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: Have you ever been in a church where there were

divisions?  Where one group of individuals seemed to dislike

another group of individuals?  Or where there was a “pro-pastor”

and an “anti-pastor” faction?

My first year of law school I lived by myself,
studied almost

all the time, and on Sabbath had a glorious time going to church

(and not studying!)  Sitting in a pew by myself for a few hours

each Sabbath, the church seemed perfect.  The next year my wife

I got married and she started teaching in the school connected with

the church.  Instead of being an “outsider” gazing upon the

tranquil church on Sabbath, I became an “insider” who witnessed the

monumental disagreements boiling under the surface.  Our study

week is Paul’s advice on factions!


     A. Last week we briefly looked at 1 Corinthians
1:10-17. Let’s
read this again because it gives us a quick
glance at one of
the problems in Corinth.

          1. What is one
problem in the Corinthian church?

          2. In verse 10
Paul says “I appeal to you … that you
may all agree
with one another ….”  Is that a goal?

a. Does disagreement sharpen your mind or just
create trouble?

b. In this teaching outline, do I suggest the
answers just to avoid the messy possibility that
you might otherwise disagree with each other?

c. Think about some of your most firmly held Bible
beliefs. Did you always hold those beliefs, or did
someone change your mind? (Some of the beliefs that
I most firmly hold, came as a result of someone
disagreeing with me and changing my mind!)

d. I think disagreement is healthy. So, do Paul and
I disagree on this!?

(1) Look at the rest of v.10. Does Paul
condemn all disagreement, or just certain
kinds of disagreements? (Verse 10 says the
goal is to not allow disagreement to turn into
divisions.  The goal is perfect unity of

(a) On what are the believers to unify?
(Verses 13-17 seem to focus on the cross
of Christ. The “North Star” for the
believer is the power of the cross.

(b) Let’s get out our magnifying glasses
and look at this problem more closely.


     A. In chapter 1 we have a brief glimpse into
the problem
of divisions in Corinth.  Chapter 3 gives
us a background
briefing and the details of the problem. Read
1 Corinthians 3:

          1. Paul suggests
that divisions are a result of a certain
trait among
members in the church. What is that trait?
(Verses 1 &
3 say they are “worldly.”)

          2. What does
it mean to be “worldly?”  The Greek word is
“sarkinos” which
means “made of flesh,” “fleshy.”

a. Paul seems to say, “You are meaty, so I give you
milk and not meat to eat.”

(1) What does that mean?

(2) Are the Corinthians on a diet? What does
this have to do with our spiritual diet?

     (Paul probably means a couple of things. First,
he is saying
they are “soft.” Not exercised. They cannot
take much.
Second, he is saying they are acting like
ordinary, earthly,
selfish people. He is not talking about their
diets, he is
talking about how they look at things. Spiritual
people have
their minds on matters that rise above their
interests. Those who are not spiritual people
have a hard time
looking beyond their self-interest. Barclay
says (“Letter to
the Corinthians” pp. 29-30) that Paul wrote
they were
“dominated by the flesh,” and “flesh” is “human
nature apart
from God.”)

     B. What is the logical link between being “fleshy”
quarreling about which spiritual leader you
follow?  How does
this attitude cause this result? (If you never
look above your
own head, you are more likely to look at things
from a earthly
perspective.  If man’s interests are
as far up as your
“elevator” goes, you are not going to notice
the overarching
plan of God.)

     C. Read vv. 5-8. Paul starts out with a question:
“What, after
all, is Apollos?  What is Paul? Tell
me what you think is the
answer to Paul’s question?  Does your
answer also apply to
your pastor?

          1. Are they just
“servants?” (The natural man thinks he
is so important. 
If you think like the world, you will
focus on the
individual.  But if your eyes are on
spiritual matters,
you will see that God is in charge and
leaders are
just helpers!)

          2. If we focus
on God’s plan instead of the leader, what
will be our
attitude towards the leader’s weaknesses?

          3. If you were
starting a “ministry,” would it be
to put your name on it?  “Billy Graham
Crusades?” (I
am not convinced this is wrong, but this is
certainly an
area where caution is needed.  The focus
must be on God
and not the individual.)

          4. Put yourself
in the place of a successful spiritual
leader, can
you innocently encourage people to look at
you instead
of God? The problem in Corinth seems to be
the people and
not the leaders, but what should leaders
avoid to stave
off this problem? (Comparison. Is there
anyone who does
not like to be praised? A person comes to
you and says,
“All these years, and all these other
pastors, and
I never before understood the gospel until
you came and
preached it to me!”  That is joy to the ears
of the preacher,
but it also encourages personal rivalry
and allegiance.)

     D. Verse 6 says, “God made it [the seed] grow.” 
What seed are
we talking about? And how does God make the
seed grow? (We are
the seed. (Matthew 13:38) “Seed” can also
refer to spiritual
truths which we accept. (1 Corinthians 9:11) 
The power of the
Holy Spirit makes us grow.)

     E. When Paul says “one plants” and “one waters,”
what do you
think he means? (Everyone has a different
role. The different
role does not mean that one leader is better
than the other.)


     A. Read 1 Corinthians 3:9-13. This seems to
be advice to
spiritual leaders. What word picture does
Paul paint? To what
does he liken the work of spiritual leaders?
(He has been
talking about seed farming. Now he moves to

          1. What is the
foundation for our “building?” (v.11 Jesus)

a. Why is Jesus the foundation? (The bedrock of
Christian belief is the life, death and
resurrection of Jesus.)

          2. When Paul
speaks of “building” on this foundation,
what, specifically,
do you think he is talking about?

          3. How would
a leader build with “straw?”

a. I generally put Bible teaching into one of two
boxes: “right” and “wrong.” Does this suggest that
Bible teaching can fall into other categories?
(Seems so. That teaching can also be weak, of
limited help, of limited value — but not wrong!)

b. Is it possible that certain Bible teaching that
you previously thought was wrong or sinful, was in
reality just “poor?” (Later in the letter (chapter
6) Paul discusses this idea that certain ideas can
be right, but not helpful.  Perhaps we need to be
careful about condemning ideas, and more cautious
about embracing some truths.)

          4. The nature
of the building material is to be revealed
in the “Day”
(v.13).  What is the “Day?” (It could mean
during our life. 
But the reference to “fire” seems to
mean the last

     B. Read 1 Corinthians 3:14.  Who or what
is getting burned up?

          1. The person
who taught poor doctrine or the doctrine?
(I tend to think
the person who was taught!)

          2. What happens
to the poor teacher? (He lives and is
saved! Caveat
Emptor to students!)

          3. Why is the
person poorly taught lost, and the lousy
teacher saved?
(Now you see why I teach!  Seriously, hold
this thought
for a minute while we read on.)

     C. Read 1 Corinthians 3:16-17.  We continue
with this word
picture of a building. Who is the temple here?

          1. Why does his
use the analogy of a “temple” instead of
a “fort” or
“barn” or “warehouse?” (Temple fits the topic
of spiritual

          2. What happens
to the bad teacher here? (v.17 “God will
destroy him.”)

          3. Still holding
that thought about the poorly taught
student dying
and the lousy teacher surviving?  How do
you reconcile
that with Paul’s statement here about the
temple destroyer
being destroyed? (The “poor” builders
will still building
even if they used materials that did
not stand the
test. Here, the teacher is not a “builder,”
but a “destroyer.” 
God evidently makes a distinction
between those
that are just doing a lousy job and those
and are actually
injuring the saints and the church.
Beware and pay
attention teacher to what you are doing!)


     A. So, what is the answer to factions and divisions
in the
church that are based on personalities? (The
focus, the
foundation must always be Christ. Spiritual
leaders have
different strengths and abilities.  The
doctrines they teach
can be either gold or straw.  Despite
these differences we
must keep our eyes on the Foundation! 
Read vv. 21-23 in


will be the second chapter of 1 Corinthians. Study!
doctrines they teach
can be either gold or straw.  Despite
these differences we
must keep our eyes on the Foundation! 
Read vv. 21-23 in


will be the second chapter of 1 Corinthians. Study!