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: Do you wrestle with spiritual pride? Do you find that you are sometimes selfish? This week we turn our attention primarily to what Paul has to say about how being self-centered and having spiritual pride in the middle of physical blessings can cause us to lose our faith. Let’s see what we can learn!
I. HISTORY IS NOT DESTINY
A. Assume that you have decided to tell me
what God has done for you; reveal the times when He has really come through for you. A little spiritual bragging, if you will. Think about what are the spiritual “highlights” of your life. Got them in mind? Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 10:1-4. Read.
1. How do these
highlights compare with yours?
2. If you were
one of these “forefathers,” tell me what you see as the
significance of these events. What is the reason to brag
about the following events:
a. I was under the cloud (v.1)? (This is a reference to the Exodus: God was leading the way!)
(1) Did the cloud do more than lead? (Yes. It protected them. Exodus 14:19-20)
b. I passed through the sea (v.1)? (God intervened, changed the course of nature, and saved my life from the Egyptian army.)
c. I was baptized into Moses (v.2)? (If I said I was baptized in Christ you would know what I mean. This means they “joined” with Moses to enjoy God’s saving leadership.)
d. I ate spiritual food (v.3)? (The food I ate came directly from God! He directly fed me for years with manna!)
e. I drank spiritual water — from a spiritual rock (v.4)? (The verse explains that this “rock” is Jesus. So this means that Christ led and provided for this person daily. See Numbers 20:11.)
3. Anyone have a more impressive list of “spiritual highlights?” If not, the “forefather” bragging in 1 Corinthians 10 has it all over you when it comes to spirituality, when it comes to God leading in his life, right?
B. Read 1 Corinthians 10:5. What does it mean when it says “their bodies were scattered over the desert?”
1. All of this bragging from the “forefather” that we just discussed had a common theme. What is it? (It all went towards saving or preserving life.)
2. What is the irony and the lesson of their bodies being scattered in the desert? (After all of this care for the “forefather’s” life, he died. They died — and not in an organized, cared for way. The special relationship with God came to a screeching halt for most of them.)
3. What does that tell you? What lesson should we begin to draw from this little bit of history? (Beware of spiritual pride in what happened in the past as opposed to what is happening now in your relationship with God!)
C. Let’s read on. 1 Corinthians 10:6-10. Verse 6 warns us against “setting our hearts” on evil things. The Greek word translated “setting” is “epithumetes” and it means “craving, loving, eager for, lusting” evil things. What evil things is Paul talking about? List them on the blackboard. (v.7, idolatry; v.8, sexual immorality; v.9 testing God; v.10 grumbling.)
1. Let’s look at these in more detail. What idolatry is Paul speaking
about? (He is generally quoting Exodus 32:6, part of the story of the golden calf.)
a. Why did the forefathers make a golden calf? (Exodus 32:1: they did not trust God. They were going to make “gods who will go before us.”)
(1) Do you trust God? Or is your primary trust in money or some other thing you have made?
2. What sexual immorality is Paul speaking about? (Numbers 25:1-9 records that the forefathers were having sex with Moabite women which ultimately led them into sacrificing to Baal of Peor. The plague that killed 24,000 Israelites ended when Phinehas drove a spear through an Israelite man and a Moabite woman while they were in a position that would allow for this!)
a. How does God view sexual sins? (Remember our discussion of 1 Corinthians 6:18?)
3. What “testing”
of God is Paul speaking about? (The testing that
involved snakes is Numbers 21.)
a. Will someone read Numbers 21:5-6? Paul calls this “testing.” What would you call it? (They are complaining about their blessings. The very spiritual “highlights” that we discussed before are the subject of their complaints!)
(1) My study of the Bible has led me to believe that what God detests most, is ignoring Him. I have always gotten the feeling that He did not mind complaining, because complaining (at least) acknowledged that He was the solution. Complaining may be overrated in my mind!
4. Paul separately speaks of grumbling. What grumbling is he speaking about (above what we have just mentioned)? (He is probably speaking of Numbers 16:11-14. This was a rebellion of the leadership which ended in death. Numbers 16:28-38.)
II. WHAT WE CAN LEARN
A. Read 1 Corinthians 10:11-13. What is (v.11)
the “fulfillment of the ages?” (Thayer says “Fulfillment” (Greek: “telee”) means “the end” or “the end to which all things relate….” This means those who are looking for the Second Coming.)
B. We are told that what we just studied is
an “example” and “warning” for us! So, what do you think is the lesson to be learned from the “forefathers?” (In the midst of God’s closest care and most dramatic blessing, the people turned away from Him. The result was disaster.)
1. What do these sins that we have listed boil down to, as a practical matter? (Not trusting God, complaining about God’s leadership and disobedience.)
2. How does your life stack up in comparison?
C. Do you think that these blessings to the “forefathers” made them think that they were “OK” with God? (Paul suggests that very thing in v.12)
1. When Paul says “be careful you do not fall,” is he speaking of the loss of our salvation? Or simply falling into a temporary sin? (While we should be confident of our salvation, we should also be confident that we can lose it by disobedience. Consider the last verse of the last chapter (1 Corinthians 10:27) that started this discussion. This “launching verse” says that Paul is concerned that he might “be disqualified from the prize.” The “be careful you do not fall” comment specifically relates back to the history of the “forefathers” — it seems impossible to understand this any other way. Does anyone think that those killed over sexual immorality, rebellion, grumbling or idol worship went to heaven? When the ground split open and swallowed Korah and his fellow rebels (Numbers 16:32) do you think his next stop was heaven?)
D. This is pretty sobering stuff. Why does
Paul share with us v.13 (1 Corinthians 1O:13) right after he warns us about overconfidence? (Right after warning us that our disobedience can get us killed (permanently), he says, “but remember, that you do not have to engage in these sins. Your temptations are not unique, and God will limit the severity of the temptation and give you a way out.)
1. Be honest. Do you look for a “way out” of temptation? Or do you generally look for a “way into” temptation?
E. Paul follows with what we studied last week:
a discussion about food offered to idols. The next few verses (1 Corinthians 10:16-21) make the argument that when you eat food offered to idols as part of a ceremony, you participate with demons. What is the logical link between that and what we have studied so far today? (The common thread in the “forefathers” sin was that they did not trust God. They were always disobeying and rebelling. I think Paul is telling us to make a clean break from trusting in things, and participating in ceremonies that cannot save us.)
1. This sounds pretty general. Do you have any specific activities or ceremonies in your life which cause you to trust less in God?
a. Does television allow you to “participate” in things, much as if you were actually there? Could this counsel about not participating with demons be applied to what you watch?
b. Does “what you watch,” cause you to trust God more or trust Him less?
III. THE LORD’S SUPPER
A. We decided last week that 1 Corinthians 10:16 referred to “Communion.” Paul says that Communion is a participation in the blood and body of Christ. Since we just discussed how we do not want to participate in things that will jeopardize our salvation, let’s move next to Paul’s specific discussion of Communion in 1 Corinthians 11:17-22. Read.
1. Does Paul have any compliment for them on their communion service? (No! “I have no praise for you…” (v.17))
2. What is the problem? (Paul lists them in vv.19-21. He starts out saying that there are divisions among them.)
a. As you consider these verses, what kind of divisions do you find?
b. What about v.19: what kind of division is that? (Remember in 1 Corinthians 1 we saw that the Corinthians bragged about following one Christian leader over another? (See, especially, 1 Corinthians 1:12.) One problem is that they are showing spiritual arrogance. One group says we are better than you are because we more correctly understand God.)
c. What about v.21: what kind of division is that? (Social and financial status. The people range from those who do not have enough to eat to those who are overindulging so much they get drunk!)
(1) Under what circumstances could two people be eating in church and one go hungry while another pigs down plenty? (Certainly there was no compassion in this. It must have been that there was so much stratification in that society that the rich thought it was “OK” to be eating in front of the poor who were hungry.)
3. If, as we studied last week, taking communion is participating in the body and blood of Jesus, what were these people participating in? (They were participating in arrogance, selfishness and division. This is just the opposite of what the church is supposed to be. In Romans 12:4-5 Paul teaches that the body of Christ, ie. the church, is to have unity and an attitude of working together as one.)
B. Read 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. When Jesus said (v.24) “This is My body which is for you;” what did He mean? (He meant that He was giving up His life for us.)
1. How does that compare with the attitude of the Corinthians? (It is the complete and absolute opposite. They are “giving up” others for themselves!)
C. The teacher’s comment part of our lesson (p.97) notes that in many congregations there is a noticeable decline in attendance on Communion. Do you think that is due to the communion ceremony? Or is it due to the foot-washing service that precedes communion? (I have no doubt that it is the foot- washing service.)
1. Should the church jettison the foot-washing ceremony in order to uphold Christ’s command to participate in communion to “remember” and “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes?” (vv.25-26) (I have never enjoyed the foot-washing service. Why? Because it is hard for my proud heart to get enthused about it. While this practice of having a foot-washing service before communion is exceedingly rare in the Christian community as a whole, consider how it is a powerful inoculation against the very sin that suffused the Corinthians. What better antidote to spiritual and social arrogance and pride than washing the feet of a fellow member?)
D. Jesus says, whenever you eat and drink remember what I did for you. Do you think Jesus meant for us to remember Him at every meal and not just communion? (There is no doubt that Paul viewed this as a special ceremony and not an ordinary meal. (See, vv. 28-34) I am not so sure that Jesus only meant it so narrowly. I saw a fairly old movie once, in which a couple in love were parting forever. The English woman told the American man, “When you drink tea, think of me.” Romantic words. Think of how Christ’s sacrifice which gives us eternal life would remain at the fore of our conscience if we considered His sacrifice each time that we ate!)
IV. NEXT WEEK: “ONE BODY, MANY PARTS — ONE CHURCH, MANY MEMBERS.”
Our topic is 1 Corinthians 12. Study!orever. The English woman told the American man, “When you drink tea, think of me.” Romantic words. Think of how Christ’s sacrifice which gives us eternal life would remain at the fore of our conscience if we considered His sacrifice each time that we ate!)
IV. NEXT WEEK: “ONE BODY, MANY PARTS — ONE CHURCH, MANY MEMBERS.”
Our topic is 1 Corinthians 12. Study!