Copr. 1998, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All Scripture references are
to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard.
INTRODUCTION: Chapters 4 and 9 of 1 Corinthians cover a great deal of material. Instead of trying to cover all of the text (as we usually do), I am going to dig into a few areas that I hope you will find to be a blessing.
I. JUDGING THE LEADER/TEACHER
A. Read 1 Corinthians 4:1-5. Read “between
the lines” in verse 3 and tell me how some of the Corinthians were treating Paul? (They were judging him. This statement no doubt comes from hearing negative reviews about him.)
B. Glance a minute at 1 Corinthians 3:21-22.
What do those verses say about reviewing the leader/teacher? (They are on the flip side of this same topic: the Corinthians were boasting about certain spiritual leaders. Boasting about one encourages negative comparisons with others.)
C. There is all sorts of public debate on the
issue of “accountability” for public school teachers. In past years we have pressed forward (on the church conference level) on the issue of accountability of pastors. Is Paul saying (1 Corinthians 4:5) that he is not accountable? (No.)
1. To whom does
he have to account? (v.4 God)
2. Under what
circumstances? (v.5 Second Coming)
3. On what basis is he held accountable? That is, what is the standard by which he is judged? What is required of him by God? (Paul uses a logical syllogism here: 1. Those given a trust (a trustee) must remain faithful. 2. As an employee of God, I have been entrusted with the secrets of God. 3. Therefore, I must remain faithful with God’s secrets. It seems that he is judged on the basis of his faithfulness (or lack of it) with God’s secrets.)
D. Paul says he is entrusted with God’s secrets.
What are they? (I know, if I told you, I would have to shoot you. Seriously, this goes back to last week’s lesson. In 1 Corinthians 2:7-10 Paul says that God’s followers understand His secret wisdom by the Holy Spirit. Consider the serious aspect to my joke. Paul seems to say that if we are trusted with God’s secrets (if we are told), that we are accountable. Therefore, we may be in for being “shot” if we are told and are not trustworthy!)
E. With all this talk about accountability,
Paul suggests (v.5) that we cannot judge. Why not? (We cannot know the motives of the person.)
1. Does this
mean no more church discipline? (In next week’s lesson
we study 1 Corinthians 5 which says (v.2) put the sexually
immoral man out of fellowship.)
2. As you study
next week’s lesson, think about how you can reconcile
these two instructions from Paul.
F. Remember our little logical syllogism which
concluded with “Therefore, I must remain faithful with God’s secrets?” What role does “motive” (going back to 1 Corinthians 4:5) play in that? What role does motive play in your salvation?
1. Does this mean that even if I am faithful (ie, I teach others the secret wisdom of God’s kingdom), I have failed if I have the wrong motives? (Yes! And I fear and dislike this message. Make things “black and white” for me. Make the standard clear. Tell me that if I spend hours each week in preparation to teach this class (write this lesson outline) in an attempt to encourage an understanding of God’s will, that I have been faithful. Don’t tell me that if I am motivated by vanity (“Isn’t he a great teacher?”) I have been unfaithful. I know that vanity is part of my motivation for teaching and preaching. Thank God for righteousness by faith and the power to change hearts!)
G. Read v.6. Paul says “Do not go beyond what
is written,” so that you will not value one leader over another. What “writing” is he talking about? (The Bible.)
1. How will sticking to what is written help us to keep from comparing leaders? (He has been hammering home the admonition that leaders are simply servants of God doing a task. We should be looking to God as our leader. (1 Corinthians 1:31) If God says it, fine. If a leader goes beyond God’s leadership, then we have a problem.)
2. Is this a good general rule: not to go beyond what is written in the
a. Remember our discussion last week about “man’s wisdom” versus “God’s wisdom?”
b. Is going beyond what is written in the Bible an example of “man’s wisdom?”
3. Since Paul is taking a whack at divisions, judging leaders, and “man’s wisdom,” let’s make our lesson real practical for our church. The greatest controversy, the most “division” and judging of pastors that I can think of which arose recently, is the controversy over the “celebration” versus “non-celebration” style of worship.
a. Is there are clear “thus saith the Lord” on this issue of worship style?
b. If there is not, are we getting embroiled in debates and controversies on matters beyond “what is written?”
c. If Paul told the Corinthians to “cut it out” when they were fighting over matters of “man’s wisdom” and not God’s written directions, does that same advice apply to us today? (Teacher, if you still have a class, it is time to move on.)
II. POWERED LEADERS
A. Paul continues in the next seven verses to discuss the issue of judging leaders. Move with me down to 1 Corinthians 4:18-21. Read.
1. Paul says he is coming to town and that he will put to the test those who are promoting factions. What kind of test does he say he is going to apply? (He is going to see “what power they have.” (v.19))
2. What kind of “power” is he talking about? (God’s power. I did a quick search in some of Paul’s other writings of the Greek word (“dunamis”) which is here translated “power.” Paul uses this word in various ways, but his use of the word carries the common concept that God’s supernatural power is at work.)
3. Do you have
God’s “power” at work in your church?
a. If not, are you all talk (v.20) and no power?
b. If so, what are you going to do about it?
III. PAUL’S EXAMPLE OF LEADERSHIP
A. Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 9. Paul gives the Corinthians advice on supporting their leaders and makes a point of the fact that he has not asked them for any support. Let’s start reading with 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. Ever hear the statement, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do?” Did that originate with Paul? (Sounds like vv. 20-21!)
B. What does Paul mean when he says he made himself a “slave” to everyone? (v.19) Doesn’t it sound like freedom instead of slavery when he says he does whatever his current comrades are doing? (We need to look at this in more detail.)
1. What are the four groups of “comrades” that Paul mentions in these verses? (“Jews” (v.20), “those under the law” (v.20), “those not under the law” (v.21), “the weak” (v.22).
2. Let’s start out with “the weak.” How do you think Paul becomes like “the weak?” How is he a “slave” to them? (Read Romans 14:2-3, 14-15 and 20-23. He says that he conforms his behavior to their weakness — even though he knows the Lord does not require this behavior.)
a. Does that seem like “slavery” to you? (Yes. He gives himself up to them.)
3. Is this same concept applicable to the “Jews” and “under the law” groups? (I think it is the same thing. The Jews had many rules as do those “under the law.” Paul is saying give up your “rights” when around them, conform to their wrong ideas.)
a. Why not stand up to them? Teach them what is right? Help them get over their weakness? (It is not wrong to limit your freedom when the goal is to save them. It appears that Paul says the best way to win them is not to frontally attack their ideas.)
4. How does this work with those “not having the law?” (v.21). The other seems to be doing things (or not doing things) that do not cross the line into sin, but simply limit your freedom. For example, you think wearing jewelry is wrong and I do not. If I refrain from wearing jewelry to church (in front of you), I certainly have not sinned. How about the reverse? I think wearing jewelry is wrong and you do not. If I wear jewelry to church (in front of you) am I sinning? Do you see how this seems to imply that Paul is doing things that he thinks is wrong? In v. 21 he says he is under the law, but these people are not restrained by the law. How does this work?
a. Is it “OK” to sin to win others? (Paul would have to be a lot more specific for me to believe that he is counselling us to sin to win others. (Romans 14:23 says he who has doubts about doing something, and who then does it, is “condemned!”) Instead, I think he is telling us to relate to, “get next to” those that have different beliefs so that we can win them to Christ.)
C. Read 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. What does Paul’s talk about racing and physical training have to do with “relating” to the group you are trying to win? (The key is vv. 25-26. Paul says that those who want to win a race devise a strategy for winning, and then follow-through. (They do not run “aimlessly.”) So it should be with our missionary/leadership efforts. We need to work diligently to devise the best way to win those who are our target audience. (In your idle time, try to reconcile this with Paul’s statements in 1 Corinthians 2:1- 2. In those verses in chapter 2 (and those that follow) Paul seems to eschew theory and technique. Paul is drawing very fine lines that it would be well for us to understand!)
IV. NEXT WEEK: REVIVING CHRISTIAN IDENTITY. Study 1 Corinthians
chapters 5 and 6! n 1 Corinthians 2:1- 2. In those verses in chapter 2 (and those that follow) Paul seems to eschew theory and technique. Paul is drawing very fine lines that it would be well for us to understand!)
IV. NEXT WEEK: REVIVING CHRISTIAN IDENTITY. Study 1 Corinthians
chapters 5 and 6!