steps. An mzee (elder) told them that if they wanted to be like Masai, they must dress like Masai. He tied a kanga around Jan's shoulders Masai style. Then Masai women put jewelry on the guests. so they would look "proper." What fun they had learning from their new friends!
But after they left the village, Jan wondered if she should have joined in their dancing and singing. Would her actions keep these people from accepting the gospel when it was presented to them?
Jan Meharry (right) with some Masai friends. She and her family served as missionaries in Kenya until 1996.
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