Lesson 3 January 11 - 17

The Lord of Glory, Not Glorious Words.

Read For This Week's Study: 1 Cor. 1:18-2:16.

Memory Text:  "For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:22-24).

Key Thought:  To early Christians who were tempted to validate what was common, Paul speaks lasting words. He encourages them to cling to the wisdom of God seen in his crucified Son.

Sabbath Afternoon January 10

CHRIST JESUS HAS BECOME FOR US WISDOM FROM GOD.  Abandoned by both his parents, Robert Allen lived with elderly relatives who did not allow him to attend school.  Although his Aunt Bevie had only an eighth-grade education, she taught him to read.  He sharpened this skill by reading the King James Bible twice through to his blind great-aunt Ida.  Thus rooted in the knowledge of God's Word, Robert read widely, gleaning some 2,000 volumes from yard sales.  In 1981, at the age of 32, he decided to try education and passed the college placement test with high scores. Within a few years, Robert earned a college degree, graduating summa cum laude. He went on to receive both a Master's and Ph.D. in English--all rooted in the wisdom he found in reading God's Word to a blind aunt.--Chattanooga News-Free Press, Parade, Dec.22, 1991, pp.4-6; True wisdom finds the same source, in God's revelation of Christ; adapted.  

Sunday January 11

PAUL'S APPROACH IN CORINTH (1 Cor. 1:18-2:l6; Acts 17:16-34).

Compare the two approaches Paul used in his ministry in Athens and in Corinth.  Acts 17:16-34; 1 Cor. 2:1-5. What do you learn about witnessing from this comparison?    

Paul argued for the gospel in synagogue and marketplace before being ushered to Athens' famed Areopagus ("Mars' hill," KJV), the "Royal Porch" in the marketplace.  The Areopagus was "the most venerable institution in Athens, going back to legendary times, and, in spite of the curtailment of much of its ancient powers, it retained great prestige, and had special jurisdiction in matters of morals and religion."--F. F. Bruce, "Areopagus," New Bible Dictionary, second ed., p.81.  Paul, ever the zealous evangelist, may have been disappointed in the results at Athens.  However, at least one member of the aristocratic council, "Dionysius the Areopagite, "became a Christian, plus some others.

Paul, as he moved on to Corinth, was convicted by the realities he faced there and felt an urgent need for his message to represent a revelation from God.  He could not be satisfied with any humanly crafted message.  Nor could he risk sharing words that depended more on one's speaking ability than on divine power.

Read through the entire segment for this week's lesson, 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:16.  Then try to develop an outline.  The following suggestion is to help you develop your own outline:

1. Main Idea (1:18-25)   _____________________________________________________

2. Support for the Main Idea (1:26-2:5)  ________________________________________

    A. (1:26-31)  _______________________________________ 

    B. (2:1-5)  _________________________________________

3. What the Main Idea Means for Christians (2:6-16)  _____________________________________  

How would you explain the gospel Story to someone from another religious or secular background?  What approaches could you use?  What role would culture and generation play in such approaches?    

Monday January 12

THE WISDOM OF THE WORLD (1 Cor. 1:18-25).

Read the selection for today's lesson, 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, in light of 1 Corinthians 1:10-17.  Explain how the two sections are related.    

At the heart of the partisan spirit in Corinth seems to have been a craving for"wisdom," an appetite borrowed from the wider culture.  One ancient author comments on the Corinthians' love for oratory "even amongst women and children."  The phrase Corinthian words was used to describe well-crafted speech.  Christians, maintaining such a fascination, identified with this teacher or that, over against others who, in fact, had been provided by God for their benefit, as well.

Paul had already addressed their leanings and will do so again (1:10-17; 3:1-23).  Here he argues against the driving force behind the factions--that one should be in search of the sharpest "wisdom."

Paul refers to "the foolishness of preaching" (1 Cor. 1:21, KJV).  What does he mean by this?     

Paul clearly had a high regard for preaching (Rom. 10:14-17; 1 Tim. 4:13-15; 5:17; 2 Tim. 4:1, 2).  The proclamation of the gospel only appears foolish to the nonbeliever.  To the Christian it provides the power and wisdom of God.  "Many do not look upon preaching as Christ's appointed means of instructing His people and therefore always to be highly prized.  They do not feel that the sermon is the word of the Lord to them and estimate it by the value of the truths spoken; but they judge it as they would the speech of a lawyer at the bar--by the argumentative skill displayed and the power and beauty of the language. . . . If you listen to him [the preacher] as though he were not commissioned from above you will not respect his words nor receive them as the message of God."--Testimonies, vol.5, p.298.

Many Christians learn the art of public speaking.  Do Paul's words call into question such attempts to improve one's speech?  Explain your answer. As a listener, what attitudes have you detected in your own heart that make it easier or harder to hear the message God wishes to communicate to you through the pastor?  What helpful or affirming observation do you feel free to share with your pastor?    

Tuesday January 13

THE WISDOM OF GOD (1 Cor. 1:18-25).

How does Paul compare "the wisdom of the world" with "the wisdom of God"?  As you carefully study 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, which of his remarks do you find most telling and why?   

In Paul's day, those of the world looked to "the one who is wise," to "the scribe," and to "the debater of this age" for wisdom.  But Paul suggests that to do so is to end one's search with an inferior brand of wisdom.  Our world assumes that all really valuable wisdom, the kind that makes a difference in boardrooms and on balance sheets, stems from advisors, consultants, and lawyers.  Our world turns for wisdom to the latest self-help book or bestseller in pop psychology.  However, taking our cue from Paul's argument, true wisdom is to be found at the foot of the cross.  And real discernment is given by God's Spirit.  We need to remember, however, that God uses the wisdom of Christian counselors and other experts to help us.

What was the typical request of the Jew and the usual desire of the Greek?  How would each be likely to respond to a crucified Christ?  1 Cor. 1:22-24.  

Jesus is the One whom every Jew, every Greek, every person, in their inmost heart, seeks.  In Christ, the Greeks could find the real meaning of life and how to realize it in fact.  So often perceived desire masks the true hunger of the human heart.  Satisfying that true hunger is the goal of Christian mission.

"Jesus, whom Paul was about to present before the Greeks in Corinth as the Christ, was a Jew of lowly origin, reared in a town proverbial for its wickedness.  He had been rejected by His own nation, and at last crucified as a malefactor.  The Greeks believed that there was need of elevating the human race; but they regarded the study of philosophy and science as the only means of attaining to true elevation and honor.  Could Paul lead them to believe that faith in the power of this obscure Jew would uplift and ennoble every power of the being?"--The Acts of the Apostles, p. 244.

Imagine yourself as a citizen of Corinth, listening to Paul in the synagogue, workshop, or marketplace.  How might you have reacted?  Would you have needed the gift of God's Spirit to enable you to discern true wisdom?  Do you need similar enlightenment today?  What can you do about it so that you may see Christ as your sure enabler and true wisdom in your life?     

Wednesday January 14


Who were among the "not many" (verse 26) of the Corinthian Christians who were wise, powerful, and of noble birth?  Acts 18:8; Rom.16:1, 2, 23.    

Paul does not deny that there were some among the Corinthian Christians who held positions of importance in society at large.  Paul mentions one such citizen of Corinth, Erastus, in Romans 16:23 and notes that he was the "city treasurer" (NRSV) or "director of public works" (NIV).  A Latin inscription found at Corinth reads, "Erastus laid this pavement at his own expense, in appreciation of his appointment as aedile."  The "aedile" was in charge of public buildings.  And it is often thought that the Erastus of the inscription and the Erastus of Romans 16:23 are one.

Though some of the members in Corinth had significant social standing, Paul's words are clear--most of them did not.  Among those who would hear these words of Paul's read in the house churches were artisans, housewives, children, and slaves occupying the lower rungs of the social ladder.  To them, Paul's words must have provided considerable comfort.  A world accustomed to social standing and high finance ignored them. But God had especially selected them to advance His cause.  Some time ago, Donald Kraybill wrote a book about the Gospels entitled The Upside-Down Kingdom.  First Corinthians 1:26-31 is Paul's introduction to this upside-down kingdom.

What great word of assurance did Paul write to the Corinthians?  In what sense is Christ all of the things Paul mentions?  1 Cor.1:30.    

Not many of the Corinthian believers were of "noble birth" (1:26).  The Greeks treasured noble lineage as much as the Jews cherished a pure lineage.  Over against "noble birth" Paul sets the royal descent of the Christian.  "The gospel has ever achieved its greatest success among the humbler classes."--The Acts the Apostles p. 461.  Such classes feel a greater need to belong to God and His family.  Thus, in Christ, they indeed possess heaven's noble and royal lineage.

Have you ever felt like a social outcast in the family of God?  How can we avoid perpetuating the social barriers of the world within the church?    

Thursday January 15

THE MIND OF CHRIST (1 Cor. 2:6-16).

How does "God's wisdom" relate to "the wisdom of this world" and "the princes of this world"?  1 Cor. 2:6-8.     

Though the wisdom of God manifested in Christ crucified may not attract those in search of a popular philosophy, its lack of current appeal is unimportant.  It is wisdom with eternal credentials, founded on God's decree "before the world" (KJV;) or "before the ages" (2:7, NRSV).  And it is wisdom with a future.  It is not a wisdom "of this world" (KJV) or "of this age" (2:6, NRSV), but a wisdom that discloses "the Lord of glory," the One who will rule over "the ages to come" (2:8; compare Eph.2:7).

We use the quotation in 2:9 in a variety of ways.  How does Paul use it in the context of l Corinthians 2:6-16?   

The source of the quotation in verse 9 is not obvious.  Paul seems to have drawn on Isaiah 64:4 and 52:15 to form a composite quotation.  Just as the prophet in Isaiah 64:4 ponders the uniqueness of a God who intervenes on behalf of His people, so Paul accents the surprising nature of God's intervention through His crucified Son (1 Cor.2:7, 8, KJV):  "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard" what God has revealed and done for His people through Christ crucified.

Wisdom and spiritual gifts.  In 1 Corinthians 2:6-16, Paul continues his critique of those who laid claim to spiritual maturity, to being "spiritual," and who boast that they possess special "wisdom" (compare 3:18-20; 8:1-3).  Such people also held that certain spiritual gifts, especially speaking in tongues, provided evidence of exalted spiritual status (1 Corinthians 12-14).  Paul underlines the obvious but important thought that it is the Holy Spirit who provides true insight into "spiritual gifts."  (See especially 2:12, 14.)

In 1 Corinthians 2:16 Paul uses the words, "the mind of Christ" (compare Rom. 8:9, Gal. 4:6 and Phil. 1:19).  What do you think it means to have "the mind of Christ"?  Is this a privilege that is available to every Christian?  Explain your answer.   

The sinner unites his weakness to Christ's strength, his emptiness to Christ's fullness, his frailty to Christ's enduring might.  Then he has the mind of Christ."--The Desire of Ages, p. 675.   

Friday January 16

Further Study:  Besides 1 Corinthians 1:30, what other passages highlight the privileged status of Christians as children of God?  See John 1:12, 13; Romans 8:14-17; John 2:29-3:3.  Can you think of others?

Ellen White was convinced of the importance of the cross of Christ.  Ponder these inspiring statements:  
"If there is anything in our world that should inspire enthusiasm, it is the cross of Calvary.  'Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.'  Christ, made unto us 'wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption,' should be humbly and thankfully received by us.  His sacrifice should inspire us with zeal to work in His service, calling upon others to behold in Him 'the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.'"--Review and Herald, Sept.29, 1896.

"Christ crucified--talk it, pray it, sing it, and it will break and win hearts.  This is the power and wisdom of God to gather souls for Christ."--Testimonies, vol.6, p. 67.


1.  We sometimes speak of a person as being "really spiritual."  What do we mean?  What criteria do you use to determine whether a person is "spiritual" or not?  How valid are those criteria in the light of Paul's discussion of wisdom?  

2.  Think of a time when you had to take an unpopular stand for Christ.  What enabled you to do so?  How can you be motivated to cling to God's wisdom when the wisdom of the world seems so much more appealing and is ever so widely accepted?   

3.  How should we encourage young adults to relate to the "wisdom of the world"?   Should we attempt to:
a. isolate them from it;
b. equip them to master it;
c. other?     

4.  Differentiate between God's wisdom and the wisdom of the world.  By what criteria will you know the difference?  

Summary:  We are not to recognize true wisdom by the quality of its rhetorical manifestation or its level of acceptance by the world at large, but by its ability to transform the life and to reflect accurately the wisdom God revealed in His Son, Jesus Christ crucified.   

Winning the Masai, Part 2
A Time to Speak

Jan Meharry wanted to work with the Masai, the nomadic herdsmen of Kenya.  While attending a Masai feast, she had asked her hosts to teach her a traditional Masai dance.  Later she wondered if she her actions would prevent her from witnessing to them.

She expressed her concerns to a Masai pastor.  He viewed the video Jan's husband had taken during the feast, then he told her that the Masai mzee (elder) had said, "If these women are willing to dance with us, then let's welcome them."  The pastor added, "Dancing with the Masai probably was one of the best things you could have done.  When it is time to give them the gospel, they will listen, because you were willing to become one of them."  Jan was thrilled.

Several months later Jan learned that a young couple teaching at Maxwell Academy not far from Nairobi, also had a deep love for the Masai.  Gwen had even begun a Bible story hour for the small group of Masai who lived near the Maxwell campus.  Jan could hardly wait to meet Gwen.  When Jan visited Maxwell, she learned that the Masai women were attending Gwen's story hour with their children, and the women often visited in one another's homes as well.  It was apparent that Gwen Edwards deeply loved her neighbors the Masai.  Once she found Gwen on the hill behind her home, helping the Masai women mix mud and cow dung to repair their houses!

And one day the Masai women asked Gwen to teach them about the God who made her so loving and kind.  Would she conduct a church service for them in the grove of trees behind their homes?  Gwen was breathless with joy--until she realized she would have to preach!  She had never preached before.  But the women did not want a pastor; they wanted Gwen.  She prayed that God would tell her what to say to these people who knew so little about Him.

God answered her prayer when a Masai boy lost one of his goats on the hillside behind Gwen's yard.  The happiness he showed when he found his goat reminded Gwen that these cattle-herding people would understand that Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

(continued next week)

Gwen Edwards (left) with one of her neighbors.  Jan Meharry and her family served as missionaries in Nairobi, Kenya for six years.  They recently returned to the United States.


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